Romain Grosjean crash, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

“We are human beings, not objects”: Vettel criticises Grosjean crash replays

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel has joined Daniel Ricciardo in criticising Formula 1’s coverage of Romain Grosjean’s crash during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Footage of Grosjean’s high-speed impact, and escape from the huge fire it caused, was replayed several times while the race was suspended yesterday. No replays were shown until it was known that Grosjean had emerged from the crash without serious injury.

Vettel said he stopped watching the videos of the crash which were being broadcast on screens at the circuit.

“Once I got the message he was out of the car obviously that was a big relief,” said the Ferrari driver. “Then I didn’t look at the images too much. I went to my room and just waited to get ready again, which I guess was a good thing.

“I disagree with the fact that you have to show the images over and over again. In the end we are human beings racing and not objects.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020
‘I disagree with showing the images over and over’
“I know that people like the car being on fire and crashes and it’s exciting but actually it’s not exciting when you’re in the car. Maybe it’s something we can learn as well, that we don’t need to repeat showing the images.”

However Vettel said he preferred being able to get back into the car soon after the crash, despite having seen what happened to Grosjean.

“Of course you are human and we love what we do and that comes first,” said Vettel in response to a question from RaceFans. “But even if you respect what you do, then you probably still underestimate what can happen. I don’t think anybody expected that type of accident today.

“So it was a bit weird but ultimately I guess it was the best to get straight back in the car and not wait for a week and think too much.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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48 comments on ““We are human beings, not objects”: Vettel criticises Grosjean crash replays”

  1. Sorry Mr. Vettel, but the science of neo-Darwinisim tells us you’re a random if not fortunate collocation of atoms… an object, not a subject. You’ll have to explain yourself.

    1. Determinism you mean.

      1. Darwinism is deterministic, I’ve never heard of neo-determinism before but I suppose it’s equally descriptive!

        1. As it has been newly determined

    2. Can someone tell me with little words what Robert and Yaru talking about. My english is rather crude while understanding a lot but didn’t learn the bigger words myself.

  2. I’ve been watching since early 80s and crashes are just a part of it. Of course we want to see them all in all their gory detail, particularly when we can be fortunate enough to see the driver walking out of it with a few scratches, and marvel at the level of security achieved by FIA-F1.

    On the other hand, they are entertainment for the masses. Ads pay for their luxuries. Let’s not forget that.

    Also, I found curious Hamilton’s tweet, mentioning they risk their lives at every race… It’d be interesting to make a chart of job-related injuries and deaths from F1, other sports, and regular jobs. I’m quite sure F1 would not list particularly high on it, on the contrary, I’m sure modern F1 is quite safe: it’d be enlightening to find it safer than, say, postal office work.

    1. We’ve had 3 F1 drivers die over the last 25 years from a 20 member workforce. With 633108 postal workers in the US alone, that would mean about 4000 of them would die on the job every year. Now I know “going postal” is/was quite a thing in the US, but I saw some figures stating that 2 per 100.000 is the average death rate. So about 12 per year. Quite a lot lower than 4000.

      1. Since we are talking about hard numbers, is the 633108 figure represent only postmen or all post employees? F1 drivers are the top of the crop, when it comes to representing the danger of the sport. So maybe a US post service isn’t the best comparison. How about secure mail delivery men in Afghanistan or Somali or something.

    2. You’re forgetting there are only 20 drivers in F1 @esteban, so comparing to ‘regular jobs’ would be disingenuous. Percentage wise F1 is safer than it once was, but it is still very dangerous in a relative sense as f1osaurus mentions. It doesn’t take a genius to work that out.

    3. you’d have to expand outside of F1 to get a meaningful sample size, but i’d bet that if you did a study of professional racing drivers, you’d find that their time on track is when they are least likely to die. Not to say it isn’t dangerous, just that there are so many steps taken to protect them that aren’t practical for regular life.

    4. Who really wants to see crashes!!!
      I want to see drivers at their best, there are the occassional contact but I for one will not watch races because I want to see cars smashed into bits.

      1. We might not watch to see crashes but we do watch because there’s a POTENTIAL for crashes. If all danger were eliminated, would it have the same appeal?

