A tough day in Bahrain

Well, that was scary. This review took me a little while to sit down and write, usually, I get it done right after the race but this time around I needed a little bit I digest what I had witnessed. I’m sure a lot of other fans had to do the same after that incident. I wish Roman the best and I am eternally grateful for those who worked in the past to make this sport as safe as it is.

A pretty uneventful Saturday left us with the usual three at the front of the grid on Sunday with Hamilton leading the charge teammate in tow with Verstappen in third to start the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix. 

As the race kicked off the front half of the grid started their usual shifting up and down with a rough start from Valtteri dropping down a few places while the midfield had a few scuffles through the first two turns. As the grid left turn three a massive explosion rang of the barrier and the race was red-flagged immediately.

As the drivers made their way to the pits the confusion was evident throughout the commentary team and the driver radios. As more information came out, we learned it was Roman Grosjean in the Haas that hit the barrier, and his car was torn in half, rupturing the fuel cell and causing a massive fireball he luckily escaped.

From my perspective, I was fully convinced I just witnessed a man die. Nowadays in Formula One, we can watch a crash and know there is a very good chance everyone will walk away uninjured. This one was different, there was a feeling in my chest that this one was different and we had just lost a driver. But, the brave men in the medical car were not far behind with their fire extinguishers and were able to help the driver out of the wreck and evaluate him.

Luckily, the Marshalls and the Medical Team came to the rescue and we can talk about this crash today with a sense of optimism and relief in the systems in place. 

As the red flag period continued more news was released and the broadcasts were assured that Grosjean was ok and the replays continued as the commentary team tried to figure out what happened along with the fans. In the end, it was deduced that after brief contact with Kvyats front wing, Grosjean lost control and went head-on into the metal barriers. As his car pierced the barrier, the halo crash structure protecting his head, wedged in the barrier and protected Grosjean from almost certain death. The momentum from the angel of the impact, broke the back half of the car off, exposing the fuel cell, and igniting the fire. In the span of 18 seconds, Roman was able to free himself from his cockpit and find the hand of Dr. Ian Roberts who helped him out of the inferno and into the medical car.

This crash is without a doubt the most terrifying thing ever seen on live television, and they showed it on repeat for about an hour. 

In an interview with Ziggo, Renault diver Daniel Riccardo said, “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.” and I couldn’t agree more. I understand the need for review and to inform the public, as well as the need to fill time during a red flag, but to me, it felt excessive. I couldn’t help but think about Roman’s wife and kids watching live and worrying about the condition of their loved one while a constant replay of such a traumatic event runs on the TV. I’m glad I got to see what happened, but tone it down a bit.

After nearly an hour red-flag period, while the marshalls replaced the barrier, the race was to restart on the grid. Not even a lap after the restart, Lance Stroll pulled a Hulkenberg and flipped upside down after contact with Kyvat. Not the most terrifying crash, quite a tame one actually, but scary nonetheless and didn’t help with the eerie feeling on track after the incident in the morning.

A safety car was released and the next few laps were under the yellow lights. Bottas pitted for hards after a puncture was detected, emerging the pit lane in P16 and after that, he was in for a tough one. Also in for a tough one was Seb Vettel, getting on the radio saying “This car is undrivable” as well as laying into his teammate for not giving him space on the restart.

Lewis and Max took their usual positions at the front of the grid with a pretty hefty margin followed by Checo in third. The real fight was in the mid-field with good battles between the teammates at Reanult as well as the boys in orange at McLaren. With third place in the constructors still in contention, Racing point, Renault and McLaren have their work cut out for them these last few races and that hunger for points was palpable.  A quiet day in the backfield besides the obvious, Haas, Alfa, Alpha, and Williams slotted into their usual positions.

As a (thankfully) kind of boring race after the Stroll incident came to an end, it seemed like Checo was on track for his second podium in as many races, but then came the fire. It became clear that Checo had a problem when smoke started billowing out the back of his Mercedes power-unit, followed by flames. Those flames were put out by the marshalls on track, but retrieving the car took a little too long and the race ended under the safety car. 

After inheriting the podium from Checo, Albon scored his second podium of the season behind his teammate in second and the World Champion Hamilton on the top. 

The 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix was a good race, but it will forever be remembered as the race where a driver should have died. The race where we saw years of safety innovation payoff. The race where all the hard work put in by people like Dr. Sid Watkins, Charlie Whiting, and the countless people who worked to make this sport safe and enjoyable get put to the test. Because of them, we get to remember this day as a happy one and, not a somber one. 

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