Bahrain Grand Prix site of miraculous driver survival

Episode 339

November 29, 2020

The Halo in F1 does its job

It seems ironic that Episode 338 was about Cole Disy and friends visiting the Bahrain Kart track adjacent to the Formula 1 venue. Who knew that just a few weeks later the Bahrain course would prove the value of the new halo on F1 race cars.

The Formula 1 race in Bahrain featured fireworks that lit up the sky in the turn three area on lap one when Haas team driver Romain Grosjean and Alpha Tauri #26 driver Daniil Kvyat got together sending Grosjean into the Armco barrier at estimated speed of 137 mph. The barrier separated when Grosjean speared it putting the driver protection zone into and through the Armco. The back of the Haas car broke away.

When the crash occurred a huge fireball erupted and appeared to engulf Grosjean. The fire marshals were on site relatively quickly and emptied fire extinguishers enough to allow the driver to emerge from the flames in relatively good condition.

Grosjean is being kept overnight in an area hospital with burns that appeared to be confined to his hands. I noticed he was shaking his hands as he escaped the carnage.

From my view the new protective halo worked as Grosjean pierced the barrier and went through it. The halo kept the driver compartment intact and did not allow the barrier to contact the driver’s head. Grosjean later attributed the halo with saving his life along with quick work by the fire marshalls.

I have no permission to use photos or video of the incident, however, some elementary searches will net you photos and video.

I was somewhat surprised that a track was allowed to use Armco barriers in this day and age for the exact reason that the Grosjean incident made apparent. Any spearing of the tiered guardrail by a formula car could lead to danger to the driver.

I suspect the course will be replacing this barrier with something that will be more impact friendly, maybe SAFER type barriers. I am not a safety expert so stay tuned for the rest of the story.

I witnessed two guardrail deaths in F1

I have only attended three Formula 1 races, all three at Watkins Glen in the 1970’s. In the 1973 race I was walking toward the uphill esses portion of the track on Saturday morning October 6 to get a view of the cars during morning qualifying.

I heard a slight squealing of tires followed by a couple thumps and race cars slowing followed by deep silence. I was about 100 yards from the spot where Tyrell driver Francois Cevert, after bouncing off the powder blue inside guardrail shot at high speed directly into the  outside barrier tearing it loose as he slid upside down on top. Cevert was decapitated.

His team-mate, Jackie Stewart, was driving by the scene shortly after it happened and knew it was bad when no attempt was made to extricate Cevert from the cockpit. Stewart drove to the pits, got out of his car, and went immediately to the garage area. The team withdrew from what would have been Stewart’s 100th race. He had already clinched the Driver’s Championship.

Cevert the number two driver was the heir apparent for a championship run in 1974 which never happened. Stewart was going to retire at the end of the United States Grand Prix and hand the reins over to his friend Cevert.

The following year, my friends and I drove a fifth wheel camper to the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen to once again watch the Formula 1 season finale. We parked the camper at what is called the “Heel” of the Boot portion of the track or turn 8 of the long course.

We were excited to see Mario Andretti in action in the Maurice Philippe designed, American built Parnelli VPJ4 Ford. Indeed the Parnelli qualified third and was disqualified when defective ignition on the start resulted in a push start which was not legal.

The other American car was the Penske PC1 First National City Travellers Checks Special driven in its second race by Mark Donohue. Donohue came out of retirement to race the Penske entry. They qualified 14th and dropped out of the race to finish 19th.

A little know but promising 25 year old Austrian driver named Helmuth Koinigg driving a Surtees in only his second F1 Grand Prix start on lap 10 speared his car into the Armco at what is called “The Toe” of the Boot or turn 7. Similar to Grosjean’s accident yesterday the guardrail separated and Koinigg was decapitated.

They covered his car with a blue tarp and we knew it was very bad as no attempt was made to get the car out from under the guardrail until the race was finished. They left the car at that spot and ran a local yellow the rest of the race.

If Koinigg had the halo in place, like the 2020 F1 cars utilize, maybe he too would have survived the crash. Romain Grosjean walked away and I am glad.

On a side note, Emerson Fittipaldi won the 1974 Driver’s Championship, his second in three years. My son Michael’s middle name is Emerson so named after the champion driver Fittipaldi. His initials, MEH, were in honor of his grandfather Maurice E. Hale.

