This is not a race for the faint of heart—especially if your name’s Grosjean!
A dramatic opening to the race sees a terrifying crash where Romain Grosjean’s car smashes through the steel barriers, rips in half and explodes. The race was immediately stopped as, thankfully, and miraculously, Grosjean emerges from the flames and jumps back over the barriers towards awaiting medical personnel. It really was a terrible and freak crash; at over 140 MPH the Haas pierced the steel barriers—twisting as it did so—and it was this motion that ripped the rear chassis clean from the car. The full fuel tank is located behind the driver—where this car ripped apart: fuel instantly spraying out and ignited to create a massive fireball. Grosjean—who manages to escape the fireball in just under thirty seconds—was taken to hospital with burns to his wrists and ankles.
To see the crash, inferno and complete wreckage that becomes of the Haas, it is truly astonishing that Grosjean was able to walk away: as his team mate Magnussen said, “to see him survive that is frankly a miracle.” The fact Grosjean could walk away is a real testament to the safety standards employed within F1 currently. The halo—introduced to divided opinion in 2018—which protects the drivers head almost certainly saved his life. On this occasion all the safety systems worked and if any one had failed, the outcome of this crash would have been very different. It shows how important all of these safety systems, equipment, procedures and standards are within the sport. I think it’s also important to take a moment to really appreciate the unsung heroes who enable these races to happen—the medical personnel, marshals and track workers—who put themselves in danger to ensure the safety of the sport.
Over an an hour later the barriers are repaired, the track is safe and we are ready to race again. The cars line up for a grid start in the positions they held when the race was stopped; Hamilton on pole, from Verstappen and Perez. The top three get away in that order and further back there’s a lot of action with cars swapping places left right and centre. This track really does allow for good wheel to wheel racing and overtakes—something we’re treated to throughout the race.
It is a short racing period however, as Stroll and Kyvat clip wheels and the Racing Point car is flipped upside down. Thankfully Stroll climbs out unhurt and this car neither splits in half or explodes! Still, the safety car is deployed to enable the marshals to clear away the stricken car. Kyvat is later given a ten second penalty as the stewards decide the fault lies with him for this collision. Consequently he drops way down the running, and ultimately comes in eleventh. Team mate Gasley puts in another storming performance, utilising excellent tyre management as well as a little gamble on strategy to pick up sixth position.
Another restart sees Hamilton, Verstappen and Perez maintain their positions again. Further back Ocon and Leclerc battel for sixth—the Renault driver pulling out some fantastic defensive driving to keep the Ferrari at bay. Behind them Sainz overtakes Ricciardo and then Leclerc, in what is set to be a great race for the Spaniard. Leclerc tries to fight back, but simply doesn’t have the power in that Ferrair, and within laps both Ricciardo and Gasley pass him.
Up front the top three sail off, but behind them there’s action through the pack. The capacity this circuit brings from overtakes, together with short tyre lives—bringing a clear disparity in performance of cars with older tyres and drivers being out of places from pitstops—results in an everchanging pack and cars jostling for positions. Even at the tail of the pack we see the Alfa Romeos, Williams and the remaining Haas overtaking one another for position, despite there being no points on offer this far down the pack. Amongst them Giovinazzi shows again the stronger performances which he has brought out in the latter half of the season. Russell, too, continues his excellent performance, at some points even running in the top ten though, granted, this may have been because many in front of him had pitted whilst he stayed out to gain track position. The Brit eventually came in a solid twelfth and Giovinazzi sixteenth—still behind teammate Raikkonen though.
Third in the constructors is a very close fought battle at the moment between Racing Point, Mclaren and Renault. Perez is putting in yet another great outing running in third, and the Mclaren’s too are having a good race. The Renault’s however seem unable to capitalise on the good performance they had in Saturdays qualifying session. Ocon shows flashes of the brilliance we saw throughout his 2018 season—especially when defending positions. Ultimately the Renault was not a match for the Mclaren today, with Ocon finishing ninth and team mate Ricciardo in seventh.
For the Mclaren’s Sainz has a blisteringly good day, making up ten places overall from his starting position. Every time the camera’s on him he seems to be outbreaking, overtaking or out manoeuvring someone for position. His robust overtake of Leclerc—his team mate at Ferrari for next year—was not only a great move but also a possible juicy teaser of future action between the two. Norris too had a good race and pulls a great move on Bottas into turn one—granted, his fresher tyres may of made it slightly easier than usual, but it’s no easy thing to get the better of that Mercedes. Nonetheless, both drivers put in great performances today and really bolstered Mclarens chances of getting that third place in the constructors, bringing home 22 points from their fourth and fifth position finishes.
Despite Stroll’s retirement, surely Racing Point have third in the bag—together with the important 15 points which come with the bottom step of the podium? Or perhaps not, as the race ends as it began: in flames. With some ominous puffs of smoke from the back of the Racing Point—indicating a power unit failure—Perez continues but eventually the engine gives up completely and fire streams from the back of the car. Perez pulls over and jumps out of the car as the marshals rush in to put out the flames. The safety car is brought out, but with so few laps remaining and little time to clear the stricken Racing Point, we finish the race under safety car conditions. Those on old tyres—Hamilton and Gasley for instance—breath a sigh of relief as there is no restart for them to have to contend with eager, faster, fresher tyred drivers around them. This rare engine power unit failure for Racing Point—who source their power units from the normally reliable Mercedes—is a major blow to their third place in the Constructors Championship, and the heartbreak can be seen on the pit wall. Mclaren, with that excellent performance today, have a seventeen point lead over them in the race for third place now.
So, Hamilton takes victory from Verstappen, and with Perez’s last minute retirement Albon rounds out the podium, a great result for both Albon and the Red Bull team. But the race will be remembered for that horrific crash. It brought home how dangerous the sport can be, and how far the safety standards in F1 has come. Cars going up in flames during an accident is something that perhaps people think of in F1, but the reality is that has not happened for years. The last occasion in fact was in 1989, and to put that into a scary context—most of the current F1 drivers weren’t even born then! (I feel so old). It really highlights the progress the sport has made with regards to safety, but it goes to show that freak accidents can happen, and the importance of learning from these events to ensure the sport is as safe as it can possibly be: understanding and implementing better safety features is and always should be a permenant fixture within the sport. One of the outcomes of Jules Bianchi’s tragic accident was the implementation of the halo device—the device which almost certainly saved Grosjean’s life yesterday. As I write this, F1 officials are already investigating this incident, in order to further ensure the safety standards of the sport, and that can only be a good thing.
I finish up wishing Grosjean all the best for a with a quick recovery.
Driver of the day: Carlos Sainz
Honourable mentions: Norris, Gasley and Romain Grosjean and Dr Ian Roberts (F1 medical coordinator) on the scene of the crash directing the marshal where to point the fire extinguisher and proceeding to go towards the inferno, help Grosjean and then medically treat him. Talk about keeping a cool head!
2020 Bahrain Grand Prix Results
- Verstappen (Fastest Lap)
Next up: Not long to wait as we’re back in Bahrain next weekend, the high speed track which never fails to deliver dramatic moments and exciting races.
Where to watch:
USA: Sunday 6th December Live on ESPN race start at 12:10pm EST
UK: Sunday 6th December Live on Sky Sports F1 race start at 5:10pm GMT
Highlights on Sky One and Channel four 10pm Sunday 6th December