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Romain Grosjean given Mercedes test run F1 swansong at French Grand Prix

The Guardian logo The Guardian 5/05/2021 Giles Richards
Romain Grosjean wearing a uniform: Photograph: Mercedes/PA © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Mercedes/PA

Romain Grosjean is to make a final return to Formula One, just as he had hoped he might in the aftermath of the crash that ended his racing career in the sport. Grosjean was almost killed when his Haas was engulfed in flames during an accident at the Bahrain Grand Prix last November. The Mercedes team had promised him a drive when he recovered and have delivered. Grosjean is set to run a test day for the team and demonstration laps at the French GP in June.

Romain Grosjean posing for the camera: Romain Grosjean, who now competes in Indycar, said: ‘I am so excited to jump back in an F1 car.’ © Photograph: Mercedes/PA Romain Grosjean, who now competes in Indycar, said: ‘I am so excited to jump back in an F1 car.’

The 35-year-old Frenchman, who now competes in IndyCar, had been hopeful of leaving F1 with more pleasant memories than those of his accident, so the opportunity to drive Lewis Hamilton’s 2019 title-winning W10 car at his home circuit, Paul Ricard, will be a satisfying coda to his horrific accident.

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Grosjean was lucky to survive the incident. His car crashed at 137mph, with an impact force of 53G. It split in two and speared through the metal barriers. The halo cockpit protection device had been decisive in keeping him alive but he was swiftly engulfed in a huge fireball. Incredibly, he escaped with only burns to his hands.

He described time slowing down for him and that he was given extra impetus to extract himself by thinking of his children. Haas had already replaced him for the 2021 season and he was unable to race at the remaining two rounds in 2020. He said shortly afterwards that if necessary he would call every F1 team to ask for some time in a car just to finish his career in better circumstances.

The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, swiftly pledged to give Grosjean time in a Mercedes and has honoured his promise. Grosjean will run a test on 29 June, exactly seven months since the accident, and drive demonstration laps at the French GP on 27 June.

“I am so excited to jump back in an F1 car. It will be a special opportunity for me and to drive a world championship-winning Mercedes will be a unique experience,” said Grosjean. “I’m very grateful to Mercedes F1 and to Toto for the opportunity. The first I heard about the chance to drive a Mercedes was in my hospital bed in Bahrain when Toto was speaking to the media and made the invitation. Reading that news cheered me up a lot.”

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