Following a memorable visit to the Istanbul Park Circuit, the Formula 1 circus travelled to the Bahrain International Circuit to kick of the 2020 season-concluding Middle-Eastern triple header. As expected, newly crowned seven time World Champion Lewis Hamilton led the pack to finish first ahead of the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Alex Albon. However, no-one could have expected Romain Grosjean’s chilling first lap crash which halted and indeed overshadowed the drama-crammed raced.

Grosjean’s HAAS car plunged into the turn 3 barriers and immediately erupted in a ball of fire after a collision with AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kyvat. Fortunately, the Frenchman managed to emerge from the flames before being airlifted to hospital with suspected broken ribs and minor burns. Luckily, the driver’s bodily damage stopped there, but it doesn’t bare to think about how severe it could have been. The race was red-flagged as the explosion resulted in a great deal of damage to the track as well. The visibly shaken-up drivers returned to the paddock as the barrier was repaired.

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The drama certainly didn’t stop there, though, as the ensuing Safety Car period was swiftly followed by Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and his unfortunate barrel roll. It would be Kyvat again whose right tyre sent someone spinning. It would be a relatively easy drive for Hamilton to victory as his lead never looked too vulnerable from an attack by Verstappen, although the Dutchman stayed in the champion’s mirrors throughout the race.

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez did well to shadow Verstappen and maintain his lead on Albon in a sort of Red Bull sandwich for a majority of the race. That was until just three laps remained and Perez’s car started spitting flames, forcing the Mexican to retire in a heartbreak turn of events. Albon took the opportunity and filled third place, taking his second podium of the season as Perez was denied a podium place by his car for the second time this season.

It would be McLaren who crossed the line next with Lando Norris leading Carlos Sainz. Just behind the orange pair was AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly who managed to complete the race with just one change of tyres, a well-deserved sixth place ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo. Hamilton’s Mercedes-AMG teammate suffered a puncture on the third lap and this saw him recover to a respectable eighth place, given the circumstances. The point taking places were rounded out by Renault’s Esteban Ocon and Monaco’s very own Charles Leclerc, pushing his Ferrari SF1000 across the line in tenth.

With Bahrain in the bag, Hamilton has now won 11 of the 2020 season’s races, and with just two to go the Brit now stands a chance at breaking the record of Alberto Ascari’s 75% win percentage set in 1952. However, as the race concluded all eyes were still on Grosjean as he survived a fiery, sobering crash. If anything, this motorsport miracle is a testimony to the advances made in safety standards on the track by the FIA in the last few decades. Such a collision in the hey-day of the sport would have been met with the cruelest of fates. Thankfully, (almost) every driver lives to race another day, and the next race will be at the Bahrain International Circuit again for the inaugural Sakhir Grand Prix on December 6. This race will be different though, as the super-fast outer track will be used by Formula 1 for the first time. With sub 60 second lap times expected, it won’t be a race to miss.

Featured image courtesy of Formula 1, Grosjean survives a horrific crash