Grosjean briefly at peace with death in struggle to escape Haas car

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Romain Grosjean revealed he briefly became at peace with death in a remarkable yet harrowing account of his crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Frenchman was left struggling to escape from his burning Haas car for almost half a minute after crashing into the barriers at almost 140mph on the opening lap of the race.

Such was the force of the impact, the survival cell, which includes the cockpit and fuel tank, became lodged in the Armco, while the rear half of Grosjean's car broke away, as it is designed to do.

Thankfully, Romain was able to find a way out and more remarkably only sustained burns to his hands as well as a sprained ankle.

But speaking to the media on Friday, he offered this moment-by-moment recollection of what took place.

(Warning some may find some of Grosjean's comments upsetting and disturbing) 

"Let me relive those 28 seconds and bring you with me," he began.

"For me, it wasn't quite 28 seconds; it felt more like a minute 30 seconds if I had to put a time on it.

"When the car came to a stop I opened my eyes and unclicked my seatbelt straight away.

"The thing I didn't remember the next day is what I did with the steering wheel, as I didn't have the memory of taking it off and they said, 'No, the steering wheel's gone in between your legs, the column and everything broke and went down.' So I didn't have to bother with the steering wheel.

"So I go to jump out and I feel like something is touching my head, so I sit back down in the car. My first thought is I'm going to wait, I'm upside down against the wall so I'll wait for someone else to come and help me.

"I wasn't stressed nor aware there was fire, but then I looked right and left and saw on the left there is a fire.

"So, OK, I don't really have the time to wait here, next time I try to go up a bit more on the right, it doesn't work, go on the left, doesn't work, sit back down and I thought about Niki Lauda, his accident [at the Nurburgring in 1976] and thought it couldn't end like this, it couldn't be my last race, it couldn't finish like this, no way. So I try again and I'm stuck and so I go back down.

"And then there's the less pleasant moment where my body starts to relax, I'm in peace with myself and I'm going to die."

It was at that moment, however, that Grosjean made a final concerted effort to escape. 

"I ask myself a question; is it going to burn my shoe or my foot or my hand, is it going to be painful, where's it going to start? And I mean, to me that looks like a few seconds but I guess it was milliseconds at the time," he continued.

"Then I think about my kids, and I say, no they cannot lose their Dad today. So I don't know why I did what I did but I decided to turn my helmet on the left-hand side and to go up like this and try and twist my shoulder.

"That sort of works, but then I realise my foot is stuck in the car so I sit back down, pull as hard as I can on my left leg, the shoe stayed with my foot but my foot came out of the shoe.

"Then I do it again and my shoulders are going through and by the time the shoulder was through I know I'm going to jump out, so I've got both hands on the fire at that time, I see my gloves, which are normally red, I see especially the left one changing colour and starting melting and going full black.

"I feel the pain, my hands are in the fire, but also I feel the relief that I am out of the car, and then I jump out, go on the barrier, feel Ian [Roberts, the FIA doctor] pulling on my overall so I know I am not on my own anymore and there is someone with me."

Once out of the car, however, Grosjean admits it is then the injuries from the crash start to become clear.

"I land and they touch on my back so I'm like, 'Oh s---, I am a running fireball!' The image that you know we've seen on the video the FIA shows us where they do a test, put someone on fire, and run around to show the overall was strong," he explained.

"Then I shake my hands as they're very hot and painful. I removed the gloves straight away as I've got this image that the skin is bubbling and melting and is going to stick to the gloves, so straight away I want to remove the gloves... the skin doesn't go with it.

"Then Ian comes to see me and speaks to me and says, 'sit down!' and I gave him s---, I said, 'talk to me normally.' I guess he understood at that time that I was OK, I was normal.

"Then we sit and we are too close to the fire. I hear the guys with the extinguisher say the battery is on fire, bring some other extinguishers, then we go into the medical car, sit down, they put some cold compress on my hand as I told them my hands are burning and my foot is broken.

"Then the pain really starts going very high, especially on the left foot, the hands were OK at the time but the left foot starts being very painful.

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"Ian explains the ambulance is coming and they're going to come with the bed and you're going to be OK and we keep talking at the time. I say, 'no, now we walk to the ambulance'; they say, 'no, no, the bed is coming'; I say, 'no, no, no'; I walk out of the car and say we are walking. 'OK, we'll help you.'

"I guess on the medical side it wasn't a perfect decision but they understood for me it was key there was footage of me walking towards the ambulance, so even though I walked out of the fire I needed to send another strong message that I was OK and I was going to walk towards the ambulance.

"Then every time I met anyone I said two burnt hands one broken foot, that's all I could say to everyone I was meeting, just because I was scared obviously of my conditions and I wanted everyone who was coming and treating me to know what my symptoms were.

"So I guess that is the full story of 28 seconds and then the rest, as you can imagine, it felt longer than 28 seconds with all the thoughts I had. It must have been milliseconds, but all the thoughts looked to me like 1-2-3 seconds."

On Thursday, Grosjean returned to the track and thanked those who responded to his crash in such rapid fashion and credited the fire marshal for saving his life.

The 34-year-old has already voiced his wish to return to the track next weekend in Abu Dhabi for what would be his final F1 race.

However, he has revealed that uncertainty over the healing of burns to his left hand could prevent him from taking part.