Gene Haas has explained how he pulled a planned deal to sponsor Romain Grosjean in his IndyCar career following the Frenchman's huge accident at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Grosjean suffered burns to his hands during the crash, which saw his Haas car split in two and burst into flames. It had already been announced prior to the incident that both Grosjean and teammate Kevin Magnussen would be leaving Haas at the end of the 2020 F1 season, and Grosjean was looking to potentially move to IndyCar for 2021. Haas had been prepared to sponsor the driver in his post-Formula 1 career, but admits he had a change of heart following Grosjean's lucky escape.
"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’."
Despite this, Haas understands why Grosjean still wants to race following the accident.
"You know, Grosjean’s a heck of a driver," the team boss explained. "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."
Grosjean recently completed his first test as part of the Dale Coyne Racing team ahead of the season-opener on April 18.