Romain Grosjean says he had accepted death after the moment his Haas F1 car burst into a blazing fireball on lap one of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The horrific scenes of the crash have since been overshadowed by stories of Grosjean’s bravery as he made a miraculous escape after being enveloped in the fire for 28 seconds.
Grosjean has since been discharged from the hospital and on the eve of the Sakhir Grand Prix he has revealed his account of the accident.
He told reporters today at the pre-race press conference that there was a moment where he says he felt “At peace with myself, I’m going to die.”
His recount of the accident, both during and after, is unexplainably incredible given Formula 1 hasn’t witnessed a similar accident and seen a driver survive for some time.
“First of all, for me it wasn’t quite 28 seconds,” he said. “I don’t know why, but I decided to turn my helmet on the left-hand side and to go up like this and then try to twist my shoulder.
“That sort of works, but then I realise my foot is stuck in the car.
“So, I sit back down, I pull as hard as I can on my left leg and my foot comes out of the shoe.
“Then I do it again and then the shoulders are going through, and at the time the shoulders are through I know I’m going to jump out.
“I’ve got both hands on the fire at that time. My gloves are red normally, so I see that especially the left one is changing colour and starting melting and going full black, and I feel the pain. But also I feel the relief that I am out of the car.
“And then I jump out. I go on the barrier and then I feel Ian [Roberts] pulling on my overalls, so I know I’m not on my own anymore and there’s someone with me.
“Then I land and then they touch on my back so I’m like ‘Oh shit, I’m like a running fireball’.
Grosjean revealed that after his initial failed attempts to escape from his burning car, he sat back and cast his mind back to images of the 1976 German Grand Prix where Niki Lauda’s Ferrari erupted into a similar fireball after being collected by an oncoming car.
“I sit back down and then thought about Niki Lauda, his accident [at the Nuburgring in 1976], and thought ‘it couldn’t end like this, it couldn’t be my last race, it couldn’t finish like this. No way’.”
Once in the hands of the awaiting medical crew, Grosjean says he was adamant that he would walk to the ambulance to prove to the watching world that he was OK.
“Even though I’d walked out of the fire, I needed to send another strong message that I was OK and I was going to walk towards the ambulance”
“And then Ian comes to see me and speaks to me and says ‘sit down!’. And I gave him shit, I said ‘talk to me normally, please’. And I guess he understood that I was OK at that time, that I was normal. And then we sit and we’re too close to the fire, and I hear the extinguisher guys, ‘the battery is on fire, bring some other extinguishers, bring some other extinguishers’.
“And then we go into the medical car and sit down. They put some cold compress on my hands because I told them my hands are burning, my foot is broken. And then the pain really starts going very high, especially on the left foot.
“The hands were OK at the time but the left foot starts being very painful.
“Then Ian explains to me the ambulance is coming in and that ‘they’re going to come with the [medical] bed and you’re going be OK’.
“And I say ‘no, no, no, we walk into the ambulance’. ‘No, no, no, no, the bed is coming’. And I said ‘no, no, no’. And I walk out of the car and I say ‘we are walking’, and he says ‘OK, we are going to help you’.
“So yeah, I guess that is the full story of 28 seconds and then the rest.
“But as you can imagine, it looked longer than 28 seconds with all the thoughts I had. It must have been milliseconds, but all the thoughts to me look like, you know, one, two, three seconds [each]. I don’t know.”