Romain Grosjean says the crash he suffered at the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix leaves a number of questions about how he survived that still need answering.
The Haas driver turned across the front of Daniil Kvyat on the run towards Turn 4, clipping the front of the AlphaTauri and being pitched head-on into an Armco barrier. The barrier failed, sending the safety cell of the car through the guardrail while the rear of the car was ripped off and instantly ignited, but Grosjean was able to climb out with minor burns to his hands.
“It was terrible to live and that I wish no one to live,” Grosjean said. “But I must say I was in good spirits, the pain wasn’t too bad and I was well aware of what I escaped. Initially, for the first few days, it was just focusing on trying to recover to race in Abu Dhabi.
“Without the Halo – and it’s not completely big news that I was completely against the Halo when it came into Formula 1 – without that I wouldn’t be here to talk to you. I think that was one of the biggest safety measures brought in the last few years. Also, the overalls this year, the regulation has been changed for fire resistance and brought up by 10 seconds. The regulations says 20 seconds, I stayed 28 seconds in the flames, escaping with minor burns on my right hand, and a bit more severe, but nothing too bad, on my left hand.
“And the chassis – the strength of the chassis is coming up every year, and it stayed in one piece, and the monocoque protected me. I was still able to escape and to get out of the flames. If the chassis would have been broken, you know my legs would have been gone, broken, whatever, I wouldn’t have been able to stand up and walk out.
“I think there are many things we learn from an incident. And in my case, we are lucky that I am alive, that I can talk and that I remember everything. I’m not sure it’s a good thing for me. But I do remember everything and I believe some grey areas from safety in motorsport already have been kind of understood. But I see more.”
Grosjean was speaking in an interview to promote a connected balaclava being developed by brain technology company MindMaze, allowing a greater understanding of what happens to the brain during an accident. MindMaze works with both Haas and McLaren, and Grosjean believes the fact that he did not lose consciousness saved his life.
“In every incident in motorsport, you learn a lot,” he said. “Luckily in my case, I’m alive, I remember everything and there are many grey areas, questions, that have been answered by my accident. And the next big step to me is to understand what’s happening in the helmet, the brain.
“Physically we’ve seen that I came out of the car intact with, yes, a bit of burning on my hands and we can improve safety on the gloves that’s for sure. That’s going to be a step. But also what’s happening in the brain of the driver? With MindDrive, I believe in my accident, we would have understood what was the interaction between my brain, my helmet, the headrest, and why I didn’t lose consciousness.
“In a 60G impact, you should lose consciousness – even for a few seconds. You shouldn’t be as aware as I was, and that saved my life. But I would like us to understand, with sensors on the brain when there’s an incident, what can we do better on the helmet and headrests and safety so the driver, even with big impacts, stays conscious for whatever work he has to do [to escape].”