• Castor Chan

Should the Bahrain GP Have Been Dealt with Differently?



There was a big commotion over Romain Grosjean’s incident last weekend. Many were relieved to see that he was alright and got out of the situation fairly quickly, with him reaching medical help soon after. The whole community was also incredibly appreciative of the track marshals and medical team for their rapid reactions. But what raised a storm of complaints was the number of times the accident was replayed during the live televising and that the race continued almost immediately after.


Media Coverage


Regardless of the publicity of the sport and therefore the incident, the consensus seemed to be that most disapproved of the way the media showed the crash. Not only was it replayed often, but numerous angles were also run, even the onboard front-facing camera above the drivers’ heads. (the feed was cut before the car hit the barrier) There was backlash on social media from fans who were unhappy about it, citing that it was inconsiderate to his family, that it would have been better to lessen the replays and to put a warning ahead of time for young fans or those who did not wish to see it. Some also commented on how the media often followed the drivers around, saying that they shouldn’t have to see the replays (as they were also broadcast in the paddock) and deal with the cameras watching their every action in an already serious situation.


Daniel Ricciardo was the most vocal driver about it, saying, “the way the incident of Grosjean was broadcast over and over, the replays, it was completely disrespectful and inconsiderate for his family, for all our families, watching…. For me, it was entertainment and they are playing with all our emotions and I thought it was pretty disgusting.” He also said in another interview, “it was cold-blooded for them to show it how they did.” Sebastian Vettel made a more subtly worded comment, "People like crashes and maybe sometimes they forget that we are behind the wheel. I guess you could say it’s part of the show, so that’s why I disappeared and tried not to look at the images too much.”


Understandably, the incident happened on the very first lap of the race, so there wasn’t much race footage to be shown. Furthermore, a certain amount of coverage helped audiences see that Grosjean was mostly unharmed, and social media updates from him, the medical staff and the Haas F1 team gave fans reassurance on his condition. According to the latest team statement, he is unharmed apart from minor burns on his limbs. It also allowed viewers to see (in an unfortunate scenario) how important the halo, a protection device made mandatory in 2018, is for the safety of the drivers. Despite it being proven to be useful time and time again in previous cases, (Charles Leclerc and George Russell in the 2018 and 2020 Belgian Grands Prix respectively) the debate will most certainly be ended this weekend. And the work that the safety crew does was brought to the well-deserved limelight after quick action was made and Grosjean was safely escorted to medical assistance.


Continuation of the Race


Some fans thought that the race should not have continued after the crash, and watching the drivers sitting around in the paddock, it didn’t seem like a far-fetched opinion. The incident was on a bigger scale than what is usually seen on track, and its speed and the burst of flames threw everyone off. Shock ran through the paddock at the sight of the accident, and radios coming back after rang with concern, in particular those of Ferrari driver Leclerc and Alpha Tauri driver Daniil Kvyat. The frequently replayed scene was shown across displays at the circuit, a stark reminder of the close call that just occurred. As Ricciardo remarked, “everyone you look at, their eyes are staring at the screen, so nobody’s focused on the race, no one’s focused on what we’ve got to do the next hour and a half.” Fans took to Twitter asking for a stop to the race.


Of course, it would be remiss to ignore that motorsport is an industry, and there are many stakeholders in it. There was a huge amount of money invested, from the circuit, the organisation, the teams, the hospitality and so on, and unless a catastrophic accident had impacted a large number of people, the race would realistically continue. Ultimately, that was the scenario that the stewards agreed on, and the race was held as it left off from the lap 1 incident.


Mental Health Awareness


After the race, which thankfully went on relatively safely apart from two incidents involving the Racing Points (leading to a double DNF), drivers were repeatedly questioned on the incident. In particular, Leclerc mentioned that he “was feeling very bad” and “worrying and waiting for news about him.” This echoed the sentiment of many fans especially across Twitter, where there were a lot of mentions of mental health, people calling out their concern, and advocating for mental health evaluations. This comes at a time where F1 is seeking to add new values to the sport, with their human rights statement and the We Race As One slogan. It would be much appreciated from the community if mental health was made a priority as well, especially in such a public and potentially dangerous sport. A good start could be to have consultations available for everyone, whether driver, mechanic or paddock personnel. The incident was seen by and probably impacted many, so it would be good to see support being offered by the organisation.


A big thank you to the track personnel who reacted quickly and all the safety measures developed that led to Romain being safe today. It was heartwarming to see all the support messages for him, and knowing that he is in the hands of the medical team is a big relief. Hopefully, F1 will listen to the community’s requests for more emphasis on mental health and their opinions on today’s race, and continue the improvements made in the sport.


 

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