Romain Grosjean has opened up on everything regarding the F1 Bahrain GP crash, the aftermath, current situation, future and more.
Even a week after the deeply troubling crash of Haas’ Grosjean in F1 Bahrain GP, discussion on the fiery accident raged on amid the Sakhir GP weekend, conversation reignited particularly after the Frenchman returned to the paddock to discuss his perspective.
It was the first time Grosjean had spoken to English media since his crash, after which he was whisked away to the hospital. The Frenchman spoke to media which included Sky Sports, F1, BBC, Motorsport Network, Racefans.net, Reuters, Motorsport Week and more.
Grosjean provided details of his harrowing accounts of the 53G impact, which saw him hit the barrier at 137 mph before his Haas VF-20 split the armco barrier and broke through it, leaving the rearmost section of the car disconnected and on the other side of the barrier, before the scene went ablaze.
Here’s what Grosjean said of his near-death encounter:
On his escape from the flames, and his thought process throughout the 28 seconds he remained in the cockpit –
Grosjean: “For me it wasn’t quite 28 seconds, it felt more like a minute 30 if I’d put a time on it. When the car came to a stop, I opened my eyes, and undid my seatbelt straight away. The thing I do not remember the next days, what did I do with the steering wheel because I don’t have the memory of taking steering wheel off and putting it out and they said no, the steering gone in between your legs, the column and everything broke and went down.
“So I didn’t have to bother with the steering wheel and I jump out, but I feel like something is touching my head, so I sit back down in the car and my first thought was, I’m going to wait. I’m upside down against the wall, so I’m going wait that someone comes and helps me. So I wasn’t in distress and obviously know where to turn this fire. Then I look right and left and watching on the left, I see fire.
“So I say, okay, I don’t really have the time to wait here. So next thing is that I tried to go up a bit more on the right, it doesn’t work. I go again on the left, doesn’t work. Sit back down and then I thought about Niki Lauda, his accident, and thought, it couldn’t end like this. It couldn’t be my last race, couldn’t finish like this. No way. So I try again. And I’m stuck. So I go back and then there’s the less pleasant moment where my body, started to relax. I’m in peace with myself and I’m going to die.
“I asked my question: is it going to burn my shoe, or my foot or my hand? Is it going to be painful? Where is it going to start? And to me that looks like 2/3/4 signals, I guess it will milleseconds at a time. And then, I think about my kids, and they cannot lose their dad today. So I don’t know why I did, so I decided to turn my helmet on the left hand side and to go up and then try to twist my shoulder. That sort of worked but then I realized my foot is stuck in the car. So I sit back down. I pulled as hard as I can on my left leg.
“The shoe stayed where my foot was, but my foot came out of the shoe. And then I’ll do it again and then the shoulder are going through and, at the time the shoulder was through I know i’m going to jump out. So I’ve got both hands on the fire that time. I see that my gloves are red normally, I see, especially the left one changing colour, starting melting and going full black and I feel the pain that my hands are in the fire, but also I feel the relief that I am out of the car. Then I jump out, I go to the barrier and then I feel Dr. Ian pulling on my own. So, I know I’m not on my own anymore and there is someone with me.
“I land and then they touch on my back. So I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m like a running fireball’. I had that image that we’ve seen a video from the FIA when they did a test, they put someone on fire and he runs around just to show the overall was strong and I’ve got an image that I’ve got fire following me. Then I shake my hand because they’re very hot and in pain. I removed my gloves straight away because I’ve got the image that the skin is like doing bubles and melting and it’s going to stick to the gloves, so straightaway I want to remove both of my gloves so that the skin doesn’t go with it.
“And then Ian comes to see me and speak to me and says ‘sit down’. I reply ‘talk to me normally please.’ I guess he understood that I was okay and that I was normal. We sit and we’re too close to the fire and I hear the extinguisher guys from the fire saying ‘the battery is on fire . Bring some other extinguishers. Bring some other extinguishers’. And then we go into the medical car. Sit down. They put some cold compress my hand. I told them my hands are burned my foot is broken. And then the pain really starts going very high, especially on the left foot.
“The hands were okay at that time, but the left foot starts being very painful. Ian explains to me the ambulance is coming in and they’re going to come with the bed and ‘you’re going be okay’ and we keep talking. And I say ‘no, no, no,’ we are walking to the ambulance. They say ‘no, no, no, no, the bed is coming.’ I say ‘no no no’, and I walk out of the car and I say we are walking. Then they say ‘okay we’re going to help you.’
“I guess on the medical side it wasn’t the perfect decision but they understood that for me it was key at the point that there was some footage of me walking towards the ambulance. Even though I’d walk out of the fire, I needed to send another strong message that I was okay. I was going to walk towards the ambulance and then every time I met anyone: I say: ‘two burned hands, one broken foot.’
“That’s all I could say to everyone that I was meeting. I was obviously scared of my conditions and I wanted everyone that was coming in and treating me…. to know what the symptoms were. That is the full story of 28 seconds and then the rest. As you can imagine, it looked longer than 28 seconds with all the thoughts I had. It must have been milliseconds. But, but all the thoughts to me look like you know, 1,2,3,4 seconds.”