      2. I started to love this sport with a VHS called “crashes, crashes, crashes” in 1988. I have never seen a race in my life, I was born in 1981, loved cars, aware of the existence of racing, but never have seen it, because in Spain there were not many racing in TV and my parents were not interested. I saw that VHS repeated dozens of times and I literally freaked out every time, thinking that there were people with so much love for cars and speed, that will risk their life only to win a race, or only to overtake other car for the 21st position. This is what F1 means for me. Of course, after that, I have learned about all the engineering, the perfection of the machines and setups, the smoothness of driving, etc etc etc. but crashes are in the grassroots of this sport. For me, one of the reasons for what a race is more interesting than other sports, is the danger. If you eliminate the danger, racing is just like other normal sport. I’m not saying that “the more dangerous, the best”, this is stupid, I don’t want persons being injured, and even less, killed, but if you have an accident like that, a crash with fire, a moment when you can show the real danger that the drivers are facing only for their love for the sport (not “for our entertainment” like I have read in other places) and the driver is completely safe, I don’t understand why you have to not show the replays and every angle of the crash. In fact, if I were a child of 7 years now, just like when I saw the “crashes crashes crashes” VHS for the first time, seeing Grosjean emerge from the flames unscatted, He would have given me such a feeling that I would have considered him a superhero and of course I would be looking forward to seeing the next race eager to see the rest of the heroes. Probably Grosjean created more F1 new fans yesterday than in one of his complete seasons. And Sebastian, fans are who are paying you your salary, remember that.

        1. In those times this was quit normal I started to watch in the sixties (no internet) and if i wasn’t there you get the edited version in polychrome journals in the cinema. But still it was quit gore sometimes.

    5. Saying that F1 is safe depends on how you define safety.
      If you refer to the number of injuries/deaths per year then yes it seems to be safe. It is very likely that even football has more deaths per year than F1.
      But, if you refer to the number of injuries/deaths per event then f1 is very high on the list. Remember that we have about 20 races per year whereas in Champions League and Europa League alone we have more than double this figure per week.

  3. Maybe TV should not cover Ricardo or Vettel at all so their families cannot see what they are doing, but the rest of us would like to know what exactly happened….

    1. I like to believe Ricciardo and Vettel were still in shock. Otherwise they have lost sense of what it is exactly that they are doing and how come they can earn an ample living with their sport. We didnt see ANY coverage until we saw Romain talking and moving first. Kudos there. The we saw the horrible footage but with the knowledge of the outcome. Whether it is repeated or not doesnt matter. You can simply rewind 1000x anyway should you want to. And yes, they are broadcasting your sport. So why on earth not that part?

  4. I do understand the emotion and shock involved in seeing one of their colleagues involved in a considerable accident but ultimately the f1 world feed is not for the benefit of the drivers but for the viewers around the world. Once I knew the driver and track workers were ok I was happy to watch the replays so I could try and understand what happened. I never want a driver or worker to be hurt but the crashes and other dramatic moments are the gladiatorial moments that make f1 exciting for the non geeks.

    1. Remember the Romans themselves eventually banned these “gladiatorial” sports, although I’m sure there was much interest in the finer points of the technique of combat. They were eventually found too repugnant. It’s 2000 years later so we can move on from accommodating the non-geeks as well.

      1. Crashes have always been part of and the appeal of motorsport, all the intros for the UK tv and now the official liberty released f1 intro has drivers crashing, fainting and spinning. All part of the drama. I am one of the geeks looking at tyre compounds and timing screens but people watch for crashes too.

        1. You can be interested in all the technical, tactical and sporting things of F1, and at the same time, see a crash and want to see it from all angles to try and understand it. Crashes are part of motorsport. Motorsport without crashes is just athletics with a machine.

    2. Another part to that is also that with the delay, inevitably viewers would be tuning in later, maybe they had just not made the start, or were planning to tune in towards the end or who knows, and surely they would want to learn what happened, why aren’t they racing.

      So while one who was watching from the start would have had seen the footage several times after an hour, those that tune in later might see it for the first time on one of the repeats.

