Grosjean describes harrowing 28 seconds in purgatory
Romain Grosjean offered an in-depth and candid account of the agonizing 28 seconds that he endured after crash through the barriers in Bahrain last Sunday.
The Haas driver miraculously survived the dramatic incident which was broadcasted live across the world, but the Frenchman admits there was shot moment in which he almost gave up on fighting for his life.
While Grosjean’s 53G impact with the Armco at Sakhir’s Turn 3 tore his car apart, the impact ignited a blaze to which he was oblivious at first.
“When the car came to a stop I opened my eyes and undid my seat belt straight away,” he recalled.
“I jumped up and I felt like something is touching my head so I sit back down in the car. And my first thought was ‘I’m going to wait’.
“I’m upside-down against the wall so I’m going to wait that someone comes and helps me. So I wasn’t in stress and obviously not aware at the time there is fire.”
“I looked right and left, and on the left I see fire. So I say ‘OK, I don’t really have the time to wait here’.”
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As he struggled to extract himself from the wreck, hampered by the life-saving halo and with his left foot wedged inside the cockpit, a flood of thoughts rushed through his mind, including the thought of death.
“I tried to go up a bit more on the right, it doesn’t work,” he said. “I go again on the left, it doesn’t work. So I sit back down and then thought about Niki Lauda, his accident.
“I thought, it couldn’t end like this. It couldn’t be my last race, couldn’t finish like this. No way.
“So I try again and I’m stuck so I go back. And then there’s the less pleasant moment where my body start to relax, I’m in peace with myself and I’m going to die.
“I asked the question ‘is it going to burn my shoe, my foot or my hand? Is it going to be painful? Where is it going to start? To me that looks like two, three four seconds.
“I guess it was milliseconds at the time. Then I think about my kids. And I said no, they cannot lose their dad today.”
Eventually, a final salutary impulse freed him from hell.
“I don’t know why I but I decided to turn my helmet on the left-hand side and to go up and try to twist my shoulder. That sort of works, but then I realise my foot is stuck in the car.
“So I sit back down, pull as hard as I can on the left leg. The shoe stayed where my foot was, but my foot came out of the shoe. And then I do it again and then the shoulders are going through.
“At the time the shoulders are through I know I’m going to jump out so I’ve got both hands in the fire at the time.
“My gloves are red, normally, so I see especially the left one changing colour and starting melting and going full black.
“I feel the pain, that my hands are in the fire. But also I feel the relief that I am out of the car. And then I jump out, I go on the barrier.”
As Grosjean made his way over the barrier, FIA medical doctor Ian Roberst was on the other side to lead him away, but the feeling of fire followed.
“I feel pulling on my overalls. So I know I am not on my own any more, there’s someone with me,” he remembered.
“Then I land and then they like touch on my back so I’m like ‘oh, shit, I’m like a running fireball’.
“The image, we’ve seen a video from the FIA, they did a test, they put someone one fire and he runs around just to show the overalls were strong. I’ve got that image, I’ve got fire following me.
“Then I shake my hands because they’re very hot and pain[ful]. I remove my gloves straight away.
“I’ve got also that image that the skin is like going bubbles and melting and it’s going to stick to the gloves so straight away I want to remove both of my gloves so the skin doesn’t go with it.”
“Ian came to see me and spoke to me and say ‘sit down!’ I gave him shit, I said ‘talk to me normally please!’ And I guess he understood that I was OK at that time, that I was normal.
“Then we sit and we’re too close to the fire, I hear the guys from the fire saying ‘the battery’s on fire, bring some other extinguishers’. And then we go into the Medical Car, sit down.
“They put a cold compress on my hand because I told them my hands are burnt, my foot is broken. And then the pain really starts going very high. Especially on the left foot – the hands were OK at the time, the left foot starts being very painful.”
Read also: FIA adds tyre barrier to guardrail hit by Grosjean
From the medical car, Grosjean limped his way to the ambulance, helped by those at his side. The 34-year-old insisted on walking so that everyone watching the footage would know that he was okay.
“Ian explained to me the ambulance is coming and they’re going to come with the bed and you’re going to be OK. And we keep talking, and I say ‘no, no, no, we walk into the ambulance’,” he said.
“I walked out of the car and I say ‘we are walking’ and they say ‘OK we’re going to help you’.
“I guess on the medical side, it wasn’t a perfect decision, but they understood that for me, it was key at the point that there was some footage of me walking towards the ambulance.
“Even though I’d walk out of the fire, I needed to send another strong message that I was OK and I was going to walk towards the ambulance.”
It had been a harrowing 28 seconds in purgatory, but Romain Grosjean survived to live, and hopefully race, another day.
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