MANAMA (Reuters) – Formula One driver Romain Grosjean relived Sunday’s horrific Bahrain Grand Prix crash, where his Haas car penetrated a metal barrier and split in two, in a video news conference on Friday. This, in his own words, is how he escaped the fireball.
“For me it wasn’t quite 28 seconds, it felt more like a minute 30. When the car came to a stop I opened my eyes. I undid my seatbelt straight away. The thing I didn’t remember on the next day was what did I do with the steering wheel? Because I don’t have the memory of taking the steering wheel off and they said no, the steering wheel was gone between your legs. The column and everything broke and went down.
“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 to wait until someone comes and helps me’. I wasn’t in stress and obviously not aware at the time there is fire.
“Then I look right and left and watching on the left I see fire. So I think ‘I don’t really have the time to wait here’. So next thing is I tried to go up a bit more on the right, it doesn’t work. Go again on the left, it doesn’t work, sit back down and then I thought about Niki Lauda (who suffered severe burns in a 1976 crash), his accident.
“I 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 starts to relax. I’m in peace with myself and I am going to die. I ask 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?’. I guess it was milliseconds at the time.
“And then I think about my kids. I say ‘No, they cannot lose their dad today.’ So I don’t know why but I decide to turn my helmet on the left hand side and to go up and try and twist my shoulder. That sort of works but then I realise my foot is stuck in the car. So I sit back down, pull as hard as I can on my left leg, the shoe stayed where my foot was but my foot comes out of the shoe. And then I do it again and my shoulders are going through (the halo) and I know I’m going to jump out.
“I’ve got both hands on the fire at that time. My gloves are red normally so I see especially the left one changing colour and starting melting and going full black. I feel the pain that my hands are in the fire but also the relief that I am out of the car. Then I jump out and go on the barrier and I feel Ian (Roberts, FIA doctor) pulling at my overalls so I know I am not on my own any more and there is someone with me.”
After the extraction and immediate checks in the medical car, Grosjean walked to an ambulance. He insisted on that: “It was key that there was some footage of me walking towards the ambulance. Even though I’d walked out of the fire, I needed to send another strong message that I was OK.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)