  5. Maybe time to move on from marketing F1 as a bloodsport in general. I’m sick of seeing replays of Alonso’s Australia crash in every program lead-in. Fans don’t watch for the crashes. Fans don’t like crashes. Really bad crashes are in fact a threat to the sport—injuries and deaths to the sport’s most valuable properties, drivers, is no longer “part of the game.”

    However, in this case, I would consider it different. Because it was just basically showing people what happened, not replaying it over and over with thumping dubstep to get people pumped for a race. I’m inclined to give Vettel some space on this one, because even today thinking about Grosjean climbing out of the flames seems shocking. If you have to look at than and then jump back into the car, then you might have a different sense.

    1. In agreement with this.

  6. If Roman had been seriously injured or had, god forbid, perished, they wouldn’t have shown a single second of the incident on TV, and they probably would’ve cancelled the race and not had a replay of what race there was on F1TV.

    How do I know this? That is exactly what happened when Hubert and Correa crashed in F2.

    But since Grosjean was pretty much fine, I see no harm in showing what happened. Not like Twitter and other places wouldn’t have been full of videos of the incident anyways, it also didn’t “help” that literally nothing else other than the start happened and they had 75 minutes of air time to fill. So yes, a couple of interviews with Steiner and such, some footage from the pit lane preparing for the restart, and replays of the start and crash. What else were they going to show?

    I get it hits close to home and it rattles some of the drivers, but they can opt not to watch as Vettel admits to doing himself. That’s fine and I appreciate that, but other than that, it’s part of the race and they replayed it a couple of times in between shots of repairs, pitlane, and interviews and that seems fine by me.

  7. I get that it must be awful for the drivers to see what can happen and realize that they could in fact die if things go just a little bit more worse.

    I have to say I was also feeling unwell from watching the footage. Especially the initial footage. On the other hand I also felt that it was it good that we did see that he got out more or less safely. Also good to see the heroics of that medical car skidding to a halt at the scene with the fire extinguisher at the ready.

  8. I tend to agree that showing Romain Grosjohns crash and escape is valid tv, as soon as his injuries were confirmed as “minor”.
    But showing it too often and asking any and everyone for their comments, eventually is boring ad trivializes the situation.
    Then we revert back to base ghoulish instincts which do none of us any favours.
    Just know when to stop. We allow the media to thrust it down our throats and need them to draw a line.

  9. I know this crash was horrific, however crashes that could kill anyone without the modern safety devices are reshown all the time – including fires. Many times crashes are shown when the dricer has sustained minor injury. If Vettel has a problem with this, then he is in the wrong sport/business.

    Besides what happened to Grosjean was a miracle, both in terms of luck but also in how much it promotes and celebrates the safety advances of F1 over the decades. This is not the first time the halo has saved a life, but it is the most clear cut and extreme example. And the incident being as a dramatic as it is, etched into the minds of any remaining doubters of the halo. How it protected him from impact and allowed him to go out quickly.

  10. If SV and DR are upset at the number of times they replayed the crash, I get that, for they are drivers themselves and that is just how they feel about it. All I can add is that I personally did not think they went overboard considering the quickness with which RG got out of the car under his own steam. And of course there was time to fill during the coverage and they were able to marvel at the safety of the modern F1 car. They were also able to express to the audience how rare fire is these days and why. Had it been different I doubt they would have replayed the crash.

    1. @robbie reasonable points. The only thing I’d add is that they could have handled the time filling and marveling a how rare fire is etc. without the need for constant replays from multiple perspectives. That was, in my opinion a showing of how lazy the team at sky are becoming – it was easier to fill the screens with replay footage than to have an intelligent conversation between themselves.

      I’m glad that Nikki did not have to witness it, I’m sure he’d have had a thing or two to say as the one constant that all drivers have said for many years is that fire is the one thing that terrifies them.

      I’m hoping that the FIA will conduct a very thorough investigation to try to establish why there was such a huge fire because it is such a rare thing to see these days as well as why the car was able to punch under the barrier so dangerously. I’m grateful that Grosjean was able to escape relatively unscathed but gee my heart was in my mouth at the length of time it took for him to get out; so much so that I can’t watch the replay again.

