‘I Can’t Finish Like This’ Romain Grosjean Says His Escape Was As Harrowing As It Looked

Straightaway, when movement stopped I opened my eyes and first thing I did was undo the seatbelt, tried to remove the wheel. It was gone, so at least one less concern. And then tried to jump out.

Interviewer: But the flames were already erupting around you?

Initially if I talk through from that point, it’s 28 seconds but for me looks more like one minute thirty. You will see from the explanation. So, it stops. I open my eyes. I undo the seatbelt. Steering wheel gone. And I lift. I want to jump out. I hit something on the top of my head. I feel I hit something so I sit back down. I must be … against the barrier. I will wait, they will come and help me. So I sit back down and look at the right and look at the left, and I see, oh, it’s all orange. That’s strange. A few things: Is it sunset? No, it’s not sunset. Is it the light from the circuits? No. Also the [gestures to helmet] starts to melt. Oh, it’s fire. No, I don’t have time for them to come. So this time I try to go up, a bit more to the right. Doesn’t work. I come back down. I try a bit more to the left. Doesn’t work. So I sit back down. Then there’s a bit of swearing going on. And I said, “No, I can’t finish like this.” I can’t finish like this. I thought about Niki Lauda. To me, it’s funny, it’s the driver that I love the most in the history of Formula One. And I said, “No, no, I can’t finish like Niki.” I can’t finish like this. It cannot be my last race. It. Can. Not. Be my last race. So, I try again. I’m stuck. And then comes the path, which is the less funny one. Funny is not the word but … I sit back down, all my muscle relaxes. Almost, not a smile, but peace with myself, thinking, I’m dead. I will die and then I thought, which parts will burn first. Is it the foot? Is it the hands? Is it going to be painful? Very, very strange feeling, you know. I think sometimes we are close to death we are a bit scared. This time death for me was here [gestures.] Don’t ask me why, I just had to put a name on it and I called it Benoit. And then, and then, I don’t know if that moment allowed me to recover a bit, get my brain, try to find another solution. I thought about my kids and I said, “No, I cannot die today. For my kids I cannot die. I’ve got to see them.” And then I need to twist my head like this [moves head to his left], go up, and turn my body. It works, but then my foot is stuck on the pedal. So I’ve got to go back down in the car, pull as hard as I can on my left leg. I mean the shoe stayed where my foot was and my foot came out. And then I do it again and it went through and the shoulder went through and this time the shoulder had passed through the halo part. I was going to leave. I knew I’ve got two of my hands in the fire, on the halo. I can see my gloves, they are red normally, I can see them going full black. I can feel the pain and the burn. But I’m going up. I jump on the barrier. Then I feel [F1 doctor Ian Roberts]. That is an extraordinary feeling. When he pulls me, I’m like, there’s someone with me. I’m alive. And I feel like, on the back they touch me and I’m like, oh, am I on fire? I’m on fire from the back? Then Ian talked to me and he said, “Sit down! Sit down!” You know, very, as you would with anyone … And I gave [sounds like “fuck shit”], talk to me normally! So I guess from that point he knew I was OK.

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