Race officials praised the modern safety systems developed for Formula One racing on Sunday after Romain Grosjean survived a high-speed crash and fireball blaze on the opening lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Safety and official medical car driver, South Africa’s Alan van der Merwe, was on the scene within seconds as he followed the field after the start of the race and along with chief medical officer Dr Ian Roberts they battled the blaze to save Grosjean’s life.
“It’s a miracle that he’s alive,” said 1996 world champion Briton Damon Hill, who was Ayrton Senna’s team-mate at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix when the Brazilian champion was killed.
Van der Merwe said: “It was a big surprise for us as well, we’ve never seen that much fire in 12 years.
“Romain started to get out of the car himself which was pretty amazing after an accident like that. It was a relief to see he was okay. It just goes to show all the systems we’ve developed worked hand in hand – the halos, the barriers, the seatbelts, everything all worked as it should.
“Without just one of those things, it could have been a very different outcome”
Grosjean lost control of his Haas car after clipping the front left wheel of Daniil Kvyat’s Alpha Tauri, having skewed right in the intense battle positions at Turn Three on the opening lap.
His car rammed into the barriers as he braked hard from around 250km/h the front part hammering into the steel guardrails which buckled.
Grosjean, 34, trapped in his cockpit, flew under the barrier as it gave way and as his car burst into flames. Observers suggested that his car’s safety ‘halo’ saved his life, lifting the barriers above his head.
His Haas team boss Guenther Steiner said: “When you see something like this the only thing you think is ‘I hope we get lucky’ – you don’t think how it happened or whatever.
“I would like to thank all the marshals. They did a fantastic job to get him away as quick as possible from the fire. It was amazing what they did.”