Rookie IndyCar driver Romain Grosjean finishes second, and his scarred hand draws attention

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Romain Grosjean of Switzerland reaches down to pick up his second-place trophy  in the Grand Prix IndyCar Series on Saturday, May 15, 2021, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Grosjean was involved in a crash during a Formula 1 race in 2020 that led to burn scars on his hands. This is Grosjean's third start in the IndyCar series since returning to racing.
Romain Grosjean of Switzerland reaches down to pick up his second-place trophy in the Grand Prix IndyCar Series on Saturday, May 15, 2021, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Grosjean was involved in a crash during a Formula 1 race in 2020 that led to burn scars on his hands. This is Grosjean's third start in the IndyCar series since returning to racing.

This past weekend, IndyStar photojournalist Grace Hollars captured an image of IndyCar driver Romain Grosjean's scarred hand holding his second-place trophy at the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The image went viral on social media and many online readers are asking questions about the story behind it. Here is what you need to know about it.

Who is Romain Grosjean?

Grosjean, who is French-Swiss and lives in Switzerland, is a rookie IndyCar driver for Dale Coyne racing. The 35-year-old Grosjean spent 10 seasons in Formula One racing for a variety of teams, and he has competed in numerous other circuits.

He is married to Marion Jolies and they have two sons, Sacha and Simon, and a daughter, Camille.

May 14, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indy Series driver Romain Grosjean (51) reacts after winning the pole award during qualifying for the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
May 14, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indy Series driver Romain Grosjean (51) reacts after winning the pole award during qualifying for the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

How did Romain Grosjean's hand get burned so badly?

Grosjean was involved in a terrifying crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix on Nov. 29, 2020. His car was literally cut into two pieces, with Grosjean stuck in the front half of the chassis for nearly 30 seconds while it was engulfed by a fireball. He suffered burns across his body, with the worst on his hands.

How did the crash happen?

Jolyon Palmer provides an excellent breakdown of the crash for Formula 1 in the video below that is well worth your time.

The commentary from broadcasts is chilling:

"My god, it's torn the car in half. No wonder the fuel came out of it."

"The fact Romain Grosjean has survived that crash is not only miraculous but marvelous as well. That is just horrendous."

"Every time I see that, it looks more and more horrific."

The front half of the chassis went underneath the Armco barrier and exploded into a fireball. It took several attempts to free Grosjean from the wreckage — the goal is to get a driver out of a wreck within seven seconds. According to Palmer, it took nearly 30 to get Grosjean out — with the safety halo, a curved bar that protects the head — likely saving his life.

The crash was a result of a slow down in front of Grosjean, involving Lando Norris, Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat. That appeared to create an opening on the right side of the track and Grosjean went from the far left side, to the far right, banging tires with Kvyat and sending Grosjean out of control. Palmer speculates that Kvyat was in Grosjean's blind spot.

“First I was very angry with him because he came right across like that," Kvyat said to www.plaentf1.com. "You don’t do this. But then I was immediately very scared for him at the same time because I saw the flames and I was just hoping he was okay, to be honest. That’s the only thing I was thinking."

According to Palmer, it was a 53g impact at 140 miles an hour.

Why is Romain Grosjean still racing?

The crash ended Grosjean's Formula 1 career but he made the decision to continue racing despite initial push-back from his wife and children.

“I’ve done 180 Grand Prixes, and for 179, I’ve never had a question about life or death,” he told IndyStar Motor Sports Insider Nathan Brown in an exclusive February interview. “Look, it’s dangerous, but it’s also super safe. We know the risk, but we shouldn’t focus on one accident. Focus on the fact that, for 179 Grand Prixes, I’ve had some crashes and spins, but I always got out.

“It’s been tough for (my sons). They were watching live, and they understand racing much more than we would like and much more than we think. They understood something was big and wrong and not normal, and their first reaction was, ‘No daddy, you’re not going back racing.’

“But you have to explain to them, at 7 and 5, ‘If I’m the dad I am and the dad they love as a person, it’s because my life is filled with things I want. If I stop because you guys don’t feel like I should go racing, and then I get depressed and bored, what’s that going to be like? No one is going to be happy.’ "

Will Romain Grosjean recover from his injuries?

He effectively has, as he's racing again. IndyStar Motor Sports Insider Nathan Brown reported in February that Grosjean's left hand was still giving him problems in the morning and at the gym — unlike Formula 1 cars, Indy cars don't have power steering — but he was expected to be 90% recovered by May. The scarring should be gone by November and he'll receive a final check up at the one-year mark to make sure he has completely recovered.

“Everyone told me burns are the worst injury,” he said in February. “Initially I thought, ‘This isn’t too bad,’ but that’s because all your nerves are burned. Then, your hand comes back to life.”

► 'I wanted to go where I wanted': Why F1's Romain Grosjean chose IndyCar

Despite the scarring, Grosjean seems to be doing fine. On Friday, he won the pole for the GMR Grand Prix and Saturday he finished second in the race.

It was his first pole since May 7, 2011, in GP2 (now Formula 2), a streak of 3,660 races. He did not start on the pole over nearly 200 Formula One races and his best finish was ninth last season.

“It’s like being alive again,” Grosjean said Friday after edging out Josef Newgarden in the Firestone Fast Six by just over one-tenth of a second. “I wanted something else. That’s what I came looking for. I love the atmosphere. I love the tracks. The car is fun to drive, and we can go at some good stuff. I’m happier than I’ve been for a very long time.”

► Settling in: After pole at IMS, Romain Grosjean may be here to stay: 'I started looking at houses in the U.S.'

Why isn't Romain Grosjean in the Indianapolis 500?

Oval races bring more speed, approaching 230 miles per hour in qualifying for the Indy 500, more drivers and more risk. Grosjean was not comfortable with oval races after his accident on a road course.

“I was literally about 10 seconds from death once in my life," he said. "I don’t feel like I want to take that risk when I’m not in control of what could happen. … I’m more concerned about going into the corner, and some guy crashing in front of you. What can you do then?"

Grosjean is only doing the street and road course for Dale Coyne Racing.

►Practice, qualifying and race day: Here's the complete schedule for the Indy 500

Contact IndyStar Deputy Sports Editor Nat Newell at nat.newell@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NatJNewell.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Romain Grosjean: What to know about his scarred hand from F1 crash