      1. @dbradock Fair comment. I do think they conducted intelligent conversation as they showed the replays, but small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. And yeah I have no doubt they will, and likely have already started, to have a complete and thorough investigation over this. It will be interesting to know how much fuel that was that burned ie. did the bulk of it remain intact inside the fuel cell? Brawn seemed to think that was not 100kg of fuel we saw explode. Overall I think (total speculation of course) there will be more positives than negatives to take from this, especially if after such a violent severing in half of the car the bulk of the fuel remained in it’s cell. There’s the fact that RG survived nearly unscathed which is a testament not just to the strength of the cars with their halos, but of their fire retardation clothing and their ability to get out relatively quickly, all the while I take you point and RG’s that it seemed long.

  11. I’m getting seriously annonyed by these comments from drivers. I feel like this image of people sitting at home going “oh yeah, crash! flames! wohoo!” only exists in some driver’s heads.

    As an F1 fan, you want to hear if the driver is okay as soon as possible and you want to see want happened. Are the marshalls okay? How did it happen? What led to the accident? I want to hear the analysis of experts like Martin or Karun. Was it a driver error? Did something brake that might have implications for the other car? For that, you need to see the replays.

    The only thing to critize here is the delay with which Romain being okay was shown. That took way too long. If you don’t want to show him, at least let the media know as soon as possible. Because Liberty knew and Alex Jacques mentioned it on the pit lane channel instantly after Romain got out of the car, while the broadcasters didn’t have any information at that point.

    1. If you think that the drivers have no right to complain then you are part of the problem. After witnessing the crash, we’re not the ones having to get back into the cockpit. It’s them. Do you not think that it would unnerve someone if they had to repeatedly watch a crash replay of their colleague, and get back into their cars an hour later? It’s so easy to slam their reactions when we’re just watching on our screens, but surely you can empathise with their emotions at that point in time. Like Vettel said, they are humans racing drivers – not robots.

  12. I thought the TV director was impressibly correct in his/her choice of camera angles. Immediately after the accident no further images of the crash where shown. For a while we where only shown cars cruising back to the pit lane. Only when the good news came, we were shown what was going on and what had happened.

  13. Once again Vettel exemplifies common sense, humanity and intelligence.
    His words should be heard by other drivers who glorify morbid and death, to feel macho.
    The Yankee capitalists who owned the category demonstrated once again their utter lack of humanity, morality, and sportsmanship.
    All they care about is making a ton of money as quickly as possible and in any way.
    Humans don’t care at all.

    1. I totally agree. In fact I think LM should totally stop broadcasting F1 live, and just keep it to an evening replay in which they can cut out any crashes that occurred during the race. They can cut out Max swearing too. I am totally fed up with all the crashes they keep showing us.. horrible.

      1. @spafrancorchamps There’s a difference between us watching the live F1 feed and the drivers, for me that’s the point. Vettel and Ricciardo are both experienced and for both of them to voice the same opinion suggests there was a problem in how the drivers themselves were exposed to these images before being expected to restart the race. I’m not saying we shouldn’t see what happened, but there seemed to be no consideration of the other drivers. Plenty of them looked shocked watching. But unlike us they were expected to go back out for a full race after. I can’t judge how they’d feel about that – but Vettel and Ricciardo are making their views known, I think that should be respected.

        1. I think none of us should see this. This is not the Colosseum we are looking at. They are people. The images yesterday almost gave me a heart attack. It is as if I stopped breathing for minutes until I saw Romain sitting in the medical car. My heart felt as if I was having a stroke for the rest of the evening. The feeling was horrible. I can only imagine that Romain’s wife and kids must have felt this 10 times worse. We should not allow for any crashes to be shown anymore. The time of the Colosseum has passed. And the only way forward is to stop broadcasting live. Cut out any crashes. They can give a graphical interpretation of what happened. We don’t need these crashes. We should just enjoy racing and like you say, have some respect for the people driving those cars.

          1. @spafrancorchamps On that I’d have to respectfully disagree, crashes are an intrinsic part of the sport: drivers push to the limit and sometimes exceed it. The result can be anything from a minor excursion of track to a fatal collision. I think they made the right decision to cut away and not show Grosjean’s crash until he emerged safely. I was OK with seeing a bit of what happened, it was important (and in a sense respectful) to show the courage of the medical team and marshals in rescuing him. Obviously that can veer into sensationalism and pandering to a kind of ‘tragedy thirst’ if the producers aren’t careful, and I presumed that was what Vettel was alluding to.

