Kurt Verlin
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Grosjean Escapes Terrifying Crash at 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Romain Grosjean in the Haas VF-19
Photo: Artes Max via CC
2020 Bahrain Grand Prix Top 10

The 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix was a race defined by its retirements, the first of which was caused by the worst motorsport crash I’ve ever seen live — and I was in the crowd during Scott Dixon’s whirlwind crash at the 101st running of the Indy 500.

During the commotion of the first lap, Romain Grosjean tried to cut across the track to get around teammate Kevin Magnussen, and clipped the front of another car instead, sending his Formula 1 car straight into the nearby barriers.

The impact of the crash was such that Grosjean’s Haas didn’t just come to a stop, but instead ripped through the barriers. The car was split in half and was immediately engulfed in a ball of fire, so suddenly that it seemed to have exploded.

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Fortunately, Grosjean was able to crawl out. After experiencing a 53 g impact and spending about half a minute in the flames, he escaped with little more than minor burns on his hands. Later, he would say that without the halo device that was introduced in 2018, which he had once criticized, he would not have made it out alive.

The crash serves as a reminder that, for as much as safety technologies have advanced over the years, the drivers are putting their lives at risk each time they take to the track.

Following the crash, the race was immediately red-flagged. It took nearly an hour and a half for the barrier to be repaired and the race restarted. When it did, the start was eerily similar to the one that had taken place before Grosjean’s retirement, with Lewis Hamilton getting away very well and Valtteri Bottas having a poor time.

Ultimately, the race was without many highlights. Hamilton having already secured the title, the main battles to watch were fought over the midfield, where Sergio Pérez, without a drive for 2021, seemed dominant — until his engine caught on fire with just two laps to go.

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This had major repercussions for the race result. It allowed Daniel Ricciardo to pass Pérez in the drivers’ championship and, more importantly, McLaren to pass Racing Point in the constructors’ championship. That one engine failure could, in the end, cost the team millions in prize money.

And because the race ended under the safety car, it also prevented Hamilton from attempting to set a fast lap of the race and Bottas from catching Pierre Gasly, who had been doing brilliantly in the Honda-powered AlphaTauri to stay ahead on well-used tires. All this allowed Max Verstappen to score 19 points while Bottas brought home only four, bringing the gap between the two drivers to only 12 points.

With two races to go in the season, their battle for second place in the championship is one to watch. It would not look good for Bottas to fail to finish second in the same year that Hamilton, driving the same car, broke many of the sport’s top records.

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix Championship Standings