Lewis Hamilton celebrated his seventh world championship by winning a Bahrain Grand Prix that will be remembered for Romain Grosjean’s remarkable escape from his fireball inferno.
Grosjean, 34, scrambled to get out of his burning car for almost half a minute before eventually leaping away and into the arms of Formula One doctor, Englishman Ian Roberts, one of the first men on the scene.
On the opening lap, Grosjean moved to his right at the third corner, before hitting the front-left wheel of Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri, and penetrating the steel barrier at 140mph. The force of the impact, which registered at 53G, split his machine in two.
Grosjean’s cockpit instantly burst into flames, and the sport held its breath as television cameras cut hastily away from the extraordinary accident and the race was immediately stopped.
After a number of minutes, Grosjean’s Haas team mercifully reported that their driver was out of the cockpit. He was then pictured sitting in the medical car before limping towards an ambulance, aided by Roberts and medical car driver Alan Van Der Merwe. He had leapt out of his burning machine with his racing boot missing from his left foot.
Grosjean was airlifted to the BDF Military Hospital, 10 miles north of the Bahrain International Circuit, with burns to his hands and ankles and suspected broken ribs. It is also understood he might have broken a bone in his foot following one of the biggest accidents in Formula One’s recent memory.
“It is a miracle he is alive,” said 1996 world champion Damon Hill, whose Williams team-mate Ayrton Senna perished at the San Marino Grand Prix 26 years ago.
Hamilton, who was leading the race at the time of the incident, was seen shaking his head as he watched a replay of the jaw-dropping accident from inside the Mercedes garage as the grand prix was suspended.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton tweeted: “I’m so grateful Romain is safe.
“Wow. The risk we take is no joke, for those of you out there that forget that we put our life on the line for this sport and for what we love to do.
“Thankful to the FIA for the massive strides we’ve taken for Romain to walk away from that safely.”
Speaking after the race, Hamilton reflected: “It was such a shocking image to see.
“When I get in the car, I know that I am taking a risk and I respect the dangers.
“I don’t know what G he pulled but I am just so grateful the halo worked and the barrier didn’t slice his head off or something. It could have been so much worse.
“But this is a reminder that this is a dangerous sport. We are pushing to the limit, but you have to respect it. That accident will be investigated and there will be a lot of work put in to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
There will now be question marks as to how Grosjean’s car managed to penetrate a steel barrier.
But the halo device – the driver-cockpit protection system controversially introduced in 2018 – appears to have played a major role in the Frenchman’s remarkable escape.
South African Van Der Merwe praised the safety measures the sport has taken.
“We just took a little time to process what was going on,” he said. “I am sure it was only a second or so but it felt like ages and then Romain started to get out of the car himself which was pretty amazing after an accident like that.
“There was some relief when we got back here and he was OK.
“It just goes to show that all the systems we developed worked hand in hand, the halo, the barriers, the seat belt, everything worked how it should and without just one of those things, it could have been a very different outcome.”
The race started again following a 90-minute stoppage, but there was further drama after just eight corners when Lance Stroll was flipped upside down.
Kvyat attempted to pass the Canadian driver at the right-handed turn eight, but sent him on to the roof of his Racing Point. Stroll clambered out of his cockpit, reporting that he was “OK” over the radio, and the safety car was deployed. Kvyat was hit with a 10-second penalty, while Stroll was given the all-clear following a visit to the medical centre.
Hamilton completed two regulation stops for new tyres and comfortably kept Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who finished second, at bay.
The Briton has now led more laps this season than of any year in his F1 career, while claiming his 11th triumph of 2020.
If he wins the final two rounds here in Bahrain next Sunday and at the season-decider in Abu Dhabi on December 13, he will match Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel’s joint record for the most number of victories in a year.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez was denied a podium after an engine failure just three laps from the end. Alexander Albon finished third for Red Bull as the race ended under the safety car following Perez’s retirement. British driver Lando Norris took the flag in fourth.