The Bahrain Grand Prix in 2020 will forever be etched in Formula 1 history for a harrowing incident that unfolded on the first lap. The Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean experienced a horrific crash that sent shockwaves through the motorsport community. This crash was seen on major news and most people knew about the incident at the time, even if they were not into motorsports.
This crash was part of the Netflix Formula 1 documentary ‘Drive to Survive’ and was the key aspect of the Season 3 Episode 9 ‘Man On Fire’. The Netflix documentary brought a lot of viewers to the sport, and this documentary gave a great insight into the behind-the-scenes of Formula 1 that the viewer could not see before. This episode gives a great look into the crash and what happened that weekend.
The 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix
The race took place at the Bahrain International Circuit on November 29, 2020. As the lights went out for the start, chaos ensued. Romain Grosjean, starting from 19th on the grid, found himself involved in a dramatic incident just a few corners after the race began.
Grosjean’s Haas car collided with AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat, sending him off the track and into the barriers at a high speed. The impact was so severe that the car split into two, with the front section penetrating the barrier, and erupting into flames. This sort of crash is very uncommon, that is what made it so terrifying.
The most remarkable aspect of this incident was Grosjean’s miraculous escape. After freeing himself from the constraints inside the cockpit, he hoisted himself out of the fire and climbed over the safety barrier. The prompt response of the track marshals and the effectiveness of the safety features in place played a vital role in preventing a more tragic outcome. The marshalls did an excellent job rushing to help Grosjean out of the flaming cockpit as well as extinguishing the fire with fire extinguishers as soon as possible.
A full investigation by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) was taken out of the cause of the fireball that was caused in the crash. Their statement read –
“The car suffered extensive damage during the impact including separation of the power train assembly from the survival cell. The fuel tank inspection hatch on the left-hand side of the chassis was dislodged and the engine fuel supply connection was torn from the fuel tank ‘safety bladder’; both providing primary paths for the escape of fuel from the tank.”
“The high voltage Energy Recovery System (ERS) battery was significantly damaged, with some parts of the ERS battery assembly remaining with the powertrain and others remaining attached to the survival cell. The fire was ignited during the final moments of the barrier impact, starting from the rear of the survival cell and progressing forwards towards the driver as the fire grew.”
Formula 1 has continuously evolved its safety standards, and Grosjean’s crash highlighted the effectiveness of these measures. The ‘Halo Device’, a safety innovation introduced in 2018, played a crucial role in protecting Grosjean’s head from the barriers during the impact. When the ‘Halo Device’ was introduced into Formula 1 back in 2018, many drivers and people around Formula 1 said they were not a fan and it ruined the look of the car. This device since its introduction has gone on to save countless lives and prevent many bad injuries.
The fire-resistant Nomex racing suit that the drivers are made to wear gave Grosjean the crucial seconds he needed for him to escape the flames.
Following his escape, Grosjean was immediately taken to the medical centre for examination. He suffered burns to his hands and a sprained ankle but was otherwise remarkably unharmed, a testament to the advancements in safety technology and the meticulous planning of the FIA.
Investigation and Changes after the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix
The FIA launched a thorough investigation into the crash, analysing data from the car and the circuit. Changes were subsequently made to the barrier design and other safety protocols to further enhance driver protection in similar incidents.
Romain Grosjean’s crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2020 was a terrifying moment that showcased the resilience of both the driver and the safety measures in Formula 1. The incident prompted a reassessment of safety protocols, leading to improvements that continue to shape the future of the sport. As we reflect on this remarkable event, it serves as a stark reminder of the risks inherent in motorsport and the relentless pursuit of safety to minimise those risks.