Romain Grosjean walked away from the worst Formula 1 crash in years on Sunday, and the halo safety structure, mandated on Formula 1 car cockpits since 2018, surely played a role in his escaping nearly unscathed. He sustained burns on his hands but was otherwise fine. Grosjean, who drives for the Haas team, said in a video from his hospital bed that previously he didn’t support halos on Formula 1 cars. But, he admitted, “Without it, I wouldn’t be able to speak to you today.”
Even a day later, video of the crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix is still jarring, a reminder of how miraculous it is that Grosjean walked away at all.
Ross Brawn, F1’s director of motorsport, was unequivocal that the halo, which had been criticised when first imposed, had been instrumental in saving Grosjean’s life. “The positive was the safety of the car and that is what got us through today,” said Brawn. “The barrier splitting was a problem many years ago and it normally resulted in a fatality; there is no doubt that the halo saved the day. The team behind it deserve credit for forcing it through. After today no one can doubt the validity of that, it was a life saver.”
Another factor: the beefed-up fire suits that drivers have to wear this year, which are designed to withstand 20 seconds of flames or twice what prior years’ suits were designed for. Drivers train to get out of their cars in 10 seconds; it took Grosjean around 18 seconds to get out of his on Sunday. The fire suit could’ve made just as much difference as the halo, in other words.
Grosjean’s hands are still wrapped up as of this morning but mobile enough to give a thumbs up.
According to the Guardian, this is the first Formula 1 crash that resulted in fire since 1989, which is a testament to efforts by the sport to eliminate fire risk. Grosjean hit the wall at 137 mph, and the reported force was an astounding 53 G. The FIA said that it would conduct a full investigation of the incident, and other drivers said that the crash was a good reminder of just how dangerous Formula 1 racing still is. Thankfully, the incident will likely put any lingering talk of getting rid of the halo to bed.
Grosjean, meanwhile, will miss this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix, also in Bahrain. Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of two-time Formula 1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, will drive the Haas car instead, it was announced this morning.