How Romain Grosjean Survived That Horrifying Crash

Illustration for article titled How Romain Grosjean Survived That Horrifying Crash
Photo: HAMAD I MOHAMMED (Getty Images)

Romain Grosjean walked away from one of the worst Formula 1 crashes in years. The fact that he escaped serious injury in the incident, which took place on the first lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix on November 29, is testament to the safety of the today’s F1 cars and firesuits. Grosjean credits his survival to the halo structure above the cockpit, a controversial safety measure when it was introduced. But that doesn’t really tell the whole story of what he went through.

Jolyon Palmer, a former F1 driver and now a commentator, gave an in-depth analysis of the circumstances of the crash, which saw Grosjean hit the barrier at 137 mph. Via the Formula 1 YouTube channel:

Using the onboard cameras from the racecars, Palmer broke down the events of the crash. The start was tight, as expected, with the field bunched up as drivers tried to gain positions.

Advertisement

It appears Grosjean, in a Haas entry, clipped Daniil Kvyat before blowing through the Armco barrier, experiencing around 50G of force as the car split in two. Though it took him 28 seconds to get out of the burning car, Grosjean escaped relatively unscathed — just burns on his hands.

Autosport focused on the crash itself, analyzing the aftermath on its YouTube channel:

Based on photos taken at the scene, it would appear the halo played an vital role in keeping Grosjean alive. It peeled the barrier open and kept his head safe. The rest of the car’s safety structure also did a remarkable job, considering the huge forces of the crash.

If any controversy remains over the halo, that should be settled now, as this crash shows it can be a life-saver. It made a believer out of Grosjean.

Advertisement

This crash is the perfect example of how effective the advanced safety technology in racing today can be, even when drivers crash at triple-digit speeds and experience incredible forces.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik and learning pilot. Loves all vehicles! Smart Fortwo (x4), AmTran School Bus, VW W8, Jetta TDI (x2), Audi TT, Buell Lightning, Suzuki Burgman, Yamaha U7E, Honda CBR600 + More

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

The Motorsport.com deems the splitting of the car as worrisome, but I think it’s part of what saved Romains life. Apart from the blaze that erupted due to the splitting (and perhaps damaging the fuel bag/lines?), the fact that the rear section of the car, with all its weight -engine, gearbox, fluids- had no part in the crash itself may have saved him.

I remember a Ferrari Enzo crash in California a couple of years ago, the driver veered off the road, hit a wooden post sideways and had the car split in two, in a similar fashion as Romain’s car did. The survival cell remained intact and the rear of the car disintegrated with the engine block being flung away some 80 yards along the road. The driver walked away (or rather fled) unharmed. The explanation Ferrari gave around that time was that this behavior was as designed. For the driver and passenger to survive such a crash it is crucial that the amount of energy and stress working on the safety cell around them is as low as possible. With a high speed crash a lot of the energy in the equation is kinetic energy (or potential energy), speed multiplied by the mass of the object. When you are able to remove a lot of the mass of the car from that equation, the forces on the safety cell will be lower, improving the drivers’ survival chances.  

Anyhow, thankfully Romain survived no matter what forces were applied to him or his car. F1 safety is infinitely better than five years ago, let alone 50 years ago. Thanks to all the people that made it their lives’ work to improve survival chances.