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F1 driver in fireball crash is certain the car’s halo saved his life

Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean is lucky to be alive after a horrific crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday that saw his vehicle rip in half and burst into flames.

In dramatic footage of the incident, the 34-year-old French driver can be seen scrambling out of the fireball that suddenly engulfed his car after he smashed through a barrier at 140 mph during Sunday’s race. He is now recovering in the hospital after suffering burns to his hands and ankles.

A heart-stopping moment on Lap 1 in Bahrain

We are all incredibly grateful that @RGrosjean walked away from this incident#BahrainGP ???????? #F1 pic.twitter.com/6ZztuxOLhw

— Formula 1 (@F1) November 29, 2020

Speaking from his hospital bed just hours after the crash, Grosjean assured fans he was “OK … well sort of OK,” and thanked everyone for their messages of support.

He added that he believed the vehicle’s “halo” safety device saved his life by protecting his head and absorbing the brunt of the impact.

“I wasn’t for the halo some years ago, but I think it’s the greatest thing that we’ve brought to Formula 1, and without it I wouldn’t be able to speak to you today,” Grosjean said, adding, “Thanks to all the medical staff at the circuit, at the hospital, and hopefully I can write you quite soon some messages and tell you how it’s going.”

The best video we've seen today?

THIS ???? ????#BahrainGP ???????? #F1 @RGrosjean pic.twitter.com/TbGblznMBv

— Formula 1 (@F1) November 29, 2020

The halo crash-protection system is a curved bar made with around 7 kilograms of sculpted titanium that’s placed around the cockpit of the racing car. Its ability to withstand 125 kilonewtons of force (equivalent to 12 tons) makes it the most robust part of an F1 car.

The development of the halo came about after French F1 driver Jules Bianchi died in the hospital in July 2015 after sustaining serious head injuries in a crash at the Japanese Grand Prix nine months earlier.

Not everyone welcomed the safety device when it was first fitted to cars in 2018, with some in the sport saying it went against the tradition of open-cockpit racing, separating to some extent the driver from the fans. Others, however, welcomed it as a vital measure to protect drivers from serious injury in the event of a crash, as well as from flying debris caused by accidents elsewhere on the track.

Grosjean, for one, believes he owes his life to the device, and after his miracle escape from his burning car on Sunday with only relatively minor injuries, he could be back behind the wheel before too long.

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Trevor Mogg
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