One of the defining images of the 2020 F1 season was Romain Grosjean's miraculous escape from a fiery inferno at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Just over six months later, he will get a chance to drive an F1 car again, with none other than defending world champions Mercedes.
Grosjean was trapped in a ball of flames after his Haas car tore in half on the opening lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix last November. His car broke through the metal barriers on the side of the track after he crashed with another car, and he was stuck in the car for nearly half a minute before breaking free and leaping to safety.
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The 35-year-old left the sport at the end of last year, with the injuries he sustained in the crash at Bahrain ultimately ruling him out of the final two races. Incredibly he only suffered minor burns, and was dispatched from hospital in time to visit the circuit over the course of the following race weekend.
Grosjean attempted to return for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year, but ultimately had to sit it out due to the burns to his hands, meaning that the fiery crash in Bahrain was the last stand for the Frenchman as a Grand Prix driver. While he was in hospital in Bahrain, Mercedes' team principal Toto Wolff said in an interview that he would love to give Grosjean the chance to drive a Mercedes car, once he made a full recovery.
Wolff has now followed through on his promise, as Mercedes today announced they will give Grosjean the chance to drive their 2019 car, the W10, in two sessions at June's French Grand Prix - what would have been Grosjean's home race. He will drive the car in a demo run on the day of the Grand Prix, before returning for a test session with the team two days later.
The W10 won both the drivers' and constructors' championships in 2019, with Lewis Hamilton taking his 6th of 7 titles off the back of 11 race wins in the car. His teammate Valtteri Bottas also won four races, in what was an utterly dominant year for the Mercedes team.
Grosjean's official YouTube channel uploaded a short clip of the driver kitted out in Mercedes overalls today, and he spoke of his excitement about the upcoming opportunity to drive the W10.
The first time I heard about the opportunity of driving the Mercedes W10 was when Toto went in the media in Bahrain - and I was in a hospital bed! Just reading that news was cheering me up a lot. Then I got an unofficial email saying that it was all going to happen.
Obviously something very special for me, jumping back in a Formula 1 car. Big, big opportunity driving the Mercedes at Paul Ricard [the French Grand Prix track] later this year.
It's gonna be a special day. I can't wait for it to happen and I will be forever grateful to Mercedes as well as Toto for the opportunity.
Grosjean's career was dotted with outstanding drives, but he never managed to take home a race win. He finished in the top three on 10 occasions, coming close to claiming victory at the 2012 European and 2013 Japanese Grands Prix.
For a driver who never managed to win a race, the opportunity to drive a car which won 15 must be a dream come true, and it is a fitting end to the F1 career of a driver who was much-loved by fans of the sport during his ten years at Renault, Lotus and Haas.