Gene Haas says he reversed his decision to sponsor Romain Grosjean in IndyCar this year after the latter’s dramatic crash in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Grosjean miraculously escaped the jaws of death last November when he ploughed into the barrier on the opening lap of the race at Sakhir and managed to free himself from a wreck engulfed in flames, suffering only minor burns to his hands.
The Frenchman was sidelined from the remaining two races of the 2020 F1 season, his career as a Grand Prix driver grinding to a premature halt.
Grosjean had previously been informed by Haas that he no longer figured in the team’s F1 plans for 2021. But Gene Haas was willing to support Grosjean in his efforts to find an IndyCar ride.
However, the F1 team owner backtracked on a prospective deal to sponsor the 34-year-old in the US series after Bahrain, feeling apprehensive about a plan that equated to tempting fate in Haas’ view.
“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’s Chris Medland.
“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’.”
Grosjean will nevertheless be heading west this year to open a new chapter in his motorsport career, having struck a deal to race in IndyCar with Dale Coyne Racing, although the Frenchman won’t be competing on the series’ ovals.
Gene Haas respects his former driver’s choice to pursue his career in IndyCar, but the terrifying images of Bahrain still linger.
“You know, Grosjean’s a heck of a driver,” Haas added. “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.”