A personal reaction to the life-threatening incident at the Bahrain GP

Before you ready any further, this will not be a race report of the Bahrain GP. This blog is a genuine expression of my feelings about Romain Grosjean’s horrific accident during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Before lights out I was waiting on tender hooks for my first night race and dreaming of one day being able to experience that electric atmosphere in person. Ten minutes later I was relieved that I couldn’t be there.

A mumble of commentary about Bottas losing 4 places, Stroll coming off track and Norris being hit all became white noise as a huge ball of flames reached into the air. Something had gone terribly, terribly wrong and someone had perished in that fire. These were my first thoughts as I sat in absolute shock and disbelief. I couldn’t continue typing my notes. I couldn’t shake the awful gut feeling that somebody wouldn’t be getting out of that car.

For a while there was some speculation as to which driver had plunged into the barrier. The red flag was raised and all drivers, but one, came into the pits. At this point I was actually feeling quite angry that the race had continued and the commentary had almost continued as if nothing had happened, although I applaud the professionalism of those behind the microphones, my initial feelings were that their voices didn’t match the tone and emotion that I myself was feeling. This was the first serious crash I had seen, and I was struggling to process it. I knew that this was a moment which would go down in history. We then had confirmation that Romain Grosjean was in the wreckage.

There was some radio silence and images of fellow F1 drivers standing in the pits looking lost and concerned. To watch the atmosphere was eerie, to be there must have been life changing. For a while we weren’t aware of the situation and the world seemed to stand still as we waited for any kind of information. Then, a shot which let the nation breathe a sigh of relief… Grosjean sitting in the medical car. Alive, talking, moving.

I sat and watched the replays, unsure of how I felt seeing the car split in two and wedged between the barriers. As time went by the replays became more graphic and more terrifying as it was clear how close Grosjean was to losing his life. Tears formed in my eyes as I watched him escape from the fire, imagining how his wife and family must have felt as they waited for more news. If I was feeling like this, they must have been short of breath and unable to move from the suspense of worrying.

The images of him walking out of the fire as if in some dramatic Hollywood movie haunted me for the rest of the day. How was this real life? For sport. For entertainment. For hundreds of thousands of people to watch live before his own family even knew he had survived. Something about this whole scenario drove my mind to visualize how he must have felt in that inferno. Unable to see. Unable to breathe. The smell. The heat. The pain. The sheer terror; a pure, carnal survival instinct pushing him out of that seat and taking his body over the barrier. It made me sick to my stomach. I wonder if he even realised what he was doing or if the adrenaline had taken over.

The atmosphere was sombre as drivers shook their heads in disbelief and took time away from their teams to reflect. The Haas team were in tears and the marshals were visibly shaken. The whole grid seemed to come to a standstill and then suddenly they were given the green light to restart the race.

I found it a real disservice that the race had to go ahead, and the drivers/medical staff/teams/officials/media wouldn’t be able to reflect on their emotions until they were back in their hotels. I suppose that’s what elite motorsport is all about; high stakes and having the mental strength to race during these situations. There’s no doubt that financers were involved in that decision as there is too much money at stake for everything to be cancelled. I couldn’t gather myself to watch the rest of the race as it played in the background and the podium ceremony just didn’t feel right to me – celebrating a victory when we so nearly could have been mourning a death.

I know I speak for everyone when I say that I’m relieved the nation didn’t have to commiserate another family. It’s clear that the halo saved Grosjean’s life although I haven’t been in F1 long enough to appreciate the controversy which surrounded this invention when it joined the paddock.

He is an incredibly blessed man to have survived that moment, and I like to believe that a certain Niki Lauda was looking over him – determined to not let another driver suffer at the hands of the wheel. I hope everybody takes a step back from the keyboard and reflects upon this historic incident for a long time to come.

Sophie Middleton @‪MotorsportSoph