Haas Formula 1 driver Kevin Magnussen says “it didn’t quite feel right” to race again immediately after his team-mate Romain Grosjean’s horrific Bahrain Grand Prix crash.
Grosjean’s enormous accident happened on the first lap of last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, when his Haas speared off the track at Turn 3, punctured a barrier and split in half before bursting into a fireball.
“Suddenly you wake up from this dream world where you walk around thinking nothing is going to happen, then you see a crash like that and it all becomes very real” :: Kevin Magnussen
Magnussen was ahead of Grosjean when the accident happened, and so was only able to see the extent of the crash when he doubled-back through Turn 8 to see the flames and the smoke, before watching replays of the incident once he had returned to the pitlane to wait out the red flag.
“I could see all the fire and all the smoke and I was just thinking ‘when fire is that big, it’s got to be the fuel cell and to have the fuel cell rupture, the crash has got to be enormous’,” said Magnussen.
“We stopped in the pitlane and I could see the replays on the screen, which looked horrible.
“That period of the stoppage was pretty horrible. It didn’t quite feel right to go back and race after that.
“The speed of the impact into that barrier… I know it wouldn’t take a lot more to have problems internally” :: Kevin Magnussen
“Suddenly you wake up from this dream world where you walk around thinking nothing is going to happen then you see a crash like that and it all suddenly becomes very real.
“To get back in the car after that didn’t quite feel right.”
Grosjean was able to extricate himself from the wreckage with the assistance of the FIA medical teams and was relatively quickly established to have only suffered minor injuries.
He was then airlifted to hospital for treatment of burns to the backs of his hands and for a full medical assessment.
The Haas team quickly informed Magnussen that Grosjean had escaped the burning car himself and was safe, but Magnussen says he was still troubled by seeing the speed of the impact and the way the Haas pierced the barrier.
“They were telling me that he was out of the car so that was comforting,” said Magnussen.
“The speed of the impact into that barrier… I’ve had a big impact before and I know it wouldn’t take a lot more to have problems internally.
“So even though you can walk away… I was just getting nervous and hoping he would be fine even though he had jumped out of the car.”
Grosjean will miss this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix to recover, but has already spoken about his hopes to return for the season finale at Abu Dhabi in a little over a week’s time.
Haas boss Guenther Steiner reported that Grosjean had discussed his motivation to get back in the car as early as Monday.
Reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi will stand in for Grosjean this weekend.
On Sunday evening, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen caused controversy when he suggested that if he were an F1 team boss, he would sack any driver that showed a reluctance to get back in the car after witnessing a horrific accident.
Verstappen has since clarified his comments, saying that “as drivers we know the risks when we get in the car and if anyone has doubts they should consider stopping racing.”
Grosjean triggered the accident by moving across and clipping Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri.
That prompted a surprised “I don’t know what the Haas was doing there” over team radio from Kvyat.
But he was soon asking his team for information on Grosjean’s situation.
“I watched in my mirrors and I could see just the fire, the explosion and it was a very strange emotion” :: Daniil Kvyat
By the time Kvyat got back to the pitlane, he was simply repeating “tell me he’s OK please, tell me he’s OK” over the radio.
On Thursday Kvyat admitted that it had been “a difficult day” and not easy to take the restart.
“I saw him making contact and there was not much I could do to avoid that,” Kvyat explained.
“Of course, in the first lap these things happen. I was at first angry that I saw the car cutting across like this but then immediately I watched in my mirrors and I could see just the fire, the explosion and it was a very strange emotion, strange feeling.
“I never felt something like this in all my racing career and to see this like something you’re shown in the movies, was a bit shocking to be honest.
“I was a bit worried at first of course about him, but then they told me, and they showed the footage of him being OK and I was relieved.
“But of course, this image stays with you and it wasn’t easy to get back [in the car] to be honest.
“But I just did my job, so I just press the refresh button and go again.”