Formula One bosses promised a full investigation on Sunday into the failings exposed by Romain Grosjean’s terrifying fireball crash in the opening lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
As widespread praise for modern safety measures, led by race winner Lewis Hamilton, echoed around the paddock at Sakhir’s Bahrain International Circuit, Formula One’s managing director Ross Brawn said there had been unpredictable and worrying failures.
But he joined many observers, including drivers, in tribute to the life-saving role played by the ‘halo’ safety device built around the cockpit of Grosjean’s Haas car.
“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.”
There was reluctance and some opposition to the idea of the halo when F1’s former race director Charlie Whiting championed its value and introduction in 2018.
The device 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.”
Race director and safety delegate Michael Masi, who succeeded Whiting after his sudden death at the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, also promised a full investigation into Grosjean’s crash.
Newly-crowned world champion Hamilton also expressed his gratitude.
“It was such a shocking image to see. It’s horrifying. I’m just so grateful the halo worked – it’s a reminder that this is a dangerous sport.”
Sebastian Vettel said he had been concerned, like Brawn, by aspects of the accident.
“I haven’t looked at the images a lot – mainly because I didn’t want to, but a Grand Prix car and a guardrail are not supposed to fail like that,” he said.
“It shouldn’t fail and the car shouldn’t catch fire in that fashion. So, I don’t know what happened there.”
Williams driver George Russell said: “Unbelievable. If the halo hadn’t been there, things would have been completely differently. The way he walked away from the wreckage was unbelievable.”