Romain Grosjean walked away from a fiery crash that split his car in two at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday in a ‘miracle’ escape that owed as much to Formula One’s never-ending quest for safety as luck.
Ross Brawn, Formula One’s managing director for motorsport, said the halo head protection system, a three-point titanium structure introduced in 2018, had probably saved the Frenchman’s life.
The Haas car careered off at speed, penetrating the steel barriers and bursting into flames before Grosjean clambered clear.
“Undoubtedly we’ve got to do a very deep analysis of all the events that occurred because there were a number of things that shouldn’t have happened," Brawn told Sky Sports television.
“The fire was worrying, the split of the barrier was worrying.
“I think the positives are the safety of the car and that’s what got us through today."
Brawn said barriers splitting was a problem from Formula One’s far more dangerous past “and normally it resulted in a fatality".
“There’s absolutely no doubt the halo was the factor that saved the day and saved Romain," said the Briton.
“There was quite a lot of controversy at the time about introducing it and I don’t think anyone now can doubt the validity of that. It was a life-saver today."
Brawn said the sport had not seen such a fire in many years, although the fuel cells were now built to be ‘incredibly strong’ and he suspected it was more likely to be due to a ruptured connection.
“It looked a big fire but those cars are carrying 100 kilos of fuel at that stage. I think if 100 kilos had gone up we would have had a massive fire. For me that was a fire of a few kilos of fuel."
Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, said he was ‘flabbergasted’ by what he had seen and it was a miracle Grosjean, a father of three who is likely to leave Formula One at the end of the year, was alive.
Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, the race winner for Mercedes, was thankful the halo had worked.
“I’m grateful that the barrier didn’t slice his head up or something like that. It could have been so much worse," said the Briton.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner agreed: “Horrendous. An incident like that, I couldn’t see a driver coming out of that," he said.
“All credit to the FIA. For a car to pierce a steel barrier like that and for the driver to survive, with the fire and everything else, it’s all credit to the job that they’re doing. And they’re right to keep pushing.
“You’re always learning in this business, not just about going faster.
“Romain Grosjean is a very, very fortunate young man tonight."
Hamilton also paid credit to the marshals and medical car team, the first on the scene.
“It is an amazing job the FIA have done. The marshals are the unsung heroes every weekend that we get to go out, those guys are there to protect us and they really are incredible in what they do," he said.