Romain Grosjean says he will have to do “some psychological work” in the wake of his horrific Bahrain Grand Prix crash as he “saw death coming” as his Haas Formula 1 car was engulfed in flames.
Grosjean escaped with burns to his hands from the crash, in which he clipped Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri on the opening lap and speared into a barrier at 137mph with a 53g impact.
The barrier split and the car’s cockpit section became embedded in it, while the rear end sheared off.
A substantial fire erupted, but Grosjean was able to climb out of the wreckage and over the barrier unaided.
“I think there’s going to be some psychological work to be done, because I really saw death coming,” said Grosjean in an interview with French broadcaster TF1, translated by the official F1 website.
“I would say that there is a feeling of being happy to be alive, of seeing things differently.
“But also there is the need to get back in the car, if possible in Abu Dhabi, to finish my story with Formula 1 in a different way.”
The Abu Dhabi race is expected to be Grosjean’s final F1 start, as he has lost his Haas drive for 2021 and has been looking at IndyCar for the next stage of his career.
He said Niki Lauda’s infamous 1976 Nurburgring crash was in his mind during the time he was in the fire, and that thoughts of his family spurred him to find a way out of the cockpit.
“It felt much longer than 28 seconds,” Grosjean said.
“I see my visor turning all orange, I see the flames on the left side of the car.
“I thought about a lot of things – including Niki Lauda – and I thought that it wasn’t possible to end up like that, not now. I couldn’t finish my story in Formula 1 like that.
“For my children, I told myself that I had to get out.
“I put my hands in the fire, so I clearly felt it burning on the chassis.
“I got out, then I felt someone pulling on the suit, so I knew I was out.
“I was more afraid for my family and friends, obviously my children who are my greatest source of pride and energy, than for myself in the end.
“It was almost like a second birth. To come out of the flames that day is something that will mark my life forever.
“I don’t know if the word miracle exists or if it can be used, but in any case I would say it wasn’t my time [to die].”
Haas has called up its reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi to stand in for Grosjean for this weekend at least.
There has been widespread praise for F1’s safety measures, with championship chief Ross Brawn among those convinced the halo saved Grosjean’s life, and F1 medical crew Dr Ian Roberts and Alan van der Merwe have also been lauded for their heroism in going towards the fire to rescue Grosjean.
But there has also been a push to make sure all lessons are learned from the accident, with Brawn and Sebastian Vettel among those highly concerned by the manner in which the barrier ripped open and the fire.
“It’s the biggest crash I’ve ever seen in my life,” Grosjean added.
“The car catching fire, exploding, and the battery that burst into flames too, so it added a lot of energy to the impact.”