BIC designer defends safety standards
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THE designer behind the Bahrain International Circuit has defended the track and its safety measures as the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA) investigation continues into Formula 1 Haas driver Romain Grosjean’s accident during the F1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.
On November 29, during the F1 race, Grosjean clipped Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri and crashed into the barrier at Turn 3, his car splitting in half as it penetrated the barrier, resulting in a fiery collision.
Fortunately, he escaped with light burns to his hands and a broken left foot, and was released from BDF hospital three days later.
On December 3, FIA officials announced the launch of an investigation into the crash and results are expected in six to eight weeks.
The track was designed by renowned circuit designer Hermaan Tilke who has designed more than 12 F1 circuits from scratch, in addition to overhauling circuits, such as Germany’s Hockenheimring and Japan’s Fuji Speedway.
“If the force is great enough, everything breaks at some point,” said Tilke, when asked if the design of the circuit was a factor in the crash.
He explained that Grosjean crashed where the barrier is essentially “90 degrees to the track”, and that if it had been less, the car would have “scraped along the guardrail”.
“The force on Grosjean was 53G, which is an incredible amount,” said Tilke.
When asked what lessons could be gleaned from the incident, the German designer explained: “With Grosjean’s impact angle, it would have been better if there was a force retarder there, like a stack of tyres. But in other impacts that would be counterproductive because the car could get stuck in them.
“Everything has advantages and disadvantages so you have to be careful not to worsen the situation in other scenarios.
“For example, in 0.001 per cent of car accidents, it might be better not to wear a seatbelt. But you wouldn’t then say ‘I won’t buckle up again’.”
The BIC did replace the barrier with tyres for the subsequent Rolex Sakhir Grand Prix, during the following weekend.
Even though the second grand prix was on a different Outer Track layout never seen before on the F1 calendar, the first four turns remained unchanged.
“Every year before an F1 race, our circuit is inspected by the FIA and signed off from a safety perspective and 2020 was no different,” a spokesman from the BIC told the GDN.
“Whilst Romain Grosjean was able to walk away from the accident, given its severity it is standard procedure for the FIA to launch an investigation and we are fully supporting that process.
“Given the investigation is ongoing, it would be wrong to speculate on its conclusions, given the number of factors involved.”
The barrier which Grosjean hit was of great concern because of the way it separated, causing Grosjean in the cockpit to go through it, so the FIA responded by adding tyres and a conveyor belt.
“Safety has always been at the heart of everything we do, ever since we began back in 2004. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an F1 race, corporate event or an open track session for amateur enthusiasts, the focus across all aspects of safety, whether that be marshalling, medical or otherwise remains the same,” added BIC’s chief operating officer Fayez Ramzy Fayez.
“Our F1 race in November highlighted quite how important our training and planning is, following Romain Grosjean’s terrible accident.
“The incredible work of the FIA medical team and our fire marshals, combined with the development of car and track safety over the years, were all major factors which enabled him to walk away from the accident.”
To learn more about FIA regulations changed after Bahrain’s first double-header, check out the back page of our sister newspaper GulfWeekly, out today.