Formula 1 governing body the FIA has revealed the findings of its investigation into Romain Grosjean’s fiery accident at last years Bahrain Grand Prix, along with the areas that are being worked on to improve safety as a consequence.
The FIA safety department investigated all aspects of the accident through interviews with those involved, inspection of the physical evidence, video evidence and also information from the car’s relevant telemetry and data.
President of the FIA , Jean Todt said, “Important learnings have been drawn from these investigations that will drive our continuous mission to improve safety in Formula 1 and global motor sport,”
“The enduring commitment of the FIA, particularly the Safety Department, on reducing risks associated with motor sport enabled Romain Grosjean to maintain consciousness and survive an accident of this magnitude. Safety is and will remain FIA’s top priority.”
The investigation found that Grosjean’s Haas was moving at 150mph when it made contact with Kvyat’s AlphaTauri and lost just 31mph between then and the impact – meaning it was still moving at 119mph when it hit the barriers, causing a fireball on impact, and the resulting G-Forces peaked “at an equivalent of 67g.”
The report also addresses how the fire broke out, explaining where the fuel came from that caused the Haas to ignite, but does not address the amount of fuel involved.
“The car suffered extensive damage during the impact including separation of the power train assembly from the survival cell.
“The fuel tank inspection hatch on the left-hand side of the chassis was dislodged and the engine fuel supply connection was torn from the fuel tank ‘safety bladder’; both providing primary paths for the escape of fuel from the tank.”
The release went on to add: “Fire was ignited during the final moments of the barrier impact, starting from the rear of the survival cell and progressing forwards towards the driver as the fire grew.”
A point of debate was also the ERS (Electronic Recovery System) with concerns being added as to the involvement of the system in regards to the subsequent fire. These were addressed in the release, however brief. The statement said that “the high voltage energy recovery system (ERS) battery was significantly damaged, with some parts of the ERS battery assembly remaining with the powertrain and others remaining attached to the survival cell.”
The report does not go into detail about the barrier failure that led to the detached front section of Grosjean’s Haas being wedged in the middle of the split guardrail when it came to rest. Said barrier failure was a hot source of debate, stating that with the newly introduced Halo device, the accident could’ve been “a lot more severe.” also adding that “it made a possible obstruction to the escaping driver.”
“Following the failure of the middle rail of the barrier and significant deformation of the upper and lower rails, the survival cell was able to pierce the barrier and came to rest behind the barrier, constrained by the primary roll structure against the upper rail of the barrier,” it states.
In the days after the crash, Grosjean gave a vivid description of the period from the accident finishing to successfully exiting the survival cell, and escaping the fire-strucken barrier to meet the medical car. The report explained how his escape was impeded by both damage within the cockpit and how his half of the car was jammed within the barrier. Grosjean also revealed in his first description of the crash that he initially thought he must be trapped in an upside down car and was going to wait for assistance.
The report goes onto detail, “The resting position of the survival cell, relative to the upper rail of the barrier significantly restricted the path for driver egress.
“Due to damage to the survival cell and a number of components within the cockpit environment, Grosjean’s left foot was initially trapped as the car came to rest.
“The driver was able to free his foot by withdrawing it from his racing boot leaving the boot in the entrapped position in the car and then moved both the dislodged headrest and steering wheel to egress the car.”
What changes are coming in?
The FIA has issued an extensive list of key safety research projections that are ongoing that draw on the findings of the investigation.
In terms of the car, survival cell front geometry and load test regulation is being evaluated, as is the geometry of the front of the survival cell.
Rear-view mirrors are being reviewed, along with steering column mountings and the requirements of the headrest assembly.
The failure modes of the power unit mounting are also being analysed along with research into wheel tethers, the improvement of safety fuel bladder installation and FIA standards across all single-seater categories. As part of this, fuel homologation will also include the requirement to be compatible with the fuel bladder material.
Track design is also being improved, with increased functionality for circuit safety analysis software (CSAS), as well as a review of barrier openings and a review of the guidelines for circuit homologation.
An investigation has also begun into improving the heat transfer index of gloves after Grosjean suffered burns that left Grosjean in hospital and with bandages in the following weeks of the accident.
This is one of several areas of driver protection set to be studied for improvement, which includes the visor opening/locking mechanisms and their capacity to withstand fire and also a more reliable fire resistancy aswell as the possibility of an improved activation systems for onboard fire extinguishers.
Rescue vehicles are also being updated with additional guidance and training for all member organisations, despite the Medical Car being on scene for Grosjean’s assistance quickly. Aswell as the race being red-flagged in 5.5 seconds after the impact.
The FIA safety department also plans further research projects that include options for proximity warning systems and electronic visibility aids, improvements to existing barriers, novel barrier systems and fire-fighting and protective equipment.