Gene Haas was set to sponsor Romain Grosjean’s IndyCar ride until the Frenchman’s massive accident in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Grosjean was left with burns to his hands in the fiery incident, which left his car split in two after it got stuck in a guardrail on the opening lap of the race, and he missed the final two rounds of the Formula 1 season while recovering from his injuries. At that point Haas had already announced that both of its 2020 drivers would be leaving the team at the end of the year, and Grosjean was working on a deal to switch to IndyCar. Haas admitted that he was preparing to help back Grosjean’s move across the Atlantic, but changed his mind after the accident.
“He had asked if we would be willing to sponsor him in IndyCar, and I think at the beginning I was pretty open to it,” Haas told RACER. “But then when he crashed in Bahrain, I was just so happy he didn’t kill himself. For someone who has just absolutely destroyed the car, I couldn’t be happier that he survived it.
“I don’t know… he has a wife and three kids, and I just told him I couldn’t see giving him money to go out and kill himself. I just felt like he needs to stay home and take care of his family. He escaped the big one there. If you really understood what happened there… if that car had been a few degrees one way or the other, he wouldn’t have been able to get out through that hoop, and he would have died. So, extremely lucky.
“And the team was extremely lucky. I just could not fathom having to face a widow or his kids. I just couldn’t do that. So I said ‘Nah, stay home, I can’t help you there anymore’.”
Haas said he is not surprised that Grosjean continued with his plans to switch to IndyCar, which ultimately led to a deal with Dale Coyne Racing, but conceded that his own shock at the violence of the crash rattled him.
“You know, Grosjean’s a heck of a driver,” Haas said. “He has some really good days when I think he’s probably as good as any driver out there. He loves driving, and that’s his choice. I just don’t want to be part of the bad choice. I feel as lucky as he is to escape being killed. That was the luckiest day in the whole Haas F1 saga, that Grosjean managed to survive that, and relatively unscathed.
“It wasn’t so terrifying in the fact that he jumped out, but the hoop was stuck between the guardrails. If that hoop was a little bit smaller then his helmet wouldn’t have fit through it and he would have died. He came very close. So I’m very happy. That was probably the happiest day in racing, was to see him jump out of that car.”