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.”

SuperMotocross set to introduce Leader Lights beginning with the World Championship finals


In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.

Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.

Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.

The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.

“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”

Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.

SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.

When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.

SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.