On the injuries he incurred –
Grosjean: “My whole left side was hit. My left ankle is sprained, my left knee was hit, and I’ve got nice bruises on my left shoulder, my left buttock and my left forearm. I think my left thumb wasn’t spared either. Not only this hand is more badly burnt, but my thumb is slightly sprained. I’ve got strength and I can move it in many ways. I can close my fist. However, I can’t touch my little finger yet. I would normally be able to [but I can’t at the moment] because it’s inflamed and there’s a big bandage too.”
The collision with Daniil Kvyat –
Grosjean: “I had a very good exit out of turn one into turn two. There is no one on my right-hand side at that point. The momentum I carry out of turn three is very good. And there’s a lot of debris and sparks coming on the left-hand side of the track. So I already move a bit to the right. Moving to the right, I checked my mirror and there’s nothing, there is no one. I’m catching the cars in front of me with a big delta speed. So that means that I am having the momentum, the positive momentum.
“So if there were anyone next to me, it would have been side-by-side and I would have passed him. That doesn’t happen. I agree that the turning right was quite strong. In Bahrain, there’s the racetrack and there is that painted sand colour. So even if you push someone to the right, as we’ve seen with the Mercedes and the Ferrari some years ago, the guy on the inside still has the possibility to move to the right, in the worst-case scenario, to avoid contact. So if you took all the elements, what I did is not crazy.
“I watched the onboard and you can see that Daniil is basically in my blind spot from turn two to where it happens. The whole way he’s completely in my blind spot. Mirrors, we know in Formula 1, are not the greatest technology. A night race makes it harder to see in the mirrors, but also in the day, any time of day, there is no way I could have seen Danny being there. So this is all the thinking that drove me to turn right.”
On a possible Abu Dhabi return –
Grosjean: “The right hand 100% will be ready. The strength and the mobility in the left hand gets better day after day. The strength is here. The mobility, there’s still a lot of swelling from the inflammation so this needs to start reducing. But a graft hasn’t been ruled out yet. Burns are not an exact science. I’m quite good with knowing about burning nowadays, I’ve learned a lot.
“I went through some tough times when they start cutting the blister with the scissors and then they stop pinning up the skin. You see things that you don’t really want to see. So it’s not an exact science and I’m hopeful every day that it recovers better than it does the previous day. When we’ll have a final answer I don’t know yet. Obviously, I’ve got 60 years or so to go with my left hand. So one race is, it’s important to me, but it’s not as important as living a normal life for the rest of my life. So we will see. I cannot tell you yet.
“Obviously it’s a target and I think it helps me to keep positive and keep moving. The first step yesterday was to go to the track. One of the first things I did I went to the car. And I looked over the halo on the cockpit. Just to see if there were any strange feeling or panic, or scary moments and it was fine. It was fine, so already that’s kind of a positive step. As I say from Sunday night, first video call I did with my wife, my kids and my dad was there.
“I said I will race in Abu Dhabi. And you can imagine the reaction. They weren’t very impressed with me. And I won’t blame them. And I will always understand that they don’t accept, but I say it’s very selfish but it’s what I need, and it’s what I want to do. I won’t take the risk to lose mobility of my left index and left thumb for the rest of my life just to go to Abu Dhabi. The story would be beautiful to go to Abu Dhabi. If I don’t, I’ll call every single Formula 1 team and see if anyone would offer me a private test in January or so to jump back in the car and have 10, 15 laps for myself.”
On the heroism for which he is being praised –
Grosjean: “Yes, a lot of people are telling me that. It’s strange because you know I told Dr. Ian Roberts, and Alan van der Merve, that they were the heroes, and they say ‘no no no we did our job.’ I kind of felt the same, that I was doing my job. First as a racing driver, but as a dad to make sure that my three kids would have their father in the best possible condition for their life. I don’t feel like a hero. I know that the footage from outside is unbelievable.
“And if any of my friend would have been in that race…and I would have been watching from home, I would have been sure that the driver was dead. When you see the first impact. There is no way you can avoid thinking that the driver is dead. And if we can learn anything from that incident in terms of safety but also in the way I behaved in the car, survival instinct, you know, I never panicked, I never was stressed. Everything I did was mathematic, and even after, removing the glove because I knew my hands were burned.
“Every step was just rational and I don’t know if you’re born with that instinct or if it’s something you can improve to your life, but obviously that saved me. Let’s see how much we can learn from that: being a racing driver is a great thing in life but people say ‘oh, what you do is extraordinary most of the time’. No, no! doctors save life, they are extraordinary. Firemen are extraordinary. As Jules did for me, if I can save life in the future by my experience, then, I will have a very strong legacy in motorsport and probably my biggest pride.”
Takeaways from the crash –
Grosjean: “We are looking at it. I was director of the GPDA, I was quite involved in F1 and how we can make the sport better. When you go through what I went through on Sunday, it’s not involvement that you have, it’s a duty to help. So I’ve already spoken with Jean Todt at the hospital. He told me you remember when you say that it was a sad day for F1 when FIA were introducing the Halo. I said, ‘yes, sure. I remember, and it’s only stupid people that don’t change their mind. The Halo is the best thing. I wouldn’t race any car without a halo. The second obvious item is gloves. How can we make sure that we improve the gloves? We need to keep the feeling in our hands that’s for sure.
