Last November, 180 meters after the apex of Turn 3 at the Bahrain International Circuit, the Swiss-born French driver Romain Grosjean was the protagonist of a life-threatening car accident.
His Haas car crashed into the barrier and caught fire before he could get out of the cockpit, but luckily, after 28-breath-taking seconds trapped in a burning car, the driver escaped without suffering any major injury.
Today, FIA’s Safety department has completed its investigation into the accident that occurred on November 29, 2020, immediately after the start of the Bahrain GP. The above-mentioned inquiry was based on the assessment of the physical evidence, analysis of available video material, data from the car’s accident data recorder and driver’s ear accelerometers; as well as interviews with everyone involved.
The work was peer-reviewed by the FIA Serious Accident Study Group, guided by FIA President Jean Todt; additional insights were received from the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.
The findings of the investigation were presented to the FIA’s Circuits Commission, Medical Commission, Single Seater Commission, F1 Commission, Safety Commission, Volunteers and Officials Commission, and the World Motor Sport Council.
During the opening lap of the Bahrain GP, Romain Grosjean lost control over his car following contact between his rear wheel and Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri. The car-to-car contact lifted the rear of the French driver’s car, placing it on an out-of-control trajectory into the run-off area at the exit of Turn 3.
Romain Grosjean’s car impacted the triple guardrail barrier and suffered damage during the impact, including separation of the power train assembly from the survival cell. Additionally, the fuel tank was dislocated leading to a fuel leak from the tank. The fire was ignited during the final moments of the barrier impact, starting from the rear of the survival cell and progressing forwards towards the driver as the fire grew.
Grosjean’s left foot was initially trapped as the car crashed, miraculously, despite the ferocity of the crash which split his Haas car in two, Grosjean was able to climb out of the wreck and liberate himself. The 34-year-old driver suffered burns to the backsides of both hands and relatively minor injuries to his feet.
“Important learnings have been drawn from these investigations that will drive our continuous mission to improve safety in Formula 1 and global motorsport.
“The enduring commitment of the FIA, particularly the Safety Department, on reducing risks associated with motorsport enabled Romain Grosjean to maintain consciousness and survive an accident of this magnitude. Safety is and will remain FIA’s top priority” FIA President Jean Todt commented.
“Incidents involving fire of this scale are thankfully rare, so it is very important to learn what we can, including the interaction with the high voltage system.
“The efforts of those involved were heroic and have quite rightly been the subject of much praise. Following the approval of our findings by the World Motor Sport Council, we will integrate the actions into the ongoing work.” FIA Safety Director Adam Baker added.
In response to Grosjean’s accident and in line with FIA’s commitment to continuously enhance their safety rules, the federation undertakes to improve and develop in the following areas
- Regulation of survival cell front geometry, plus additional load tests in that area
- Review of existing regulations regarding rearview mirrors
- Review of steering column mounting requirements
- Review of regulation and homologation requirements for headrest assembly
- Analysis of Power Unit mounting and mount failure modes
- Ongoing research project: Wheel Restraint Cables (tethers), design review of safety fuel bladder installations in all FIA single-seater categories
- Recommendations for safety fuel bladder installation best practice
- Update of the FIA Standard for safety fuel bladders
- Review of regulations for the design of safety fuel bladder connections and inspection hatches
- Fuel homologation to include compatibility of bladder material and specific fuel
- Increased functionality for Circuit Safety Analysis Software (CSAS) including quantitative impact probability classification
- Review of existing circuit barrier opening installations
- Review of guidelines/process for circuit homologation and licence renewal
Driver safety equipment
- Investigation into improvements to the gloves’ Heat Transfer Index (HTI)
- Ongoing research project: Visor opening/locking mechanisms; project scope extended to include requirements to ensure that visor opening systems are operational after being exposed to fire
- Ongoing research project: Extinguisher system for open cockpit cars; project scope extended to include investigation of improved activation mechanisms
Medical and Rescue
- Updates to Medical Intervention Vehicle equipment, including alternate extinguisher types
- Provide ASN guidance on post-fire decontamination
- Ongoing development of FIA firefighting training module for ASNs
- Ongoing development of FIA high voltage safety training module for ASNs
- Ongoing development of FIA Incident Command/Co-ordination training module for ASNs