Formula 1 medical car driver Alan van der Merwe said he had “never seen that much fire” after playing a pivotal role in helping Romain Grosjean to escape his horrific opening lap crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Grosjean crashed heavily at Turn 3 on the first lap of Sunday’s Grand Prix after a clash with AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat, with his Haas car getting speared into the barriers at high speed.

The impact was so forceful that it tore Grosjean’s car in half, before his Haas dramatically burst into flames.

Medical car driver van der Merwe and Dr Ian Roberts were among the first on the scene and helped assist Grosjean from his burning wreckage.

After clambering out of his car, Grosjean had a checkover before being sent to hospital as a precaution with possible broken ribs and having sustained burns to his hands and ankles.

“I’ve never seen that much fire, in 12 years I’ve not seen that much fire and an impact like that,” van der Merwe said after returning to the pitlane following the incident.

“We just took a little while to process what was going on. I’m sure it was only a second or so but it felt like ages. Then Romain just started to actually get out of the car itself, which is pretty amazing after an accident like that.”

Asked if he was relieved to see that Grosjean was OK, he replied: "Not yet. Some relief when we got back here and he was OK. Very impressive.

“It just shows all the systems that we’ve developed, everything worked hand in hand – the Halo, the barriers, the seatbelts, everything worked how it should. Without just one of those things it could have been a very different outcome.”

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner was seen thanking van der Merwe and the medical crew who were quick to arrive to the scene and worked to put out some of the fire while Grosjean escaped.

"When you see what is going on out there, if you see the barrier, where it is torn down, it is unbelievable," Steiner said.

"I think we were lucky by being unlucky. I prefer that luck to any racing luck. He seems to doing good. Hopefully there is nothing coming, but he got away with it I think.”

Seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton took to social media during the lengthy delay to say that he was thankful to learn that Grosjean was safe.

“The risk we take is no joke for those of our out there that forget that we put our life on the line for this sport and for what we love to do," Hamilton said.

"This is a reminder to us all. Thankful to the FIA for the massive strides we've taken for Romain to walk away from that safely."

 

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