In the first of a triple-header in the Middle East under the lights at the Sakir Circuit, the session was stopped only after the second lap.
All drivers got away well with Lewis Hamilton leading the pack with a frantic midfield scuffling for positions. Lance Stroll went wide after turn 4 and so did the Alpha Romeo of Kimi Raakinonen.
This slowed the progress of Romain Grosjean who got a good exit on turn 4 going onto the straight where he started to veer left and then right to go across the track.
In Grosjean’s blind spot he did not see Danil Kyvat and collided with the front wing and tyre and violently went straight into the barrier. The speed of the F1 cars on that straight is between 200-225kph as they start to accelerate down the long straight before a possible overtake at turn 5.
As soon as the Haas driver made contact with the barrier, a ball of flames went up in the air and split the car into two. At first, you did not see where the car ended up because of the huge fire that was ablaze, but Grosjean was stuck in between the barrier still in his cockpit.
The first on the scene was the medical car that always follows the pack on lap 1 and Dr Ian Roberts risked his life to get as close as he could to help Grosjean get out of the car. Medical car driver Alan van der Merwe was also out alongside a steward spraying a fire extinguisher.
The barrier was split in half because of the halo that surrounds the cockpit and the driver.
Romain Grosjean was taken to hospital by helicopter and suffered minor burns to his hands and feet and a suspected broken rib.
Sky Sports commentator Martin Brundle said ”it was a miracle he survived,”
Formula 1 managing director Ross Brawn said after the the race “there was absolutely no doubt that the halo was the factor and saved the day.”
Learn more about the safety and medical cars here.
The race began again after a 1hr 20min wait to fix the barrier and to remove all the debris. The race was only just underway when Danil Kyvat clipped Lance Stroll and turned him over and out of the race. Stroll crawled out of the car and was taken by the medical car and was reported all ok.
The race continued with Hamilton dominating, but not without pressure throughout from Max Verstappen. Sergio Perez was having a great race in 3rd until 3 laps from the end when the Mercedes engine blew up and burst into flames. Perez pulled his Racing Point over and the race finished under the safety car.
That was Hamilton’s 11th win of the season and 95th F1 victory. Hamilton is now only two races away from equaling the most wins in a season 13, held by Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher.