Romain Grosjean finds it ‘quite funny’ new F1 fans only remember him for his fiery crash

Michelle Foster
Romain Grosjean's crash in Bahrain. Bahrain, November 2020.

Fire erupts from the scene of Romain Grosjean's crash. Bahrain, November 2020.

Romain Grosjean isn’t bothered that for many fans, especially in the United States, his Formula 1 career is remembered for one incident alone – his fiery crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix.

That Sunday, Grosjean was fortunate to escape with nothing more than a few burns and a torn ligament when his Haas VF-20 split into two and burst into flames when he speared into the guardrail at the start of the grand prix.

It took the Frenchman 28 seconds to climb from the fireball that was his car, the driver then assisted by FIA medical car crew members Dr Ian Roberts and Alan van der Merwe while marshals worked to bring the blaze under control.

But in a career that included 179 grand prix starts, 10 podiums and one fastest lap, that crash is what Grosjean is best remembered for.

Asked if that bothered him, he told GQ: “No, I don’t care. It’s part of my career; it’s part of my life.

“Especially in the U.S., because the audience is very new to Formula 1, a lot of people remember that accident, and they have never seen my podiums back in 2012 and 2013.

“I almost won three races in Formula 1, and it never really happened for outside reasons. But it’s quite funny.

“I met some people that know of me since the Lotus days in Formula 1 and say they’ve been watching it all. And I watch a lot of younger people, younger audience, they have only seen Drive to Survive on Netflix. So they talk about Guenther Steiner and ask how he is in real life, and of course the accident.

“But I think the accident, it’s one of those things that kind of marked the world. It was pretty much on every TV you could switch on. It was very impressive.

“That’s the way I see that: “phoenix.” It’s the rise from something bad. It’s not necessarily related to the fire, but it’s how you can rise from something that could destroy you but use it in a positive way and rise from there.”

He added: “So yeah, the crash is definitely part of my career, part of my life. And I’ve got the scar from my left hand that’s going to be here forever. So it’s a good reminder that’s here, but it’s just not that. It’s a bit more than that. And I see it as just part of my journey, like any podium. It’s just something crazy, but turned out to be good.”

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‘Life is just more beautiful since then’

Although the crash brought a premature end to Grosjean’s Formula 1 career, the Frenchman missing what would have been his final two races with Haas, it wasn’t long before he was forging a career in the United States.

He joined Dale Coyne Racing in IndyCar, taking two podiums in his first season, before moving over to Andretti Autosport in 2022 where he added a third podium to his tally.

He reckons he’s more appreciative of the life he has following that F1 crash.

“I just think you enjoy life better after,” he said, “because you were supposed to lose it, you realize that it can be gone any time. And you just become much more: carpe diem.

“Much more enjoying life. And for me, that’s why I say it was a positive experience. It sounds a bit crazy, but life is just more beautiful since then.

“Life is here to be lived. And if you want nothing to happen to you, you just stay home and you don’t do anything. And that’s not the way I see life.

“I’d rather live it at 300 kilometers an hour. Enjoy everything I can. Flying airplanes, driving race cars. Having fun, rather than just trying to say, ‘Oh, this could be dangerous. I’m going to stay home. I’m going to protect myself’.

“It’s just the way I see it. I think if I want to be happy, I’ll just need to be able to experience those things and have those sensations.

“So that’s what I see. It’s all the trouble that you had before, that traffic jam or delayed plane or stuff like that you would moan about.

“That now you’re like, ‘Well, if I was dead I wouldn’t be here’. So it’s not such a big deal. And I think that’s why you see the biggest difference.”

‘Never say never to returning to F1’

Grosjean’s boss at Andretti Autosport, Michael Andretti, has applied to the FIA to become Formula 1’s 11th team.

Teaming up with General Motors through their Cadillac brand, he hopes to join the sport as early as 2024.

Grosjean isn’t ruling out joining the American for the ride.

“One thing I learned last year is to never say never,” he declared. “I told my wife I would never live in the U.S. and I would never race in a U.S. series and I would never do the Indy 500, and I’ve done the three of them.

“So I think it’s just: You never know what the future is like. Now, I enjoy being in IndyCar. I enjoy being able to do Lamborghini IMSA for the endurance races. It’s the right balance for me.

“For sure, Formula 1 stays the pinnacle of motorsport. So yes, if it was a team to win, yes. For sure, Andretti would have a lot of work if they make it Formula 1, just the way Haas was.

“Right now I would say I prefer to stay in IndyCar, but again, you never know. When things are done and concrete and in front of you, sometimes your mind changes.”