Once again I admit to being wrong. Very wrong. Unbelievably, mind bogglingly wrong. But for a minute or so I believed I was horrendously, tragically right. When Grosjean’s Haas speared into the barriers and exploded my first thought, like many of you out there was’ “fuck me!” The second thought was that even if he had survived the impact then the widely loathed Halo would prevent him getting out without at least Lauda type internal and external burns. Or even worse, we might have been witnessing the first poor soul being burnt to death in a Formula one car since Riccardo Paletti in Canada in 1982. Now that's just plain weird

This seemed to be exactly the type of accident that we all feared when the Halo was mandated. Many of us, myself included, condemned it as being not just hideously ugly, but an unacceptable risk in a fire and not designed to prevent injuries such as those suffered by Felipe Massa when struck by smaller, but still lethal, debris. And yet, within 30 seconds, Romain was incredibly out and safe. It took the FIA a few minutes to confirm that everyone, not just Romain, but also the track marshals and the medical crew, were all relatively fine. In that time, as always, there is a blackout of information and footage so that if there has been a tragedy the horrible news can be managed properly. That does, however, leave the viewer in a shocked void where the worst is expected.


  Immediately after the words regarding my opinion of the Halo had passed my lips we had the pictures of Grosjean sitting alive, albeit a little dazed, in the medical car. Relief was palpable. Then we saw the images of the monocoque where it had pierced the barrier and at once I new just how wrong I had been. It was quite clear that the Halo had withstood the impact and had in fact parted the barriers as the Haas struck them and had driven them away from Romain’s head. Without the Halo, this accident would have had an outcome very similar to that which befell Helmuth Koinigg in 1974 when he was decapitated by the barriers at Watkins Glen. I have never in my life, been so delighted, to have been proven so wrong.

  It’s still bloody ugly though.

  Huge respect to Dr Ian Roberts, the FIA’s chief medical officer, Alan van der Merwe, the driver of the medical car and an unnamed (from what I can tell) fire marshal who crossed the track (safely – unlike the twit at the end of the race) who all risked their own safety to save Grosjean. All three came together in perfect synchronicity to assist Romain in his escape attempt. Without the quick thinking and actions of the marshal directing his fire extinguisher at exactly the right angle, Dr Roberts would not have been able to run towards the flames and pull Grosjean over the barrier while van der Merwe had retrieved the extinguisher from the medical car to spray the retreating duo and put out some small flames on their overalls. It needs to be remembered that although wearing fire proof race suits, Roberts and van der Merwe wear open faced helmets, so running so close to a massive fire, to save another’s life, and risking serious injury is an extremely heroic (not a word I use lightly) act.

  Then on Tuesday, as if this week had not been dramatic enough, it was announced that Lewis Hamilton had tested positive for the bloody tedious virus. One of my first thoughts, having as I do a somewhat evil sense of humour, was how funny it would be if he had given it to Verstappen on the podium while weighing the trophy. I really must stop thinking such nasty thoughts, I promise to try harder. All of a sudden we were looking at all sorts of driver changes for this weekend. Who would drive the Merc? And the Haas? I feel immense sympathy for Stoffel Vandoorne, who apart from his Formula E duties has been traipsing all over the place, away from his family, to be Mercedes “Official” reserve driver. And when the opportunity arises the team decides he is not the right chap for them and replaces Lewis with George Russell. No doubt George, being a Mercedes junior academy driver, will do a good job, but he was doing that at Williams anyway. I know I’m being a bit old fashioned but I believe a contract is a contract and it should be respected in both directions. Mercedes agreed a contract with Stoffel to be their reserve driver and so he should have been. However, now that they have not lived up to their own word, this has opened up an opportunity for Jack Aitken who will stand in for Russell at Williams. Please note that Aitken is Williams Official reserve driver so at least one team is honouring their contracts.

  So Aitken will become the first driver of Korean ancestry to drive in a Formula One race. There has been a few obscure records this year. Alex Albon has become the first driver of Thai ancestry to a) score a podium finish and b) lead a World Championship race although Prince Bira of Siam (now Thailand) did score many wins in non-championship races either side of the war. Shh – don’t mention the war. I did but I think I got away with it. Another will occur on Friday when Pietro Fittipaldi becomes the fourth member of his family to participate in a World Championship Grand Prix after brothers Emerson, Wilson and Wilson’s son Christian. That will put them one up on the Brabhams (Jack, David and Gary) and the Villeneuves (Gilles, Jacques and the other Jacques). Joining them shortly will be the Schuamchers when Mick joins Michael and Ralf. The remarkable thing is that there are 22 duos on the list. In alphabetical order they are: Mario & Michael Andretti, Lucien & Jules Bianchi (who almost make the trio list with Mauro driving in non-championship F1 races), Ernesto & Vittorio Brambilla, Corrado & Teo Fabi, Damon & Graham Hill, Jan & Kevin Magnussen, Kazuki & Satoru Nakajima, Chanock & Roy Nissany, Jolyon & Jonathan Palmer, Reg & Tim Parnell, Andre & Teddy Pilette, Nelson (both of them ) Piquet, Pedro & Ricardo Rodriguez, Keke & Nico Rosberg, Ian & Jody Scheckter, Jean-Louis & Jo Schlesser, Ayrton & Bruno Senna, Ian & Jackie Stewart, Hans & Hans-Joachim Stuck, Jos & Max Verstappen, Graham & Peter Whitehead and finally Manfred & Marcus Winkelhock.

  Aren’t you glad you now know that?


Sam Snape

3-12 2020