Romain Grosjean has all but admitted he was to blame for his fiery crash in Bahrain last Sunday.
“It went too fast but I didn’t know I had touched Kvyat,” the Frenchman, who left hospital on Wednesday with minor injuries – the worst of which is his burned left hand – told French media.
“I didn’t see him,” Grosjean explained.
“I am annoyed to have cut him off but he was in my blind spot from the exit of turn 1. I looked twice in the mirror because I came out of the corner faster than the others.
“There was debris on the left so I put myself on the right. For me, there was nobody there. It was a light touch but then there was the impact with the barrier which didn’t feel violent. I closed my eyes.”
Almost instantly, upon realising he could not easily pull himself from the fire, he recalls with clarity thinking that “I will end up like Niki Lauda”.
“It was all orange, which was so strange, but I understood that it was burning when the plastic of my tear-off caught fire.
“I tried to get out but I couldn’t, so I told myself that it’s not possible – I cannot end up like this. I tried again and was still stuck. I sat down again. It’s a strange moment when you see death as close as I did.
“I wondered which part was going to burn first, and if it would hurt. I took 53G in my head so obviously I’m a bit stunned. But then I pull like crazy because my left foot is stuck under the pedal.
“I told myself that I haven’t slipped to the other side yet, so I put my hands in the fire and the gloves turned all black and I felt the pain. I knew I was burning my hands but it was the solution to live.”
Grosjean said he began to “shake from the pain” once he got to the medical centre, where FIA president Jean Todt asked for the phone number to call the driver’s wife.
Now out of hospital, he said he had “no trouble” watching the crash footage, and says Formula 1 needs to learn some lessons from his ordeal.
“We have to understand why the gloves burned so quickly, why my head restraint came off and blocked me. We can improve that.
“But helmet, underwear, overalls – it’s amazing because that’s what saved me. We also need to understand why the barrier opened like that. Jean asked me to go to the FIA and to work with them.”
Grosjean revealed that Sebastian Vettel came to see him in hospital on Monday morning, “and we said to each other that we need to have trained stewards – perhaps the same everywhere”.
“The one who saved me is a professional military firefighter. This gentleman knew exactly what he was doing and saved me.”
Finally, Grosjean admitted he had been thinking of a move to Indycar next year, but his only priority for now is to race in Abu Dhabi and assess his feelings.
“I want to find out what I’m capable of, if I still want to do it, if the passion is still there, if I’m afraid,” he said.
“My doubts are not about whether this accident could happen again, but of never wanting my loved ones to go through all of this again.
“A week ago, taking a year off seemed impossible,” he said. “Today, I tell myself that I will be able to kitesurf, ride bikes, see my children, have fun, drink good wine. This crash has changed my life forever.”