Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, has concluded its investigation into the frightening accident suffered by Romain Grosjean at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Grosjean veered sideways into the barrier only 180 metres after the apex of Turn 3 shortly after the start of the race, his Haas car splitting the barrier and becoming engulfed in flame before marshals were quickly to the scene to aid the Frenchman exit his car.
It appeared a miraculous escape, with several factors working in the driver’s favour to avoid what could easily have been a catastrophe. Now, having interviewed those involved, inspection of all evidence and video footage and data from the car’s accident data recorder, the FIA Serious Accident Study Group led by FIA President Jean Todt concluded; ‘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.’
Crucially, all of the driver safety equipment did its job perfectly in allowing Grosjean to emerge relatively unscathed. These vital areas include the driver helmet, HANS and safety harness as well as the survival cell, seat, headrest and Halo frontal cockpit protection.
Statement from the official FIA investigation press release:
Medical and Rescue
A comprehensive medical and rescue response to this incident was immediately initiated. The FIA Medical Car arrived within 11 seconds of the incident, a time achieved partly due to the fact a ‘short cut’ was taken to avoid turn 1, demonstrating both local circuit knowledge and pre-planning.
The arrival of the Medical Car carrying the FIA F1 Medical Rescue Coordinator Dr Ian Roberts, FIA F1 Medical Car Driver Alan van der Merwe and a local doctor, provided immediate assistance with each performing a pre-determined role.
Ian Roberts went immediately to the scene of the incident and instructed a marshal to operate the dry powder extinguisher around the cockpit where he identified Romain Grosjean as trying to make his egress. Alan Van der Merwe retrieved a fire extinguisher from the rear of the FIA Medical Car whilst the local doctor prepared the trauma bag.
Romain Grosjean was able to egress unaided and was out of car after 27 seconds.
Romain Grosjean suffered burns to the back sides of both hands. Following initial examination by the FIA Medical Car personnel he was transported by ambulance to the circuit Medical Centre for evaluation. He was subsequently transported by helicopter to the Bahrain Defence Force Hospital for further assessment and treatment. He was discharged from hospital after three days, on December 2, 2020.
FIA President Jean Todt said: “Important learnings have been drawn from these investigations that will drive our continuous mission to improve safety in Formula 1 and global motor sport. The enduring commitment of the FIA, particularly the Safety Department, on reducing risks associated with motor sport enabled Romain Grosjean to maintain consciousness and survive an accident of this magnitude. Safety is and will remain FIA’s top priority.”
FIA Safety Director Adam Baker said: “Incidents involving fire of this scale are thankfully rare, so it is very important to learn what we can, including the interaction with the high voltage system. The efforts of those involved were heroic and have quite rightly been the subject of much praise. Following the approval of our findings by the World Motor Sport Council, we will integrate the actions into the ongoing work.”