How Romain Grosjean walked away from F1’s scariest crash in decades

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Formula 1 cars barely made it a third of the way around the track before the red flag caused a temporary halt to the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend. The start of the Formula 1 race is often chaotic, especially between the back half of the grid, and this was proven Sunday when Roman Grosjian’s Haas VF-20 veered off the track after exiting the third turn.

Lap accidents are not that strange in sports, unlike what happened after that. After crashing into the barrier at 137 mph (220 km / h), Grogan’s car exploded in half and then caught fire – something that hadn’t happened in over 30 years. To make matters worse, the front half penetrated between the guard rails lining this part of the track. As the crashes continued, this was more reminiscent of the bad old days of F1, the kind that took the lives of drivers like Roger Williamson or François Seifert.

But Grogan walked away – very cautiously for understandable reasons – with little more than a few burns to his hands. This is a testament to the safety designed in the modern F1.

Was it supposed to do that?

While it’s unusual to see a modern F1 car split in half after a collision, in this case, it was by design. Unlike the car you drive, which has an engine housed inside the vehicle’s cabin, in the F1 the engine is also a structural part that is housed in the carbon fiber monocoque. And in heavy collisions – these are recorded over 50Gs – those screws will break and leave the two halves on their separate paths to dissipate energy.

But other F1 drivers had high G-effects without their cars disintegrating so the additional factor in Sunday’s accident was the vehicle breaking through the guardrail. When the car nose split, the uni traveled most of the way and then stopped. While the monocoque had nowhere else to go, the rear half of the car, which contains the engine, gearbox and battery – and thus most of the mass – was still running. This is why the bolts have broken and why is the rear half of the car visible, most likely intact, a few meters off the track.

No, the fuel cell did not rupture

What happened next was a shock – a bright gout of yellow flame soaring into the air before the exit cut it off. (Formula 1 only showed more footage of the accident after learning Grosjean was safe.) The last time an F1 accident resulted in a fire was in 1989, which should give you an idea of ​​how weird that is.

This previous breakdown led to new safety regulations requiring the use of F1 cars Kevlar fuel cells Contained within a monocoque. And this is where Grosjean has stayed protected by a carbon fiber fender. However, the fuel has to travel from the fuel cell to the engine, and although they are supposed to use dry-break connectors, it is clear that an amount of gasoline – perhaps a few kilograms – has spilled and met with something hot.

Sports Technical Director Ross Browne He called for penetrating the handrail As something that definitely requires further analysis. This style of guardrail, also known as Armco, has been replaced by more modern circuit protection such as Tecpro (Commonly seen on Formula E and other F1 tracks) or More secure barrier, Which is widely used by IndyCar and NASCAR here in the US.

Fireproof suits became more effective this year

At the start of each race, a medical vehicle chases the group of cars, precisely to be on site quickly in such incidents. Thankfully, this meltdown happened just after the third turn, before much faster Formula 1 cars could ditch the mighty Station Wagon. Within thirty seconds of the crash, Doctor Ian Roberts, a mobile Formula One paramedic, helped a slightly smoky Grogan over the bulkhead, and medical vehicle driver Alan van der Merwe sprayed them with a fire extinguisher.

This is longer than the time limit for the F1’s mandatory cockpit evacuation test, which states that the driver should be able to get out of their vehicle within 10 seconds. But these tests happen under ideal conditions, not when your car is on fire and clamped to the guardrail. It was fortunate, then, that at the start of the year, it adopted the F1 More stringent requirements for fireproof clothing A must be worn by every driver during the race.

As a Formula 1 driver, Grogan wore long fireproof underwear, socks and a mask under three layers of fireproof clothing, fireproof gloves, and fireproof shoes, all of which are made of an aramidic fiber called Nomex which is very poor at conducting heat. Since the start of this year, all of these elements should have conformed to FIA 8856-2018, which requires each garment to protect the wearer for about 20 percent longer than the equivalent they wore in 2019.

The aura saved a life

Perhaps the most important safety device in yesterday’s accident was the Halo, which was introduced to sports in 2017 after a number of serious head injuries and fatal accidents among drivers of open cockpit cars. It’s the thing that resembles the top of a slipper, spreads out in front of the cockpit hatch and wraps around the sides to meet the air box behind the driver’s head.

Made of titanium and weighing about 20 pounds (9 kg), the corona should withstand an impact of 125 kN without fail. It was widely criticized by fans and even drivers –Especially GroganWhen introduced in 2017, that’s mostly because of what it looks like. But the aura almost certainly saved Grosjean’s life, which prevented the top bar of the handrail from contacting his helmet, something that would almost certainly have been fatal.

In fact, Grogan himself has now transformed. In a video posted on social media From a bed at a Bahraini hospital on Sunday night, he told his followers: “I haven’t been with Halo for a few years, but I think it’s the greatest thing we’ve brought to Formula 1, and without that I won’t be able to talk to you today.” The French driver, who participated in his final season with Haas, will miss next week’s race – which will also be held at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain – but may return to the season finals in Abu Dhabi two weeks from now.

Listing Image by Tolga Bozoglu – Pool / Getty Images

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