• Alan van der Merwe is a former racing driver turned F1 medical car driver.
• He was part of the crew that saved Romain Grosjean's life.
• Alan has an extensive history in racing.
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The 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix will forever be remembered for the crash that almost took Romain Grosjean's life. However, one of the biggest talking points around the incident is about the team that pulled the Haas driver from the fiery wreck. Alan van der Merwe, a South African, was part of the crew that arrived on the scene first.
Alan has been tasked with driving the Formula 1 medical car since 2009, and has been doing his job with great success. When a race gets underway, Alan - accompanied by the FIA's medical doctor, Dr Ian Roberts, and another medical personnel - is the one driving the Mercedes-AMG station wagon that tails the string of F1 cars. The task is simple: stay behind the F1 cars and get the doctors to the scene of an accident as quickly as possible.
For the last 12 seasons, Alan's job seemed like a fun thing to do (to the uninformed eye, at least), but all the year's training and practices came to a head last night when Grosjean's Haas caught fire immediately after hitting the barrier.
Van der Merwe said: "It was a big surprise for us as well, we've never seen that much fire in 12 years. Romain started to get out of the car himself which was pretty amazing after an accident like that. It was a relief to see he was okay. It just goes to show all the systems we've developed worked hand in hand - the halos, the barriers, the seatbelts, everything all worked as it should.
"Without just one of those things, it could have been a very different outcome."
Who is Alan van der Merwe?
Now 40-years-old, Alan has been involved in motorsport all his life. Growing up, he'd watch his father, Bruce, compete in various motorsport codes. It was at the age of 17 that Alan decided to pick up racing - rather late considering that most youngsters get involved in motorsport at a very early stage. It was in 1998 that he entered the Dutch championship, followed by the Formula Ford Slick 50 British Championship the following year. After two seasons in karting, he made the jump to bigger racing series, including Formula Ford and Formula 3.
In 2001, he won the Formula Ford Festival championship, and in 2003, the British Formula 3 championship.
READ: SA race car driver Alan van der Merwe part of crew that rescued Romain Grosjean from fiery F1 wreck
In 2006 and 2007, he raced for Team South African in the A1 Grand Prix Championship. Prior to racing in A1 GP, Alan also signed on to the then-BAR Honda's Young Driver's programme and completed several tasks for the team as they developed their Formula 1 car. In 2005, he became the fastest F1 driver ever, albeit unofficially. That year, in early November, at the Mojave Airport in California, Alan recorded a speed of 413.205km/h in an F1 car. The highest in the sport's history.
Though he never formally raced in F1, the opportunity to drive the medical car came around in 2008. He agreed to the new venture in his career and lined up for the first race of the 2009 season. And the rest, as they say, is history.