It has been exactly one year since Romain Grosjean’s horror crash during the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, since then the Frenchman got a new lease on life, but admits he nearly accepted death that night but thinking of his three kids is what got him out of his burning Haas.
He may not have made a great impression on Formula 1 from a results point of view, but Grosjean commanded attention on his way out of the sport as he was on the first of his final three races with Haas, the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Trying to make up positions on the start, the former Haas driver swerved right, directly into the path of Daniil Kvyat – an AlphaTauri driver at the time – and got tagged by the Russian sending him directly into the barriers at 137mph, resulting in a 67G fiery crash, the Frenchman was lucky to get out of alive.
The 35-year-old, gave a detailed recap of the sequence of events, in what must be one of the most hair-raising moments in F1 history, where F1, fans, and the world was kept on the edge of their seats, as Grosjean spent 27s in that horrible fireball of a car, before emerging out of it, on that November evening in Bahrain.
You don’t have time to feel scared
Asked if he felt scared in the crash, Grosjean answered: “No actually.
“No I think the first thing is between the touch with Kvyat and the impact there’s only like six-tenths of a second so you don’t really get the time to realize you’re going to hit the quad rail at that speed.
“And then surprisingly, the impact for me wasn’t that bad,” he went on. “You know 67G is a lot but I didn’t feel like it was it was bad so I undid my seatbelt, I’m ready to jump out of the car.”
Grosjean then revealed that he found out he was “stuck” and was happy to “wait” for the marshals to extract him from the car, believing that: “They’re going to come and help me you know.
“I didn’t know if it was upside down,” he said of his car’s position. “It’s night races there’s no light in the cockpit so you don’t see anything, you don’t know where you are.”
But then he came to realize that his car, shockingly split in two pieces, was on fire and realised he couldn’t wait, and as he tried to jump out, he found out that he was “completely stuck”.
I thought about my three kids
At one point, the 10-time podium sitter admitted that he felt that his hour has come: “At one point I thought that was it, that was my day you know. It was game over. I was, I don’t know, five-ten seconds from being dead.”
But it was his family and kids that gave Grosjean the strength to defy all odds and work his way out of that fire: “I thought about my three kids I said ‘no I can’t I can’t leave them’. I find the energy the last energy to manage to find a solution to jump out of the car.”
And the solution was, according to Grosjean, to act against his reflexes, as despite he “could feel his hands burning”, he held on to the hot cockpit because that was the only “grip he had to jump out of the car”.
“My foot was stuck and I was pulling so hard on my leg that even my ankle could have stayed there,” he pointed out. I wouldn’t care, you know, I just wanted to be out of the car.”
It is a very strange feeling, I don’t wish anyone to try i
Pressed by Rosberg whether he felt scared when he realized he was stuck in a burning car while feeling he might die, Grosjean was adamant: “No I was not scared.
“You know, at that time you can’t, you don’t have the time to be scared and as I said, at one point I almost accepted that was it, you know, I would be dead.
“It’s quite it’s quite a strange feeling and that’s obviously something I had to work on with my psychologist,” said Grosjean, who has previously opened up about visiting a psychiatrist for sorting out his crash tendency early in his career.”
“People say you see all your life and so on,” he reflected. “I didn’t see any of that, I see peace, and like, the body kind of relaxes. It is a very strange feeling, I don’t wish anyone to try it,” Grosjean concluded.
I wish I could speak to Niki about it
During Rosberg’s interview, listening to Romain – a veteran of 179 Grands Prix – talking so openly and bravely about his horrific experience with such calm makes for gripping listening.
The 35-year-old also recalled the late Niki Lauda, who himself suffered a life-altering fiery F1 crash at the Nurburgring during the 1976 season, lamenting the fact that the Austrian great was no longer around to talk to him about it.
“I wish I could’ve speak with him about it you know because he was such a character,” lamented Grosjean.
Despite still suffering the aftermath of his crash, the former Renault, and Lotus F1 driver has gone to start a new career stateside in IndyCar driving for Dale Coyne Racing, and will move next year to Andretti Autosport after doing enough in his rookie season to impress team owner Michael Andretti.
Grosjean finished his season 15th overall in the Drivers’ Standings, scoring one pole position, six top-ten finishes, and four top-five finishes that included a career-best second in both races this season at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.