While it’s true that no individual Formula One race is a spectacle on the level of a Super Bowl or a World Cup soccer final, the season-long series is nevertheless glamorous. And, as a shocking accident involving Romain Grosjean showed, it remains one of the most dangerous sports in the world.
Amazingly, Grosjean was able to walk away from a fiery wreck two turns into the Bahrain Grand Prix on Nov. 29, 2020, before a worldwide television audience watching live. The pictures during the Frenchman’s wreck and afterward were simply stunning.
Who is Romain Grosjean?
Frenchman Romain Grosjean began competing in Formula One cars in the 2009 season and returned full-time in 2012. Grosjean, 34, made his debut with Renault and most recently has been driving for Haas, one of the lesser F1 teams.
Grosjean had some early success, posting a combined nine of his 10 career podium finishes for Lotus as part of a team featuring Kimi Raikkonen in 2012-13. His first podium finish was in the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix.
He moved to Haas in 2016, but the past two seasons have been disappointments traced to a string of accidents and mechanical issues. Grosjean accumulated just eight points in 2019 and two points in the current season. He does not have a contract beyond the current season, and continuing on the F1 circuit does not appear to be an option.
The stakes and risks are high in F1 racing
Bahrain is hosting back-to-back Formula One Grand Prix races on consecutive weekends as the circuit nears the conclusion of the 2020 season. Though Lewis Hamilton has clinched his seventh series championship, much remains at stake for the 20 drivers on the starting grids and their teams.
F1 racing is one of the most expensive ventures in all of sports. Individual cars, with their engines that power the vehicles to speeds beyond 225 mph, cost $12 million to $15 million to construct, and the elite teams like Mercedes and Ferrari operate on $400 million annual budgets.
That makes for fierce competition on the racecourse. The drama – and the danger – begins on the opening lap. With high-powered cars bunched so closely through the opening twists and turns, the margin for error is virtually non-existent as drivers fight for position. That is why the first minute of the race is typically the most dangerous.
On Nov. 29, 2020, the field had negotiated two turns and was roaring toward maximum speeds when Romain Grosjean lost control of his vehicle and wrecked in spectacular fashion.
Roman Grosjean walked away from a horrific crash in Bahrain
French driver Romain Grosjean started 19th in the 20-car Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix. He followed the leaders through the first two turns and was accelerating through a straightaway when debris started appearing on the track, apparently from contact between cars ahead of him.
Grosjean steered sharply to the right and appeared to clip the front of Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri as he rapidly approached an abutment and the barrier near a stanchion supporting an overhead sign. The Frenchman’s Haas hit the barrier, splitting the car in half – a large piece went through the barrier — and triggering a fireball. It was apparent immediately that the incident was serious, and race officials put out the red flag.
Fortunately for Grosjean, a medical team just beyond the barrier at the crash site asssted quickly. Three men rushed toward the fiery wreck as Grosjean somehow had the presence of mind to unstrap himself from the safety devices. With a hand from the marshals, Grosjean was able to move away from further harm under his own power.
Grosjean was placed in the medical car and taken to the treatment center, where the early report was that he had sustained minor burns on his lower arms and ankles. A subsequent report said he may have also suffered one or more broken ribs.