Romain Grosjean says his main thoughts as he escaped his burning car at t he Bahrain Grand Prix were of his three children, but the Frenchman expects to need psychological support in as he “saw death coming”.

The Frenchman crashed on the opening lap and the impact tore his car in two; the back being ripped off while the survival cell pierced an armco barrier. A massive fire instantly engulfed the car, but Grosjean managed to free himself and emerge from the flames with burns on the back of his hands, jumping back over the barrier towards the FIA medical team. Grosjean took over 20 seconds to get out of the car – making three attempts at climbing out, and revealing the steering wheel flew off in the impact – and said it was the thoughts of his children that spurred him on.

“I’m fine, very fine given the circumstances,” Grosjean said in an interview with French broadcaster TF1, translated for RACER by AUTOHebdo. “My hands look like Mickey’s. They don’t look great but I can move them, that’s the main thing. It’s not painful so I can’t complain.

“I don’t know whether miracles happen or whether we can use that word, but I’d say this was not my time.

“It seemed a lot longer than 28 seconds. I saw my visor becoming orange. I saw the flames on the left-hand side of the car. I thought about a lot of things. I thought about Niki Lauda and told myself, ‘this can not end like this. My F1 career can not end like this.’

“I thought I needed to get out for my kids. I put my hands in the fire so I could feel them burn on the chassis. Then I felt someone pull my racesuit, so I understood I was out.”

Grosjean admitted that he expects the experience to leave a long-term impact on him, but is determined to try and race in Abu Dhabi to ensure the crash is not the final act of his Formula 1 c areer.

“My five-year-old son is convinced I have superpowers, that I have a magical love shield,” he said. “He said I could fly outside the car. These words are very strong. My elder son is more into trying to understand what happened on a rational level, and the youngest has drawn a drawing for daddy’s hand injuries. I was more scared for my relatives than for me. My three kids are my biggest source of pride and energy.

“I think there’ll be a need to do some psychological work because I saw death coming. You have seen the images, and even in Hollywood they can’t do that, the explosion, the car engulfed in flames.

“I’m happy to be alive. I see things differently. There’s also a need to get back in the car, potentially in Abu Dhabi, to end my F1 journey in a different way. It felt almost like a second birth. I’ll remember for the rest of my life pulling out of the flames. A lot of people have reached out with messages of love. It was very moving, and I sometimes have tears in my eyes.”