Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean says that he had accepted his fate in the moments before he was rescued from his car after it burst into flames following his first-lap horror crash at last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Fans feared for the French driver’s safety after his car crashed through a barrier and became an inferno in which the 34-year-old was trapped for several seconds before he was saved by the actions of quick-thinking stewards.
Speaking in depth for the first time since the accident, Grosjean said that there was a moment in which he accepted that his death was inevitable – but he resolved to escape after reflecting that he was about to leave his children to grow up without their father.
“I look right and left, and watching on the left I see fire. So I say ‘OK, well I don’t really have the time to wait here’,” he told Sky Sports F1.
“So next thing is that I tried to go up a bit more on the right, it doesn’t work. I go again on the left, it doesn’t work.
“I sit back down and then thought about Niki Lauda, his accident (at the 1976 Nurburgring Grand Prix), and thought ‘it couldn’t end like this, it couldn’t be my last race, it 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 started to relax. I’m at peace with myself, and I’m going to die.
“I asked my question: “Is it going to burn my shoe or 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. And then I think about my kids and I said ‘no, they cannot lose their dad today.'”
Grosjean is a father of three children with his wife Marion.
He suffered burns to his hands and ankles in fire, as well as a broken rib and a broken foot – and says that he watched as his racing gloves began to melt around his hands.
“I don’t know why, but I decided to turn my helmet on the left-hand side and to go up like this and then try to twist my shoulder. That sort of works, but then I realise my foot is stuck in the car,” he continued.
“So I sit back down, I pull as hard as I can on my left leg and my foot comes out of the shoe. Then I do it again and then the shoulders are going through, and at the time the shoulders are through I know I’m going to jump out.
“I’ve got both hands on the fire at that time. My gloves are red normally, so I see that especially the left one is changing colour and starting melting and going full black, and I feel the pain. But also I feel the relief that I am out of the car.
“And then I jump out. I go on the barrier and then I feel (FIA doctor) Ian (Roberts) pulling on my overalls, so I know I’m not on my own anymore and there’s someone with me.
“Then I land and then they touch on my back so I’m like ‘Oh s**t, I’m like a running fireball.‘”
Fans fears’ were allayed somewhat when Grosjean was seen on the race broadcast walking towards an ambulance minutes after the crash – with the driver saying he refused to be transported on a stretcher to assure viewers – and his family – that he was largely unharmed.
“I say ‘no, no, no, we walk into the ambulance’. ‘No, no, no, no, the bed is coming’. And I said ‘no, no, no’. And I walk out of the car and I say ‘we are walking’, and he says ‘OK, we are going to help you.’
“I guess on the medical side, it wasn’t the 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.“
Grosjean left hospital on Wednesday after spending just four days receiving treatment. Has has been ruled out of this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix but was eyed the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on December 13 for his potential return.