Once skeptical of the halo safety device on Formula One cars, Romain Grosjean acknowledged it likely saved his life after a horrific crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix that saw his car split in half and engulfed in flames.
The incident occurred on the first lap of Sunday’s race as Grosjean plowed into the barriers following contact with Daniil Kvyat on the third corner.
The Frenchman walked away from his blazing car and was immediately tended to by emergency services. He spent the night in hospital where he was treated for burns on the back of his hands.
“Just wanted to say I am okay — well, sort of okay,” Grosjean said in a video from his hospital bed pointing to his heavily bandaged hands.
“Thank you very much for all the messages. I wasn’t for the halo some years ago, but I think it’s the greatest thing we’ve done for Formula One and without it I wouldn’t be able to speak to you today.
“Thanks to all the medical staff at the circuit and the hospital. Hopefully I can write you quite soon some messages and tell you how it’s going.”
A titanium protection device that is mandatory on all F1 cars, the halo was introduced to the sport in 2018 and split opinion across the paddock at the time. It shields the drivers’ cockpits and can withstand the weight of a double-decker bus, according to F1.
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said he is “thankful for all the safety advancements in modern Formula One in order to protect the drivers,” while Grosjean’s teammate Kevin Magnussen said he is “so happy that the halo was introduced … without it I’m sure it would have been a very different day.”
Grosjean is expected to be discharged from hospital on Tuesday, according to Haas.
He will, however, be replaced by Pietro Fittipaldi for next weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain, where the Brazilian will make his F1 debut. Bahrain is hosting F1’s third double-header of the 2020 season.
‘Disgusted and disappointed’
Meanwhile Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo voiced strong criticism of the way Grosjean’s crash was broadcast as drivers waited to return to the track.
“I’m firstly happy that he’s okay from it, from what I saw,” Ricciardo, who eventually finished seventh, said after the race.
“But I’m disgusted and disappointed with Formula One for choosing the way to show it as they did and broadcast replays after replays after replays of the fire, his car split in half … Why do we need to see this? We’re competing again in an hour.
“His family has to keep watching that, all our families have to keep watching that … to show it like it’s something from Hollywood, it’s not cool.”
When contacted by CNN for a response to Ricciardo’s comments, an F1 spokesperson said: “Firstly, at F1 this isn’t about entertainment and a few procedures and protocols are in place before any decision to run a replay is made.
“Following the accident, all onboards and helicopter feeds were cut. There is direct communications between race control and the broadcast center during the incident.
“No footage is shown until there is confirmation the driver was okay. On this occasion at this point, F1 showed Romain with the ambulance, helmet off and walking with aid.
“No replays of an accident are shown until there is approval and confirmation from race control and (governing body) the FIA that all persons are safe — driver, marshals, doctors etc.
“The context of what a viewer sees and hears with the commentary is important with them talking about the safety of Romain, the halo, FIA safety improvements and updates from the medical center.”
The race was won by Lewis Hamilton, who claimed a record-extending 95th victory of his career having already wrapped up his seventh championship title earlier this season, ahead of the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Alex Albon in second and third respectively.
On Monday, Steiner spoke of his relief and surprise when he saw Grosjean emerge from the crash.
“You’re almost there like — I cannot believe this, this is a miracle,” the Haas team principal told CNN’s Amanda Davies.
“I can just see a few seconds before, the car hitting the barrier, going up in flames, all the drama you can have, and then he comes out in the middle of the flames with the help of the medical crew.”
Like his driver, Steiner also said he initially had his doubts about the halo device when it was first introduced.
“Absolutely, the halo saved his life,” Steiner added.
“I saw the car today, I looked at it properly, you can see where the impacts were happening. Without the halo, this would have gone a completely different way.
“I wasn’t for the halo so I’m pretty happy that the federation, the FIA, did a good job and convinced us that this is the way to go and for sure now it helps.”