Haas driver Romain Grosjean says he “doesn’t feel like a hero” after his amazing escape from a fiery accident at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The 34-year-old Frenchman said: “I know the footage was unbelievable.”
Grosjean said if he had seen the crash happen to someone else “I would have been sure that the driver was dead”.
But he added: “I kind of felt I was doing my job, as a driver, but as a dad to make sure my kids would have their father in the best possible condition.”
Grosjean, who has suffered burns to his hands and bruising to his left foot, said he hoped Formula 1 could learn from the accident to make the sport safer in the future.
He said this is what had happened with the introduction of the halo head-protection device following the death of Jules Bianchi from injuries sustained in a crash in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.
“If we can learn anything from that incident in terms of the safety but also in the way I behaved in the car the survival instant – I never panicked, I was never stressed, everything I did was mathematical,” Grosjean said.
“Even after removing the glove because I know my hands were burned, every step was just rational.
“I don’t know if you are born with that instinct or it is something that you can improve through your life but obviously that saved me. Let’s see how much we can learn from that.
“Being a racing driver is a great thing. People say what you do is is extraordinary; and I say, ‘No, doctors that save lives are extraordinary, firemen are extraordinary.’
“If I can, as Jules did for me, save life in the future by [my] experience, I will have a very strong legacy in motorsport and probably my biggest pride.”
Thinking of others
Grosjean said the toughest aspect of the crash for him was the suffering he had put those closest to him through.
“[My wife] Marion, it has been very hard for her,” he said. “She flew to Bahrain and I think it was key for her to hug me, and since then it is getting better.
“What is the hardest for me is not what I went though but what I put people through – my family, my parents, my wife and kids, my friends.
“For two minutes 43 seconds they thought their friend, their father and husband was dead and that is what makes me cry that I made people suffer to that extent.”
Four drivers went to see Grosjean in hospital in Bahrain – his team-mate Kevin Magnussen, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, Renault’s Esteban Ocon and Red Bull’s Alex Albon – and others have messaged their support.
Grosjean said: “I felt my mission was to reassure them so they were ready to go again this weekend. I wanted to reassure them so they were ready to race. I said to all the drivers and their families, if you want to call me just do it and I will talk you through it and we can joke about my Mickey Mouse hands.”
Will he be back this season?
He said he still had a target to return for the season-closing race in Abu Dhabi on 13-15 December but he did not yet know whether it was possible.
“The body is recovering as quick as it can,” Grosjean said. “Burns are not an exact science.
“I went through some tough times when they were cutting the blisters and start peeling off the skin; you see things you don’t really want to see.
“I am hopeful every day it recovers better than the previous day. When will have a final answer? I don’t know yet.
“If it doesn’t happen, it’s OK, I will have other opportunities to cross the finish line in the future.
“The doctors say it is difficult to know. The strength and mobility gets better every day. There is still lot of swelling; this needs to start reducing.
“But a [skin] graft hasn’t been ruled out yet. I am joking, I am happy but the pain the last few days has been high.
“I won’t take the risk of losing mobility of my left index finger and thumb for the rest my life just to go to Abu Dhabi.
“The story would be beautiful. But if I don’t I will call every F1 team and see if they will give me a private test in January and have 10-15 laps in the car just for me.
“The first video call I did with my dad and wife and kids, I said I will race in Abu Dhabi and you can imagine their reactions. They weren’t very impressed with me, I don’t blame them and I will always understand they won’t accept, but I said, ‘It is very selfish but it is what I need and I want to do.'”