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Five things that saved Grosjean’s life

Five things that saved Grosjean’s life


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Five things that saved Grosjean’s life

Five things that saved Grosjean’s life

Romain Grosjean was lucky to escape with his life after a horrendous fiery crash at the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix - but much of that luck came through design.

Safety has progressed dramatically in recent years, but sometimes an event like that which happened in Bahrain pushes things almost to their limits. Luckily, Grosjean was able to walk away, and here are five reasons why he did.

Halo protection

The biggest saviour was the Halo and it is likely that without it the result of the crash would have been very different.

The central pillar in its design appears to have played a crucial part in saving Grosjean’s life, effectively parting the barriers over his head as his car scythed through the metal.

It was introduced in 2018, after originally being proposed by Mercedes in 2015 to protect drivers from flying debris and tyres, and was developed through years of FIA research.

Not only did that protect Grosjean’s head from impact, but it also spared him from being knocked unconscious, giving him the chance to get out of the car himself.

Driver extraction

The regulations require teams to design their cars to make it possible for drivers to get out within five seconds.

Considering they are penned in tightly in the cockpit, this is quite an ask, as the headrest, HANS device, radio connections and drinks tubes all restrict their movement. Add to that the Halo over the top and it is not easy to escape.

Drivers take part in extraction tests at the start of every season, but every part of that operation must work perfectly and given Grosjean’s speed of extraction it appears they did in this case.

Car separation

The chassis is known as the ‘survival cell’ and is designed to be rock solid. It can withstand the equivalent weight of a double-decker bus and is designed to prevent anything piercing through its sides.

Other parts that mount to it, such as the nose and sidepod crash structures, are designed to crumple to absorb the g-forces on impact. Crucially, the entire rear of the car is designed to split apart from this section in the event of heavy impact.

It did just that in Grosjean’s incident.

Early reports from the paddock suggested that the fire was potentially caused by fuel left in the fuel collector, which holds 2-3 litres of fuel. If the whole fuel tank had been ruptured and gone up, it could have been an even bigger inferno.


Drivers wear multiple layers of Nomex fire protection clothing as well as carbon fibre helmets that contain fire-proofing materials.

From socks, gloves and balaclava to full overalls, the protective clothing must be capable of handling temperatures of 800 degrees Celsius, resist ignition for 10 seconds and limit the inside to no more than 41 degrees Celsius for 11 seconds.

Drivers also wear biometric gloves that provide feedback on the pulse and blood-oxygen levels, and an in-ear accelerometer that measures the forces acting on their head.

Given his time in the fire, it is down to these garments that Grosjean suffered only minor burns from the incident.

Medical car

It is for this very reason the Mercedes medical car lines up at the back of the grid at the start of each race.

Driver Alan van der Merwe and Dr Ian Roberts were the final piece of the safety jigsaw in Grosjean’s incident, arriving on the scene almost immediately and being there with fire extinguishers to help extract him from the flames.

Their skills, training and knowledge helped ensure Grosjean not only escaped from the horrifying scene but was carefully protected and quickly and efficiently transferred to hospital.

Comments (1)


It was a relief to see Grosjean walking out of the inferno. Kudos to Andy van der Merwe, the driver of the FIA's medical car, and Ian Roberts, the FIA doctor, who were two of the first on the scene to get Grosjean to safety. Never seen a horrific accident like this where the driver survived.

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