During the Bahrain GP Romain Grosjean got involved in a very horrifying crash. After hitting the barrier on the exit from Turn 3 his car broke in half and the survival cell got engulfed in flames. Thankfully to fast reaction from the absolute heroes: the track marshals as well as Alan van der Merwe, the medical car driver and Dr Ian Roberts, the medial delegate, Grosjean sustained only “minor” (non-life threatening) injuries such as burns to his hands and his foot, with no broken ribs as suspected before.
The race was red flagged in order to repair the barriers before the drivers could resume back on track, and several drivers have seen the replay of the footage during the delay. In an after the race interview with Ziggo TV, Daniel Ricciardo had some strong opinions on that topic, saying it was very “inconsiderate” to Romain’s family to keep replaying the crash.
As he said: "I want to express my disgust and disappointment with Formula 1. The way the incident of Grosjean was broadcast over and over, the replays over and over, it was completely disrespectful and inconsiderate for his family, for all of our families watching. "We're going to go race again in an hour and every time we look on the TV it's a ball of fire and his car's cut in half. I mean we can see that tomorrow, we don't need to see it today. For me, it was entertainment and they're playing with all of our emotions and I thought it was pretty disgusting. So hopefully some other drivers have spoke up. But if that's not how we all really feel then I'd be very surprised.”
The opinion of Ricciardo seems to be somehow echoed in the opinions of some other drivers, such as Valtteri Bottas who beliefs there should be a limit on the replays. As he said: "When there is a crash, when it ends up being OK for the drivers, they like to repeat those. I feel like people, spectators want to see it. But there's a limit as well. It could have been a fraction different, the shunt, and there would have been no way for him to get out of the car. So yeah, there's a limit on it. I was watching the screen because I wanted to see what happened. Once I saw it, I was trying to avoid it, but it was playing on replay everywhere. I don't know, maybe it's a question for people watching, the fans, if they want to see 20 repeats of that or not.”
But, on the other hand, there are many voices that said that it was important for FOM to be transparent about the crash in order to avoid speculation, and that eventually after it was confirmed that Romain is OK, it was important to see what exactly happened that led to that event.
As said by Toto Wolff: "If FOM is not showing it, then somebody else is going to have a mobile phone there and film, and you need to be transparent. Those images were frightening and graphic, but if you're not transparent as an organisation, you're just taking the risk that somebody else shows stuff that is beyond your control.”
Günther Steiner believes that the FOM footage was crucial in order to know that Grosjean got out of the flames and was safe. As he said, in a response to Ricciardo’s criticism: “You can have two opinions here. But my opinion is if it ended lucky, and nothing bad happened, why not show it to make sure people understand? Yeah it was bad, but everybody is OK. That was how to deal with it. We wanted to get the news out as soon as possible to the people, Romain is OK guys, just because it’s difficult to contact family, friends, people who know us, people of the team. If we sent one message via TV and something like this, it’s much more powerful. I think showing it and showing him jumping out, yeah, it looks a little bit and it is dramatic, but it ended good. So long as it ends good, I’m fine.”
He added: “For sure, if something bad happens, it shouldn’t be shown. I’m not an expert in TV ethics, but in my opinion, a good thing was shown. It was a bad accident, but we got lucky and everything ended OK. I wouldn’t say good, because things like this don’t end good. It was just OK.”
So what is the general consensus here? To show or not to show? Well, before anything, here are some words from the F1 spokesman regarding that situation. As he said: “Firstly, at F1 this isn’t about entertainment and a few procedures and protocols are in place before any decision to run a reply is made. Following an accident, all onboards, helicopter feeds etc are cut. There are direct comms between race control and the broadcast centre. No footage is shown until there is confirmation that the driver is OK. On this occasion at this point F1 showed Romain with the ambulance, helmet off and walking with aid. No replays of an accident are shown until there is approval and confirmation from race control/FIA that all persons are safe (driver, marshals, doctors etc). Replays then started.”
He added: “The context of what a viewer sees and hears with the commentary is important, with them talking about the safety of Romain, the halo, FIA safety improvements, and updates from the medical centre. There is constant dialogue between F1, FIA /race control, and sound judgement on viewers, families and those affected.”
The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Of course, the replays should have been premised with a warning, because such views are definitely not light on the heart or mind, especially replayed over and over again. But F1 did made sure that the footage was shown only after it was confirmed Romain’s life was not threatened, and it is important to see not only what led to such a horrific crash, but also that the safety measures that are constantly improved are indeed working. It can be, on one hand, seen as inconsiderate for the family of the driver involved in the crash. But the argument regarding transparency is also very important, to not spread misinformation about such important incidents, where somebody’s life is on the line. There is no golden structure regarding how to handle this, but for the future at least a warning or a limit to the replays could definitely be beneficial for the viewers and others.