MANAMA: Lewis Hamilton powered to his record-increasing 95th victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday in a race overshadowed by Romain Grosjean’s horrific crash, which left the Frenchman receiving hospital treatment for burns.
Newly-crowned seven-time world champion Hamilton cruised to his 11th win this year in his Mercedes with a masterful drive in challenging and chaotic circumstances at the Sakhir circuit.
Hamilton took the chequered flag ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen during a late safety car intervention, and was quick to compliment the sport’s modern safety standards for saving Grosjean whose Haas car broke in two on impact before erupting in flames.
“It was such a shocking image to see,” said Hamilton, who like all of the drivers had a near 90-minute wait for the restart after the horrific opening lap crash. He used the pause to tweet on safety.
“When I get in the car, I know I am taking risks. I respect the dangers that are in this sport. I posted about it during the break because it is horrifying.
“The car, the cockpit. I don’t know what Gs he pulled, but I’m just so grateful the halo worked. It could have been so much worse, but I think it is a reminder to us and hopefully to the people that are watching that this is a dangerous sport. We are out there pushing to the limit and playing with that limit, but you always have to respect it.
“It shows what an amazing job Formula One and the FIA have done for him to be able to walk away from something like that, but it will be investigated — and they will do an awful lot of work to make sure something like that does not happen again.”
Grosjean lost control of his Haas after clipping the front left wheel of Daniil Kvyat’s Alpha Tauri, having skewed right in the intense battle for position at Turn Three on the opening lap.
Grosjean’s car rammed into the barriers as he braked hard from around 250 km/h (155 mph), the front part hammering into the steel guardrails which buckled immediately.
Grosjean, 34, trapped in his cockpit, flew under the steel barrier as it gave way and his car burst into flames.
Observers suggested his car’s safety halo had saved his life as he careered through the ruptured barrier, the device lifting them above his head, before F1’s chief medical officer Dr Ian Roberts and his medical car driver Alan van der Merwe joined track marshals with fire extinguishers and helped him escape.
“Hello everyone, just wanted to say I’m okay, well, sort of okay,” said Grosjean from his hospital bed in a video posted on social media. “Thank you very much for all the messages. I wasn’t for the halo some years ago but I think it’s the greatest thing we brought to Formula 1 and without it I wouldn’t be able to speak to you.”
Grosjean extricated himself from his blazing wreck and climbed through flames to leap a barrier to safety with Roberts’ help.
“It was scary,” Verstappen said. “We saw a red flag, which doesn’t mean it’s immediately a bad thing. I saw a lot of fire and I thought that is not a good thing, but luckily he is okay.”
Grosjean was taken to hospital with burns to his hands after his crash which was followed by another accident that saw Racing Point driver Lance Stroll rescued from his overturned car.
Hamilton came home at controlled pace behind the safety car at the finish, followed by Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Alexander Albon, who profited after an engine failure forced Racing Point’s Sergio Perez to retire with three laps left.
Lando Norris came home fourth ahead of his McLaren team-mate Carlos Sainz with Pierre Gasly taking sixth for Alpha Tauri and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo seventh.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished eighth, having suffered a puncture, ahead of Esteban Ocon in the second Renault and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Hamilton’s win lifted him 131 points clear of Bottas in the championship, which he has won already.