Who is Alan van der Merve, the medical car driver who saved Romain Grosjean’s life?
Romain Grosjean of Haas was in the center of one of the most horrific crashes in F1 history at the Bahrain GP. If it was not for the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Medical Car, Grosjean would have suffered much more than burns on the hands and ankle, and injuries in the rib case. The hero inside the car was Alan van der Merwe, who bravely took him out of the fire.
He took the Medical Car duties in 2009, and when asked its significance, he had this to say: “We’ll be most visible if we make a mistake – so the biggest part of the job is being as anonymous as possible.”
Thank you to Medical Car driver Alan van der Merwe, the circuit medical team and marshals for their quick thinking and actions in getting to Romain so soon after the accident 🙏 pic.twitter.com/hkUChcweeq
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) November 29, 2020
He is now a worldwide sensation, with Grsojean’s boss Guenther Steiner leading the compliments.
“I was surprised how you fucking reacted. Thank you.”
The South African van der Merwe then went on to explain the role a bit more elaborately. He is driving the fastest ambulance in the world, clearly not an easy job. But the former racing driver is doing it with aplomb.
“We want to be on track as little as possible; when we are on track we never want to shunt the car, or get involved with any of the race cars. There’s a lot that goes into that, from making sure the cars are mechanically right, to how we drive on the circuit to ensuring there is sufficient margin for error.”
Alan van der Merve could have made it as an F1 racer
van der Merve is a Formula Ford Festival and British Formula 3 champion and has been a test driver for the BAR-Honda’s test driver team. He has also raced in the A1 series for South Africa, finishing seventh in New Zealand.
After saving Romain Grosjean’s life, he was asked for his reactions. He seemed shocked, despite the insanely difficult task he has undertaken for over a decade now.
“It was a big surprise. I have never seen that much fire in 12 years. Romain got out of the car himself, which is pretty amazing after an accident like that. All the systems we have worked to develop, everything worked hand-in-hand: the halo, the barriers, the seat-belt. Everything worked. Without just one of those things working, it could have been a very different outcome.”
This also highlights the importance of the halo, which will go down in history as one of the most significant F1 inventions. The race has been red-flagged for a long time, as fire extinguishers clear out the scene of the accident. Here’s hoping Romain Grosjean recovers at the earliest, and makes it in time for the final two races of his F1 career.