Haas driver Romain Grosjean of France is helped by medical staff after he crashed his car during the Formula One race in Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Hamad Mohammed, Pool via AP)

F1 driver Grosjean escapes after horror crash at Bahrain GP

Formula One driver Romain Grosjean appeared to escape with minor burns after his car crashed and burst into flames moments after the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.

The 34-year-old French driver slid off the track on the first lap and his Haas car burst into flames after being sliced in two by a barrier. Grosjean clambered out with the fire roaring behind him and his race helmet singed.

Governing body FIA said Grosjean is stable and was taken by helicopter to a military hospital.

“Romain is doing okay, I don’t want to make a medical comment but he had light burns on his hands and ankles,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said. “Obviously he’s shaken… I want to thank the rescue crews who are very quick. The marshals and FIA people they did a great job, it was scary.”

Grosjean was stuck inside the flaming wreck for nearly 10 seconds before somehow finding a way out. Race footage showed safety officials reaching the car immediately but with Grosjean still trapped inside. He managed to find a way out and jumped through the flames and gripped the extremely hot metal barrier as he jumped over back onto the track, shaking his hands in agony before being helped by the stewards.

Moments later, Grosjean was shown on television chatting with the race doctor in the medical car.

Grosjean was then helped out of the car and into an ambulance. He appeared to be shaken but did not immediately seem injured other than a slight limp.

Drivers and team members stood and applauded as they saw the images of Grosjean climbing over the barrier to safety and being sprayed with a fire extinguisher.

Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton expressed his relief on Twitter while waiting for the race to restart.

“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,” Hamilton wrote. “Thankful to the FIA for the massive strides we’ve taken for Romain to walk away from that safely.”

It appeared an extraordinary escape after Grosjean’s car was sliced in half upon impact with the barrier.

“I’ve never seen that much fire in 12 years. It took a little while to process what was going on but then Romain started to get out of the car himself, which was amazing,” said Alan van der Merwe, the driver of the F1 medical car. “Everything worked hand in hand today: the halo, the barriers, the seat belt. Without one of things it could’ve been a different outcome.”

The halo is a safety device that forms a protective ring around the drivers’ head. It was introduced following the death of French driver Jules Bianchi after he sustained massive head trauma on a rain-soaked track at the Japan GP six years ago and went headfirst into a trackside crane. Two years ago Charles Leclerc — Bianchi’s close friend — was likely saved serious injury or death by the halo when another car landed on top of his at the Belgian GP.

The accident happened when Grosjean lost grip and slid to the right, where his back wheel clipped the front of Daniil Kvyat’s Alpha-Tauri causing him to fly off into the barrier.

Grosjean’s teammate Kevin Magnussen looked distressed when he saw the footage as drivers waited in the paddock for the race to restart, while officials returned to the site of the crash to pick up debris littered around the destroyed car.

Officials worked quickly to build a makeshift crash barrier where the old one was destroyed.

The race restarted about 1 1/2 hours later with Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton leading, ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.

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