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"I'm in peace with myself and I'm going to die"

NEWS STORY
04/12/2020

In his first interview with journalists since his horrific accident at the start of last weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean has given a harrowing account of the moments following the crash, and how he accepted that he was going to die.

"For me it wasn't quite 28 seconds, it felt more like a minute-thirty, if I had to put a time on it," he admitted. "When the car came to a stop I opened my eyes and unclicked my seatbelt straight away.

"The thing I didn't remember the next day is what I did with the steering wheel as I didn't have the memory of taking it off and they said no the steering wheel's gone in between your legs, the column and everything broke and went down.

"I tried to jump out," he continued, "and I felt like something was touching my head, so I sat back down in the car. My first thought is 'I'm going to wait, I'm upside down against the wall, so I'll wait that someone else comes and helps me'. So I wasn't stressed and not aware there was fire.

"Then I looked right and left and saw on the left there is fire, so 'okay I don't really have the time to wait here', next time I try to go up a bit more on the right, it doesn't work, go on the left, doesn't work.

"I sat back down and thought about Niki Lauda, his accident, 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 tried again and I'm stuck.

"I got back and then there's the less pleasant moment where my body start to relax, I'm in peace with myself and I'm going to die. I ask myself the question is it going to burn my shoe or my foot or my hand, is it going to be painful, where's it going to start.

"Then I thought about my kids, and I say 'no they cannot lose their Dad today'. So I don't know why I did what I did but I decided to turn my helmet on the left hand side and to go up like this and try and twist my shoulder, that sort of worked.

"Then I realised my foot was stuck in the car so I sat back down, pulled as hard as I could on my left leg, the shoe stayed with my foot but my foot came out of the shoe, and then I did it again and the shoulder was going through (the halo) and this time the shoulder was through, I know I'm going to jump out.

"I've got both hands on the fire that time, I see my gloves, which are red normally, especially the left one changing colour and start to melt and going full black.

"I feel the pain my hands are in the fire but also I feel the relief that I am out of the car, and then I jump out, go on the barrier, feel Ian pulling on my overall so I know I am not on my own anymore and there is someone with me."

"I know the footage from outside, unbelievable, and if any of my friends would have been in that race and I would have been watching from home I would have been sure that the driver was dead," he admitted. "When you see the first impact, there is no way you cannot think the driver is dead.

"If we can learn anything from that incident in terms of safety, but also in the way I behaved in the car, survival instinct, I never panicked, I was never stressed, everything I did was mathematical. Even after, removing the glove because I knew my hands were burnt, every step was rational. I don't know if you are born with that instinct or if it is something you can improve through your life, but obviously that saved me.

"If I can, as Jules (Bianchi) did for me, save life in the future by my experience, then I will have a very strong legacy in motorsport and it will be probably my biggest pride."

The Frenchman admits that his biggest regret is how it affected his family.

"I really spoke a lot with Marion and my kids," he said. "My kids had many questions, my oldest son Sacha was worried that I would be all black, all burned and never be the same, so it was relief when he saw I looked the same. My son Simon, five years old, is convinced I have a love shield and I can fly. He doesn't process the fact I walked out of the car, he thinks I flew out of the car. That's why they think I'm a super hero.

"My daughter, three years old, it's a bit harder to know exactly what she thinks. She draws me, every day something for my hand injury and sends me a kiss and a hug every day.

"They're OK because yesterday I video-phoned them and they wouldn't even come to see me, they were playing outside. They weren't bothered about coming to see me! Sacha went in front of his class for 45 minutes in the morning talking about it, his friends asked questions, he explained and told them what happened.

"Marion, it's been very hard for her," he said of his wife. "She flew to Bahrain, Wednesday night she arrived. I think for her it was key to hug me. Even though she could see me on the video, it was hard to process that yes, I was in one piece.

"What is the hardest? For me it's not what I went through, this is my life, my job and the risk we take. But it's what I put people through, my family, my parents, my kids, my wife, my friends.

"For two minutes and forty-three seconds they thought their friend, their father, their husband, was dead. That is what I'm working on, because that made me cry. That I made people suffer to that extent."

Referring to his hopes of returning to the track next weekend in Abu Dhabi, he said: "Burns are not an exact science. I'm quite good with knowing about burning nowadays, I learned a lot. I went through some tough times when they started cutting the blister with the scissors and start peeling off the skin.

"You see things that you don't really want to see. So it's not an exact science, I'm hopeful every day it recovers better than it does the previous day.

"When will I have a final answer? I don't know yet. Obviously I've got 60 years or so to go with my left hand so one race is important to me but it's not as important as living a normal life for the rest of my life."

Check out our Friday gallery from Bahrain, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Wokingchap, 04/12/2020 17:32

"Thats really compelling reading, second by second account of a real horror and all true. I really hope it doesn't scar his memory beyond repair. He truly deserves to drive the last 2020 race. "

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2. Posted by Sennapod, 04/12/2020 14:49

"It sounds from the way that he is speaking, that he is already preparing to call it quits. And who could blame him. If he can contribute to further improvements in driver safety from outside the cockpit, I’d say that would be a good legacy. He is clearly a well rounded and articulate guy, and would be a real asset in such a role, especially having had such a near-death experienced"

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