Hero Roberts sheds light on those dramatic moments in Bahrain

by Nov 30, 20200 comments


Ian Roberts, the FIA’s Medical Rescue Coordinator who rescued Romain Grosjean on Sunday gives insight into those moments that left the watching world breathless.

As if the initial fiery explosion wasn’t enough, the subsequent images of Romain Grosjean‘s car in two distinct pieces, the front half have pierced and passed through the barriers, merely added to the unfolding horror.

Then came the dramatic shots of the Frenchman emerging from his car, engulfed in flames, and climbing over the barriers to safety, where marshals and the FIA’s medical rescue coordinator, Dr Ian Roberts and Medical Car driver, Alan Van der Merwe escorted him away from the raging inferno behind.

“There was a massive flame,” Roberts subsequently told Sky Sports, “and we arrived to a very odd scene where you’ve got half a car pointing in the wrong direction and just across the barrier a mass of heat. Then looking to the right at that point, I could see Romain trying to get up.

“We needed some way of getting to him,” he continued, “so we got the marshal there with the extinguisher, and the extinguisher was just enough to push the flame away as Romain got high enough, so I could reach over and pull him over the barrier.”

Roberts and Van der Merwe subsequently helped Grosjean away from the scene to the medical car.

“I think I told him to sit down,” said Roberts. “He was obviously very shaky, and his visor was completely opaque, and in fact melted.

“I managed to get his helmet off to check everything else was OK,” he continued. “It was going to be flames, smoke inhalation, airway issues, and that nothing went up to his helmet, and we had a look at the helmet as well.

“But looking at him clinically we were quite happy with him from a life-threatening injury point of view,” he admitted, “so it was about making him comfortable from the injuries we could see.

“He’d got some pain in his foot and hands, so from that point we knew it was safe enough to move him around into the car for protection and get some gel on to his burns, and then into the ambulance and to the medical centre.”

Medical Car driver, Alan Van der Merwe, though shocked by the scene that greeted him on arrival at the crash, admits that endless rehearsals for just such an event were the deciding factor.

“A lot of it is down to preparation,” he said. “When you get to something like this… and we’ve not seen this combination before. I’ve not seen fire like this in my stint as the medical car driver, and a lot of it new and unknown territory, so we can only be as prepared as our own ideas.

“We do a lot of checklists and a lot of preparation, talking about scenarios, but this was crazy. Honestly, to get there and to see half of the car and the other half nowhere to be seen and just a huge ball of flames so you have literally seconds, thinking on your feet, so preparation only gets you so far. Then it is down to instincts and quick thinking.”

Meanwhile, race director, Michael Masi has promised a full investigation.

“It certainly was a tough situation,” said the Australian. “It’s never something we like to see, a big incident, particularly one involving fire. But I’m glad more than anything that Romain is OK. He’s in hospital under observation and we wish him a very speedy recovery.

“As part of every incident that occurs, the FIA undertakes a full investigation,” he added, “so during the race, a lot of our teams started collating all of the data that was available, including video cameras with any angle that was possibly available. Our technical teams have already started taking a whole lot of photographs and understanding the car as it was returned back to the team.

“Then there will be a complete overall analysis done of everything, in very fine detail, to see what we can learn from it. Safety is ever evolving, ever improving. You can learn from everything.”

Check out our Sunday gallery from Bahrain, here.


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