The horrific crash that saw Romain Grosjean’s Haas F1 car torn in two after it submarined through a metal barrier fence is the type of incident that one doesn’t expect a driver to walk away from. When you add the fact that a raging fire had engulfed the monocoque, it was a hear-in-mouth moment during the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Thankfully the FIA medical car follows the field on the first lap and were the first on the scene to assist Grosjean but the flames were massive and it was the blast from a corner marshal’s fire extinguisher that allowed Dr. Ian Roberts to assist Romain out of the flames.
“First lap, following them around as normal,” Roberts told Sky F1. “There was a massive flame and we arrived to a very odd scene where you’ve got half a car pointing in the wrong direction and just across the barrier a mass of heat.
“Then looking to the right at that point, I could see Romain trying to get up. We needed some way of getting to him, so we got the marshal there with the extinguisher, and the extinguisher was just enough to push the flame away as Romain got high enough, so I could reach over and pull him over the barrier.”
After Romain was clear of the fire and wreckage, Roberts began triage and assessed his medical state.
“I think I told him to sit down. He was obviously very shaky, and his visor was completely opaque, and in fact melted. I managed to get his helmet off to check everything else was OK.
“It was going to be flames, smoke inhalation, airway issues, and that nothing went up to his helmet, and we had a look at the helmet as well.
“But looking at him clinically we were quite happy with him from a life-threatening injury point of view, so it was about making him comfortable from the injuries we could see.
“He’d got some pain in his foot and hands, so from that point we knew it was safe enough to move him around into the car for protection and get some gel on to his burns, and then into the ambulance and to the medical centre.”
As Autosport points out, the Medical car driver Alan van der Merwe said the continuous practice pays off in times like these.
“A lot of it is down to preparation,” he said. “When you get to something like this, and we’ve not seen this combination before.
“I’ve not seen fire like this in my stint as the medical car driver, and a lot of it new and unknown territory, so we can only be as prepared as our own ideas.
“We do a lot of checklists and a lot of preparation, talking about scenarios, but this was crazy.
“Honestly, to get there and to see half of the car and the other half nowhere to be seen and just a huge ball of flames so you have literally seconds, thinking on your feet, so preparation only gets you so far. Then it is down to instincts and quick thinking.”
It was a huge endorsement for the HALO system for sure but I would also add that the other safety measures as well as the FIA medical Car staff all played a huge role in saving Romain Grosjean.
The amount of G-forces Romain experienced were most likely a test of the HANS device and one would assume the internal fire extinguisher went off too but I have not read that yet and a full review of the crash is planned from the FIA.
Regardless of HALO, HANS and well-prepared medical staff, there are most likely lessons to be learned from this incident and I look forward to seeing what measures might be taken by the FIA in the future.