Fiery Crash Headlines Bahrain Grand Prix

Romain+Grosjean+walked+away+from+a+horrific+crash+%28above%29+at+the+Bahrain+Grand+Prix.+%28Courtesy+of+Twitter%29

Romain Grosjean walked away from a horrific crash (above) at the Bahrain Grand Prix. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Michael Hernandez, Staff Writer

On Sunday, Formula 1 returned to Bahrain for the Bahrain Grand Prix, the first of a triple header, followed by another race in Bahrain with a different track layout and a finish to the season in Abu Dhabi. As the teams and drivers entered the weekend, the constructors’ and drivers’ championships were already won by Mercedes and one of its drivers, Lewis Hamilton. However, there were still places to fight for. Hamilton won the race, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and then his teammate Alex Albon finished the podium. However, at the end of the race, the main focus was not on the podium, but on something that happened in the very first lap. 

During qualifying, Hamilton got pole position, with his teammate Valteri Bottas in second. Verstappen qualified in third with his teammate Albon in 4th. Racing Point’s Sergio Perez qualified in 5th. When the lights went out on race day, we barely made it through three corners before the major event of the day occurred. The Haas driver Romain Grosjean tried to move to the right hand side but did not see the Alpha Tauri of Danil Kvyat, and they collided. Grosjean drove straight into the barriers, and the car immediately went up in flames. The race was immediately red flagged and medical car and race marshals quickly acted to put the fire out, with Grosjean still in the car, fully engulfed in flames. The car was broken in half, with the part that held Grosjean completely stuck inside the metal barrier. Luckily, Grosjean was able to get out of the car and was brought to a nearby hospital. He has since released a public statement, accompanied by a video where he said that he was doing well and was grateful to the medical team and the people who were immediately on the scene. An important thing to note about the F1 cars is the halo that surrounds the cockpit, which is tested to withstand a heavy impact. Without a doubt, if that halo was not there, Grosjean would have not survived the accident. Without the halo, I would be writing a different story right now. After the accident, Grosjean’s team has announced that their test driver Pietro Fittipaldi will replace him for the upcoming Sakhir Grand Prix. 

After an hour of fixing the barriers, the remaining 19 drivers continued the race, and within 30 seconds another incident occurred. Kvyat crashed into Perez’s teammate Lance Stroll who was flipped upside down after the accident. Luckily, he was not harmed and the safety car was brought out. After the restart, Hamilton was leading Verstappen and then Perez with Albon in 4th. At this point, Bottas was nearly last with an unfortunate puncture. After the safety car went in, the race became much less interesting, with the top four remaining the same after the multiple pit stops. However, with three laps to go, Perez’s engine blew and he had to retire, which let Albon get into 3rd. This brought out the safety car again, and the race finished under the safety car, as there were only a few laps remaining and Perez’s car was not removed from the track in time. This is the first time that this has happened since last year, also in Bahrain. Albon got his 2nd career podium, which should help him retain his seat for next year.

Even though the championships are already won, there are still places to fight for. One particular battle is for third in the constructors’ championship, with three teams, McLaren, Racing Point and Renault, having a good chance to claim that spot. Entering the weekend, McLaren was in third with 159 points, with Racing Point close behind with 154 points. Renault was slightly further back with 136 points. However with Racing Point’s double retirement and the McLaren cars finishing 4th and 5th, they got a massive haul of points which extended their lead. With two races to go, McLaren is now at 171 with Racing Point at 154 and Renault at 144. Next week, we race again at Bahrain, but with a different track layout that has never been held before. With two races still to go, the battle for 3rd is heating up, and anything is possible.

On Tuesday morning, Lewis Hamilton announced that he tested positive for COVID-19, which means that he will also miss this race and possibly the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Normally this would have massive ramifications for Mercedes, but both championships have already been decided, so I doubt that it will be an issue. Mercedes has still not announced the replacement driver, but expect it within the next two days because the next race is this weekend at the same track. Nonetheless, it should bring even more excitement because we could see a new race winner in that Mercedes.