    2. Vettel is right, but so also are those who broadcast.
      There are also lessons to learn from the incident.
      The biggest message from Grosjean’s escape was Never Give Up.
      An absolutely clear lesson on Will Power surmounting any physical discomfort.
      I can almost bet Grosjean’s burnt hands was from struggling with the Halo to pull himself out.
      So the video is actually testament of triumph over adversity.

    3. Or maybe Vettel should just retire. He does not belong in F1. Swearing at Charlie, bumping into Lewis. And now he doesnt understand where his salary came from. Such an uneducated man.

  14. I think Vettel and Ricciardo’s main point was the repeat showings on the grid while they were waiting for the restart. Clearly there was no consideration of sparring drivers the sight of one of their colleagues narrowly escaping death, letting them the drivers how the images were now Formula 1 marketing ware, and maybe implying how thrilling it might be (for marketing purposes) if it happened to them too. By ‘objects’ I guess Vettel means ‘expendable commodities.’ He’s right, that is how it felt. Like hearing a Coliseum audience cheering as one of your gladiator mates is almost mauled by a lion.

  15. When Dan Wheldon was killed back in 2011 the tv broadcasters showed endless replays of the accident, even after his death had been confirmed by Indycar officials. Four years later the same thing happened with Justin Wilson’s accident that, at the time, we did not know he would die but most of us knew it was gravely serious.
    Now I know this is another series, in another country, but it is still motor racing. It is a live event, with an audience watching in real time. I am old enough to remember the Hillsborough disaster, the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers, and the Lockerbie bombing. Everyone of those events was a tragedy, and two of those events were terrorism on a massive scale. Everyone of those events were replayed to death by mass media, even all those years ago. That is the nature of the beast, that is life, whether we like it or not.
    Hamilton is Right, every time those drivers step into the car they risk death. Not just in F1 but the junior series too. There is no escaping it, or the coverage it garners. Look how many people watched clips of Bianchi’s accident, or Senna’s. It’s all on YouTube, there are even compiled clips of multiple crashes online, some of them fatal.
    So, if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.

  16. Although being a Seb fan, I think that in this case he and Daniel are wrong. The tv direction showed firstly Romain safe, then the footage of the crash. Very ugly and unacceptable it could have been changing the priority.

  17. Like it or not but the days when F1 was regarded as a ‘sport’ have long since passed.
    It is now firmly part of the ‘entertainment industry’ and as such the most important metric is viewing figures.
    F1 as entertainment is a quite dry sport, full of numbers and statistics, this is not what attracts ‘Joe Public’ who wants drama and excitement similar to what they see in most films. Lots of shots of cars crashing and people running away from explosions.
    The photo of RG leaping over the barrier against a backdrop of flames was publicity gold.
    Have a look at YouTube, most of the ‘motoring’ channels on there feature clips of accidents and crashes.
    I will make a small wager that the viewing figures for the next race, which happens to be at the same circuit, will significantly increase due to the blanket publicity from this incident.

  18. Motor racing is extremely dangerous. Vettel’s in the wrong sport if he thinks replays of a massive crash where the driver escaped with relatively minor injuries is inappropriate.

  19. Not sure what’s so controversial about Vettel’s quote. There’s a fine line between reporting the accident and informing viewers what’s happened, and sensationalising it by showing the crash from every possible angle. It is safe to say that no one had the complete picture of the crash on Sunday – whatever was discussed by the commentators was a preliminary analysis based on the limited information they had. The viewers didn’t need a blow-by-blow breakdown of the accident there and then, because frankly, no one had the full answer. So why show the crash repeatedly from the different angles? Journalistic ethics come into play here, and I do feel that more sensitivity could have been taken into consideration on Sunday. And to answer comments about the race director having to show something on screens, it’s their job to figure it out – the easiest alternative was to show the activity at the pit lane as they report further updates about Grosjean’s condition and track repairs. But for sure, there was zero need to show endless replays of the crash.

  20. That horrible crash was very scary to watch.

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