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Formula 1 Driver Miraculously Emerges From Flame-Engulfed Car Crash

Staff extinguish flames from Haas driver Romain Grosjean of France's car after a crash during the Formula One race in Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday.
Staff extinguish flames from Haas driver Romain Grosjean of France's car after a crash during the Formula One race in Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday.

Romain Grosjean's car violently hit a barrier, split in half and erupted in flames during the first lap of Formula One's Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.

The race was halted and Grosjean, who miraculously made it out of his car without life-threatening injuries, is currently being treated in a Manama hospital.

It's the most serious accident in the sport in years.

The French Haas driver clipped Daniil Kvyat's car early on in the race, and just after the third corner, veered off the track. Kvyat told Sky Sports that he was initially "angry" at Grosjean for turning into him, but his "mind changed immediately" when he saw Grosjean's car smash through the barriers, break in half and explode. About 18-20 seconds later, Grosjean emerged from the wreckage.

"Romain is doing okay, I don't want to make a medical comment but he had light burns on his hands and ankles," Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner said in a statement. "Obviously he's shaken ... I want to thank the rescue crews who are very quick. The marshals and FIA people, they did a great job, it was scary."

Formula One's governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, said Grosjean was immediately attended to by emergency and medical crews and remained conscious at all times. He was flown to the Bahrain Defence Force Hospital where he is currently being evaluated.

"In 12 years I've never seen that much fire," medical car driver Alan van der Merwe told Sky Sports. "Then Romain just started to get out of the car himself, which is pretty amazing after an incident like that. It just goes to show all the systems, the halo, the barriers, the seat belt, all worked as they should. Without even one of those things it could have been a very different outcome."

The curved bar that surrounds a driver's head known as a halo, which was potentially instrumental in Grosjean's survival, was only added to all Formula One cars in 2018. There was some criticism about the additional safety equipment at the time, including one driver who said it destroys the "looks of the car" and fans who found it visually unappealing. But on Sunday, it appeared to have helped save Grosjean's life, and it wouldn't be the first time it increased safety for drivers. Drivers Tadasuke Makino, Charles Leclerc and Alex Peroni have all credited the halo for possibly saving their lives in separate crashes.

Seven-time world champion driver Lewis Hamilton, who went on to win Sunday's Grand Prix, tweeted that he is "grateful" for Grosjean's safety and reminded viewers that the risk drivers take is "no joke." He said he is "thankful to the FIA for the massive strides we've taken for Romain to walk away from that safely."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.