When a fiery crash occurred just minutes into the Bahrain Grand Prix, spectators may have feared the worst. But here’s how the driver escaped with only minor injuries.
In the very first lap of the race, as drivers jostled for position, Romain Grosjean’s car careened off the track and split in half, resulting in a ball of fire. Despite the shocking scene, Grosjean climbed out of the wreckage with only minor burns to his hands.
In an article for ArsTechnica, Jonathan Gitlin explained the crucial factors that ensured the driver’s safety.
Firstly there is a mechanism which allows the car to break into two pieces in order to dissipate the energy from a high-impact crash such as this one – which reportedly registered 50Gs. The engine is attached to the chassis by bolts which break apart in circumstances like this, which is why the car split in two.
Secondly, the fuel cell stayed intact rather than bursting. The kevlar fuel cells were contained within a carbonfibre bulkhead, which protected them. However, it’s thought that some kilograms of fuel were spilled on its way from the fuel cell to the engine, which is what caused the fire.
Thirdly, fireproofing has improved significantly in this new F1 season; the new safety spec means that each garment protects the wearer for 20% longer than in the previous season.
An update from Romain himself. Pleased to see you’re in good spirits! We hope you make a speedy recovery 🙏 pic.twitter.com/njnjjH4GBi— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) November 29, 2020
Finally, and mostly importantly, the Halo device proved to be crucial in saving Grosjean’s life. This titanium frame wraps around the driver’s cockpit to protect them from extremely high impact crashes – and in this case it most likely stopped the guardrail from hitting Grosjean’s helmet at a potentially fatal speed.
Ironically the driver himself was stridently against the introduction of this safety measure when it first appeared on the scene – but as you can tell from the above embedded video, he now recognises and appreciates the role it played in keeping him safe.