Drivers credit racing’s safety advancements in social reaction to fiery Grosjean F1 crash

Grosjean safety social reaction
Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

An F1 crash that engulfed Romain Grosjean in a fireball for nearly 20 seconds before the driver escaped with minor burns prompted social reaction from drivers around the world Sunday, hailing the safety of auto racing.

Grosjean was airlifted to a nearby hospital with suspected broken ribs but seemed to have avoided major injuries after being able to scramble from the remnants of his destroyed car.

Lewis Hamilton, who clinched his seventh Formula One championship two weeks ago, was leading after starting from the pole position in the race, which was red-flagged for more than an hour after the terrifying crash on Lap 1 of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

During the delay for repairs, the Mercedes driver posted his gratitude for Grosjean’s health and for F1 safety advancements,noting in a tweet that “the risk we take is no joke, for those of you out there that forget we put our life on the line for this sport and for what we love to do.”

Many other drivers chimed in on Twitter, particularly several from the NTT IndyCar Series.

IndyCar introduced the aeroscreen last season, a device designed to shield drivers in crashes by essentially enclosing a cockpit that historically had left their heads exposed to debris and intrusion. Justin Wilson was killed after being hit by a nose cone in an Aug. 23, 2015 incident at Pocono Raceway.

It came in the wake of F1’s halo, which was made mandatory in 2018 — three years after French driver Jules Bianchi died from suffering a head injury during a crash in the Oct. 5, 2014 race at Suzuka, Japan.

The device since has been credited with saving other drivers from serious or fatal injuries.

IndyCar champions Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti were among those who hailed enhancements to keep drivers safe.

Two-time Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne and IndyCar driver Dalton Kellett directly credited the halo with helping save Grosjean’s life, with Kellett explaining how energy was redirected into the chassis and away from the driver.

Simon Pagenaud (a fellow countryman of Grosjean), Graham Rahal, Jack Harvey, Pato O’Ward, Max Chilton, 2016 champion Nico Rosberg and several drivers from NASCAR and elsewhere also weighed in after seeing the Grosjean crash.

Formula One technical director Ross Brawn told Sky Sports that the halo device, which was installed on F1 cars in 2018 to prevent cockpit intrusion and protect drivers’ heads, had prevented the type of fatal crash that often happened in similar impacts from years ago.

“Undoubtedly, we’re going to do a very deep analysis of all the events that occurred because there were a number of things that shouldn’t have happened,” Brawn said in a postrace interview. “The fire was worrying. The split of the barrier was worrying. I think the positives are the safety of the car. That’s what got us through today. … There’s no doubt the halo was the factor that saved the day and saved Romain.”

FIA president Jean Todt said the organization “always put safety at the top of our priorities and will continue to do so.”