“But also it’s the first thing that goes on fire when you escape from the car. The first thing you use is your hands. So let’s see how we can improve that and a few other things but yes I will get involved with the FIA and everyone that is there and understand everything. We haven’t seen a fire in Formula One for some time now. And this is our worst enemy. Without the fire, yes it was a big shunt but as I say I was stuck . I would have waited that someone comes and help me out of the car. Fire just adds that…you don’t have time and time in that instance was kind of key.”
His in-car camera footage –
Grosjean: “I haven’t seen it yet. I have asked to see it, and I will go and see it. I think, you know, it all needs to be studied but in the future. I am not against the fact that this footage is broadcasted. From that footage, we can educate any racing driver on how to proceed in such a moment. Obviously there are rules and so on, how, when and how we can share it.
“But I hope one day this can come out and we can share it and educate anyone. I joked with Ayao Komatsu, our chief engineer that if I come back in F1, I would be exempted of that if Jo Bauer wants to make me do the extraction test,. I’m the king of the extraction, so I don’t think I need to do the test anymore. I should have a pass that says I do not need the test in the future!”
F1’s coverage of the crash and drivers’ differing views on the matter –
Grosjean: “You can understand both sides. Really, I think, for the drivers it was horrendous to see the footage. Kevin came straight at the hospital on Sunday night despite seeing me walking out of the car, he was thinking something like: ‘there’s no way he’s going stay alive after that impact, there is no way he’s going to stay alive.’ So his biggest fear was, yes I walk out already crazy but that I wasn’t going to go any further.
“I guess for any driver having to jump back in their car after seeing that incident, watching these images over and over again. I mean, even if you watch it today it’s crazy. It’s just…from what I recall … probably the biggest shunt I’ve seen in my life, So for the guys going back in the car and keeping seeing that over and over, it’s very difficult. On the other side, you can understand that for F1, I mean this is extraordinary footage.
“I understand that, it’s long to rebuild the barriers For the viewers and maybe for people to understand and try to process it to keep seeing that I jump out of the car. It’s not a dream, it’s not fake it’s not an imagination. I don’t know. As I say, I understand both sides and obviously you saw on Monday morning everywhere in the world every newspaper, the front page was the footage of Romain Grosjean on fire and just walking out. So I guess it was a huge story.”
Family’s reaction and how their fear impacts him –
Grosjean: “I really spoke a lot with [wife Marion] and my kids. My kids had many questions, my oldest son Sacha was worried that I would be all black, all burned and never be the same, so it was relief when he saw I looked the same. My son Simon, five years old, is convinced I have a love shield and I can fly. He doesn’t process the fact I walked out of the car, he thinks I flew out of the car. That’s why they think I’m a super hero.
“My daughter, three years old, it’s a bit harder to know exactly what she thinks. She draws [something] for me, every day something for my hand injury and sends me a kiss and a hug every day. They’re OK because I video phoned them and they wouldn’t even come to see me, they were playing outside. They weren’t bothered about coming to see me! Sacha went in front of his class [at school] for 45 minutes in the morning talking about it, his friends asked questions, he explained and told them what happened.
“Marion, it’s been very hard for her. She flew to Bahrain, Wednesday night she arrived. I think for her it was key to hug me. Even though she could see me on the video, it was hard to process that yes, I was in one piece. What is the hardest? For me it’s not what I went through, this is my life, my job and the risk we take. But it’s what I put people through, my family, my parents, my kids, my wife, my friends. For two minutes and 43 seconds they thought their friend, their father, their husband, was dead. That is what I’m working on, because that made me cry. That I made people suffer to that extent.”
Future course now beyond Abu Dhabi –
Grosjean: “I mean, the first and only target at the minute, is to try to get back to Abu Dhabi and understand how it works for me. Obviously we were talking about IndyCar at one point, but I’m having the thought now that to add the risk of ovals, where you can have big shunts, and having my family far away and seeing on TV, it’s hard. And I don’t know if I could make it. But I’ve decided not to take any decision for now, until I maybe get either to race in Abu Dhabi or get some more time. Last week the priority was to sign a contract and find a way to go racing in 2021. The priority now is a bit different and, if I don’t race in 2021, I’ll be cycling, kitesurfing, spending time with my kids, enjoying life and having time off which I didn’t have since I was 17.”
Here’s video link of part of Sky F1 interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDT-tMtdfSo
Here’s video of Romain Grosjean entering the paddock: https://twitter.com/F1/status/1334523475696955394
Here’s the video of Romain Grosjean meeting the firefighters: https://twitter.com/F1/status/1334563299627700224
Here’s info on Romain Grosjean back in the gym
Here’s Romain Grosjean back in the paddock
Here’s details on how FIA will investigate the incident
Here’s last from Romain Grosjean on crash, return