F1 doctor recounts Grosjean rescue
By Mat Coch
Monday 30th November, 2020 - 7:31am
The man who helped pull Romain Grosjean to safety following his horrific Bahrain Grand Prix crash has recounted the harrowing incident.
Doctor Ian Roberts, the Formula 1 Medical Delegate, rushed to the scene of the terrifying crash as Grosjean clambered out of the remains of his Haas after it had pierced an armco barrier.
Dr Roberts and Medical Car driver Alan van der Merwe were among the first on the scene and have been credited with playing a key role in the driver’s escape.
Grosjean will spend the night in hospital with burns to the back of his hands, but has been cleared of broken bones after being airlifted to Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) Hospital.
Speaking with Sky F1, Dr Roberts recounted the moment he arrived on the scene of the crash, just out of Turn 3 at the Bahrain International Circuit.
“There was a massive flame and we arrived to a very odd scene where you’ve got half a car pointing in the wrong direction and, just across the barrier, a mass of heat,” Dr Roberts explained.
“Then, looking to the right at that point, I could see Romain trying to get up.
“We needed some way of getting to him, so we got the marshal there with the extinguisher, and the extinguisher was just enough to push the flame away as Romain got high enough, so I could reach over and pull him over the barrier.”
Free of the car, Grosjean was helped away from danger where Dr Roberts performed an immediate assessment of his condition.
“I think I told him to sit down,” Dr Roberts said.
“He was obviously very shaky, and his visor was completely opaque, and in fact melted.
“I managed to get his helmet off to check everything else was okay.”
Dr Roberts explained that it was not just signs of physical trauma that he was looking for as he examined the 34-year-old.
“It was going to be flames, smoke inhalation, airway issues, and that nothing went up to his helmet, and we had a look at the helmet as well,” he said.
“But looking at him clinically we were quite happy with him from a life-threatening injury point of view, so it was about making him comfortable from the injuries we could see.
“He’d got some pain in his foot and hands, so from that point we knew it was safe enough to move him around into the car for protection and get some gel on to his burns, and then into the ambulance and to the medical centre.”
Playing a similarly key role was van der Merwe, who used an extinguisher to beat back flames and ensure both Dr Roberts and Grosjean were protected once clear of the barrier.
“A lot of it is down to preparation,” van der Merwe said of their combined response.
“I’ve not seen fire like this in my stint as the Medical Car driver, and a lot of it (was) new and unknown territory, so we can only be as prepared as our own ideas.
“We do a lot of checklists and a lot of preparation, talking about scenarios, but this was crazy.
“Honestly, to get there and to see half of the car, and the other half nowhere to be seen and just a huge ball of flames, so you have literally seconds, thinking on your feet, so preparation only gets you so far. Then it is down to instincts and quick thinking.”
The race was red flagged for the incident as Grosjean was attended to and then the damage to the circuit repaired.
Dr Roberts and van der Merwe were then in action almost immediately at the restart, helping Lance Stroll climb out of his upturned Racing Point.