What’s new on the lampstand

It is the gift giving time of the year, so I thought I would share what books and magazines I have on the lampstand next to my bed. I love to read and a lifelong love of books has led to accumulating quite a collection of mostly motorsports magazines and books. My wife has mentioned many times I need to pick up the piles of magazines that have accumulated on my desk completely obscuring the top.

One of the pleasures of being a writer of UpNorth Motorsports is to do an occasional book review. My latest read is The Soul of a Modified; Lennie Boehler’s Ole Blue by Lew Boyd. (Photo of cover HTF Motorsports)

I remember reading about the exploits of Lennie Boehler in Stock Car Racing Magazine in the 1970’s. He always made a fast car with a low budget and loads of innovation. When I contacted Coastal 181 in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Cory Stratton suggested the new book by Lew Boyd about Boehler.

I agreed to review the book and will report about it in a future episode of UpNorth Motorsports. For more information about Coastal 181 and their extensive collection of books, DVD’s and more simply visit their site at

Coastal 181 has a slew of books with appeal to the reader of New England racing history including “A History of Auto Racing in New England” a project of the North East Motor Sports Museum in Loudon, New Hampshire. I urge you to take a look.

“Crash! From Senna to Earnhardt; How the Hans Helped Save Racing” by Jonathan Ingram with Dr. Robert Hubbard and Jim Downing. (Photo of cover by HTF Motorsports)

I obtained this book from Jonathan Ingram directly from his website (Ingram is also the author of “The Art of Race Car Design” with Bob Riley which I also own) The book tells the history of the Hans Device invented by Dr. Robert Hubbard and his brother-in-law Jim Downing. The Hans was in response to the basal skull fracture which took the life of Renault executive/racer Patrick Jacquemart at Mid Ohio Sports Car Circuit in 1980.

Downing had a bad encounter with the concrete wall in turn 2 at Mosport Park near Toronto, Canada in 1980. The crash was the only time Downing was knocked unconscious in his racing career, yet it left a lasting impression with him when he realised if the car had hit head on rather than backing into the wall, he would probably not survived the impact.

I have yet to finish the book, however, it is well written so far detailing what led up to the invention of the life saving Hans Device.

“Mark Donohue; Technical Excellence at Speed” by Michael Argetsinger. (Photo of cover HTF Motorsports)

This is a re-read for me. I have probably read this book three times. I like to read a story of my favorite driver typically just before falling asleep in bed. Argetsinger details the life of Donohue very well and could be read in conjunction with “The Unfair Advantage” by Mark Donohue with Paul Van Valkenburgh. That book was written by Donohue in 1974 when he retired from racing. Argetsinger’s book continues through Donohue’s death at the Austrian Grand Prix in 1975.

Magazines currently being read

Magazines currently being read are next with the exception of Road & Track which I have not included with a photo. Sorry about the oversight.

Grassroots Magazine (GRM) is a must read for sports car enthusiast. I try to meet with GRM personnel  at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and have toured their headquarters in Holly Hill, Florida. (Photo of magazine cover HTF Motorsports)

I have been an off-and-on (mostly on) subscriber to Hot Rod Magazine since late 1960’s. I wrote about former Editor David Freiburger when he raced the Hot Rod Magazine Camaro into the 200 MPH Club at the Loring Timing Association Maine Event August 2010. (Photo of cover by HTF Motorsports)

I must admit I am a fan of vintage race cars, especially ones that I may have seen race or wanted to see race. I will upon occasion pick up a Vintage Motorsports Magazine. VM is now a part of Paul Pfanner Racer Media Group. Look to it for stories about vintage race car restoration shops. I think I would like to work for such a type of business. Anyone hiring in the County? (Photo of cover by HTF Motorsports)

United Kingdom sourced “MotorSport; The Original Racing Magazine” is a bookstore purchase for me. I will pick it up when I see a story or two that tweeks my interest. This month’s included Cult Heroes the 30 hardest chargers who forged a place in history (even if they did not win) and a story about Austrian Jochen Rindt who won the 1970 F1 World Championship posthumously. (Photo of cover by HTF Motorsports)

Please let me know what motorsports book or magazine you are reading and why you like or dislike the same. Maybe a book you have read in the past that has influenced you with your direction in motorsports. Email me at

Sting Ray Robb 2020 Road to Indy Championship summary video

Another up-and-coming race driver is 19 year old Payette, Idaho Sting Ray Robb. He is the 2020 Road to Indy Pro 2000 Series Presented by Cooper Tire Champion. As part of the winner’s package for the champ is the following:

See more about Throttle Car Club in Scarborough, Maine in next episode. Until then…

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)






Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine