Todt says Halo vindicated by Grosjean survival

Jean Todt (FRA) FIA President. 28.11.2020. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Bahrain Grand Prix
© XPB 

FIA president Jean Todt says the the decision by the governing body to push through the introduction of the Halo cockpit protection system in Formula 1 has been vindicated by Sunday's events in Bahrain.

Romain Grosjean's car spun off on the first lap and punched a whole in the Armco barrier before splitting in half and spilling fuel which ignited into a huge fireball.

Fortunately the driver was able to jump out of the inferno and was helped away from the scene by marshals and the crew of the medical car. But that probably wouldn't have been possible if Grosjean had been knocked unconscious, let alone killed by the initial impact.

Todt put that down to the Halo, which had been resisted by many drivers on the grid at the time - including Grosjean himself.

"[The car] probably hit the rails at over 200 km/h. We know that if the Halo had not been there, I don't want to think about what would have been the tragedy," Todt told in an exclusive interview this week.

"When I went the second time to visit [Romain] in the hospital, I said: "So, you like the halo?", he continued. "He was not the only one yesterday to comment on how important it was, who had been against it earlier.

"But it's not a problem, I'm not interested in being right. I'm interested ... in making the right decisions.

"Sometimes it is important if you are convinced of one opinion to defend it, even if you get resistance to achieve it," he explained. "Just take the quotes from three years ago when it was decided to introduce the Halo.

"There were a lot of negative comments from teams, drivers, and media [but] clearly it was something which we knew would be an improvement."

While it's the most graphic demonstration of the Halo's value in F1, it's not the first time it's been credited with saving the life of a driver. Charles Leclerc survived a scary impact at the start of the 2018 the Belgian Grand Prix.

“I have never been a fan of the halo but I have to say that I was very happy to have it over my head today,” he said afterwards.

But the latest accident in Bahrain has also highlighted areas where more safety improvements are needed, with Todt particularly worried by the fire that erupted after the car was ripped apart.

The heavily damaged Haas F1 Team VF-20 of Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas F1 Team after crashed at the start of the race and exploded into flames, destroying the armco barrier. 29.11.2020. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Bahrain Grand Prix

"I think we all lost memory of a car catching into fire and into flames," Todt admitted. "I must say, I don't remember a lot of accidents where you see the car cut in two pieces like that.

"You cannot anticipate the way a car could leave the track as it happened,"" he conceded. ""Then the car with 100kg of fuel, when it was cut in two, we need to understand that.

"It seems the monocoque resisted very well," he acknowledged, with Grosjean suffering only minor burns to his hands and no serious injuries to the rest of his body.

"Can you imagine how will be his legs, his feet, if the monocoque did not resist?" he said. "[It's] absolutely outstanding, and then a lot of things were the result of improvement.

"[But] we need to understand the gloves, because his hands are slightly burned second degree," Todt continued. "We need to understand what has happened, for clearly him and the [medical car] doctor [whose] overalls were also burnt."


Todt paid a particular tribute to those first responders, with the medical car arriving on scene within nine seconds of the initial impact.

"You can see how brave were the crew in the car, with Dr Ian Roberts and Alan van de Merwe, who immediately came out and exposed themselves [to danger]," he said. "Here you see great people, and it's probably what does inspire me."

And Todt himself also played a small but crucial role in the immediate aftermath when he made sure Grosjean spoke directly to his wife Marion to reassure her he was okay.

"I went to see immediately when he was in the medical centre in the circuit," Todt revealed. "The only thing is that I wanted him to speak with his wife, in order that she could hear his voice, which was important."

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