Sakhir, Bahrain – Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton won a crash-marred Bahrain Grand Prix where Romain Grosjean somehow escaped with only minor burns after his car exploded into a fireball.
The 34-year-old French driver slid off the track at high speed on the first lap and his Haas car burst into flames after being sliced in two by a barrier. Grosjean clambered out with the fire roaring behind him and his race helmet singed. He was conscious and stable and then taken by helicopter to a military hospital.
“I think it is a reminder to us and hopefully to the people that are watching that this is a dangerous sport,” Hamilton said.
Grosjean’s relieved team said the driver had only light burns to his hands and ankles.
The crash happened with seven-time F1 champion Hamilton leading from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
Hamilton, who secured his title at the Turkish GP on Nov. 15, was subdued and did not celebrate his win after climbing out of his car, other than a brief fist-pump with the Red Bull drivers.
“It was such a shocking image to see … horrifying. It could have been so much worse,” Hamilton said. “I respect the dangers that are in this sport.”
Moments after the race restarted about 90 minutes later, on Lap 3 of 57, there was another incident as Lance Stroll’s Racing Point clipped the AlphaTauri of Daniil Kvyat and flipped over.
Stroll joked about hanging upside down in his car, before squirming out. The Canadian driver was unharmed.
Kvyat was involved in both crashes but not at fault.
The first accident happened when Grosjean lost grip and slid to the right, where his back wheel clipped the front of Kvyat’s car and he flew off into the barrier.
Hamilton’s record-extending 95th win saw him finish ahead of Verstappen, who took his 41st career podium and a bonus point with the fastest lap.
The 35-year-old Hamilton looked drained at the end.
“It’s physical, this track has always been physical. We’ve got lots of high-speed corners so I was definitely feeling it,” he said. “I managed to just about reply to him (Verstappen) when I needed to but I was sliding around a lot out there and I wasn’t really quite sure how it would play out at the end.”
Perez looked set to finish third and clinch his 10th career podium, but his engine blew with three laps left and flames poured from the back of his car as he pulled over to the side.
That put Red Bull’s Alexander Albon into third ahead of the McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz. Jr. while Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was only eighth.
There is another race in Bahrain next Sunday – on Sakhir’s shorter outer