While the F1 world was praising safety features for saving the life of Haas’ Romain Grosjean, four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel has taken aim at failures that allowed the incident to happen.
The Bahrain Grand Prix will long live in infamy after Grosjean crashed on the third corner of the first lap with his car instantly engulfed in flames.
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The world was quick to praise the safety features — including the controversial halo — that helped spare the life of the Frenchman, as he ended up in hospital with burns to his hands and ankles, miraculously escaping without further injuries.
In a video on social media, Grosjean said he wasn’t an advocate for the halo when it came into the sport but was definitely behind it now.
“I wasn’t for the halo some years ago, but I think it’s the greatest thing that we’ve brought to Formula 1, and without it I wouldn’t be able to speak with you today,” Grosjean said.
But while the halo was being widely praised alongside other safety developments that have been credited with saving drivers’ lives, Ferrari’s Vettel was less impressed, after Grosjean’s car was severed in half as he crashed through a guardrail barrier.
Vettel, who won four straight world titles with Red Bull before linking with Ferrari, said the crash was hard to watch during the 90 minute delay as the wall was replaced with a makeshift concrete wall but was baffled as to how the barrier could fail.
“I haven’t looked at the images a lot because I didn’t really want to, but the main thing is he got out. I don’t know how to be honest,” said Vettel, who is a fellow Grand Prix Drivers’ Association director of Grosjean.
“But obviously the guardrail is not supposed to fail like that. I mean it’s good the cars are safer than they used to be in the past but the guardrail shouldn’t fail and the car shouldn’t catch fire in that fashion.
“There are a lot of precautions so that it doesn’t fail, so I don’t know what happened there. I think it’s difficult to say at this stage but the main thing is obviously that he got out.”
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz was similarly perplexed by the barrier failure.
“I never expected honestly a Formula 1 car and an armco to generate that kind of crash,” the McLaren driver said.
“It’s definitely something we need to look into as (part of the) general safety, without pointing fingers at all.
“It’s another day where we need to learn as a sport, same as we have to learn from days like Mugello and the days of Anthoine for example.
“There’s always an opportunity to feel lucky that nothing major happened today, and always an opportunity to learn and keep making this sport as safe as possible.”
Sainz was knocked out earlier in the season at Mugello in multi-car pile up after confusion over a restart following a safety car, while F2 driver Anthoine Hubert was killed in a 2019 crash in Belgium.
Aussie Daniel Ricciardo was furious about the incident being shown on a loop on the live TV broadcast.
“I want to express my disgust and disappointment with Formula 1,” Ricciardo told Dutch broadcaster Ziggo.
“For me, it was entertainment and they’re playing with all of our emotions and I thought it was pretty disgusting.”
Bosses have promised a full investigation on Sunday into the failings exposed by the crash, with Formula One’s managing director Ross Brawn said there had been unpredictable and worrying failures.
“There will be a thorough investigation undertaken into the crash,” he said. “The fire is worrying. The split in the barrier is worrying and the barrier coming apart, but we can be happy with the safety of the car — that got us through today, but things failed in an unpredictable way.
“We haven’t seen anything like that for a very long time, but the barrier splitting normally results in a fatality.
“The ‘halo’ saved the day and it saved Romain. There was controversy in developing it initially, but there can’t be any doubt now so hats off to those who pushed for the introduction.”
The halo was proposed and created in the aftermath of the death of Jules Bianchi who died in 2015 from head injuries sustained in a crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, nine months earlier.
On Sunday, the French driver’s mother Christine sent a brief and poignant message that summed up the value of the device.
“They introduced the halo after my son’s accident and now the halo has saved Romain’s life today,” she wrote, according to reports. “This is great. I’m glad that he is OK.”
— with AFP