Romain Grosjean has given a detailed and powerful account of his terrifying Formula 1 crash, telling Sky Sports in a moving exclusive interview that he was “at peace” with dying during his 28 seconds in the fire, before dramatically dragging himself out of his burning car.
In his first English language TV sit-down since the terrifying accident at last weekend’s Bahrain GP – where his Haas car pierced the barriers at around 137mph, split in two and burst into flames – Grosjean spoke with Sky F1’s Martin Brundle and described his ordeal and incredible escape.
The full interview will be aired during our build-up on Sunday for the Sakhir GP – which Grosjean is missing due to his minor burns – from 3.30pm on Sky Sports F1.
Grosjean started with the moment of horrific impact on the first lap.
“Straight away, when the movement stopped and I opened my eyes, the first thing I did was undo the seatbelt, try to remove the wheel – which was gone, so at least one less concern – and then try to jump out,” he said, before recounting his miraculous fireball escape – timed at almost half a minute.
“If I take through from that point, it was 28 seconds but for me it felt like one minute 30,” Grosjean explained.
“It stops, I open my eyes, I undo the seatbelt, and I want to jump out. I hit something on top of my helmet, so I sit back down and thought I must be upside down up against the barrier, so I’ll wait until they come and help me.
“I looked to my right, looked to my left, and it was all orange. That’s strange, I thought.
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“A few things [came into my head]. Is it sunset? No. Is it the light from the circuit? No. Then I realised it was fire. So I knew I didn’t have time until they come.
“This time I tried to go up, a bit more to the right. Doesn’t work. A bit more to the left. Doesn’t work. So I sit back down. Then there’s a bit of swearing going on. And I said, no, I can’t finish like this.
“I thought about Niki Lauda – the driver I love the most in the history of Formula 1. I said, ‘I can’t finish like Niki, I can’t finish like this. It cannot be my last race’.
“So I tried again, I’m stuck. And then comes the part which is the most scary one. I sit back down, all my muscle relaxes, and I was almost at peace with myself, thinking, I’m dead. I will die.
“And then I thought, which part is going to burn first? Is it the foot? Is it the hands? Is it going to be painful? A very, very strange feeling. Sometimes we are close to death, we are a bit scared. This time death for me was here [Grosjean gesticulates to right in front of his face]. I named it Benoit, don’t ask me why. I just had to put a name on it.
“And then, I don’t know if that moment allowed me to recover a bit, try to think of another solution, but I thought about my kids [Grosjean has three] and I said, no. I cannot die today. For my kids, I cannot die today.
“Then I start to twist my head, go up and turn my body. It worked.”
Even then, Grosjean was not out of danger.
“But then my foot was stuck on the pedal,” he adds. “Then I had to go back down to the car, pull as hard as I can on my left leg. The shoe stayed where my foot was and the foot came out.
“Then I went through, the shoulder went through and I knew at that time the shoulder had passed the Halo. I was going to live.
“I knew I had my hands in the fire, I saw my gloves – they are red normally and they started to go full black and I can feel the pain and the burn. But I’m going up.
“I jump on the barrier, then I feel Ian [Roberts, FIA medical delegate] that pulls on my overall and that is an extraordinary feeling. When he pulls me, I know there’s someone with me. I’m alive.
“I feel on my back, they touch me and I thought – am I on fire? Then Ian talks to me, saying ‘sit down, sit down’. I told him, ‘talk to me normally!’ I guess at that point he knew I was OK!”
- Grosjean’s wife praises ‘superhero’
The first responders to Grosjean said they immediately knew the Frenchman had – miraculously- avoided a serious injury. He was taken to the medical centre afterwards.
“Jean Todt [FIA president] came in the medical centre and he asked me for my wife’s number straight away,” said Grosjean. “So I gave him the number, he tried calling and it was a voicemail. Eventually [he got through].
“‘Marion, it’s Jean, I’m with Romain’, and he puts me on speakerphone.
“I say, ‘Mosquito’ – I call my wife Mosquito – ‘I’m here, I’m here’. She exploded in a laugh, as well as a cry. She was with my Dad, and it lasted five seconds there, but she knew I was alive.”
Marion Grosjean has since travelled to Bahrain to be with Grosjean, who was discharged from hospital on Wednesday and is recovering privately from burns – mainly to the back of his hands.
He has been replaced by Pietro Fittipaldi at Haas for this weekend’s Sakhir GP at the same circuit, but returned to the paddock – and indeed the scene of the crash – on Thursday, and was reunited with his Haas team as well as those who helped save his life.
Grosjean is hoping to make an incredible comeback next weekend at the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, which would likely be his last race in F1, as he does not have a seat for next season.
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