5 Worst F1 crashes in the hybrid era

Last year's Belgian GP had a horrifying first corner crash.
Last year's Belgian GP had a horrifying first corner crash.
George Howson

Ever since Sir Jackie Stewart and others campaigned for greater protection to be implemented into Formula 1 in the 1960's, the safety of the sport has gradually increased. As the cars got faster throughout the 70's and early 80's, deaths continued to be a regular occurrence, but after the tragic accidents involving Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger in 1994, fatalities have been extremely rare.

Motorsport and F1 will always be dangerous, purely because of the speed in which the drivers travel at, but the risk of serious injury and death has been greatly reduced in the previous few decades. Although, there have been times where the pilots have dodged bullets, even since the switch the V6-turbocharged engines in 2014.

#5 Raikkonen & Alonso, Austria 2015

Although a relatively low-speed impact, this crash could've ended in tragedy.
Although a relatively low-speed impact, this crash could've ended in tragedy.

Kimi Raikkonen had a poor qualifying for the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix, the Finn found himself in the midfield melee during the first lap. The opening tour was as far as the 2007 world champion would go, though, as he spun his rear tyres up going out of Turn 2 and collided with an unfortunate Fernando Alonso. Raikkonen's Ferrari got underneath Alonso's McLaren, sending the Spaniard diagonally into the barriers on the outside of the circuit. The cars came to rest with the McLaren on top of the Ferrari and dangerously close to being where Kimi's head was at the time.

The reason why this crash makes it onto this list ahead of incidents with a higher impact (such as Max Verstappen's Monaco shunt the same year) is due to the real risk of a fatality. With this being less than a year after Formula 1's first fatality in two decades, more emphasis was placed on the development of the Halo, and we'll cover how important that device has been since its introduction in 2018.

#4 Kevin Magnussen, Belgium 2016

Kevin Magnussen was lucky to avoid serious injury in Spa 3 years ago.
Kevin Magnussen was lucky to avoid serious injury in Spa 3 years ago.

Kevin Magnussen is one of the most polarising drivers in Formula 1. Some fans praise him for his speed, defensive robustness and his brutal honesty, while other lament his overzealous defending and what could be considered to be poor attitude. However, what isn't up for debate is the Dane's commitment, K-Mag's old school in that he's ready to lay everything on the line to be as quick as possible. That approach could've been to his detriment at the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix, as Magnussen suffered what to date is his biggest crash in F1.

Renault were struggling during their first season as an F1 constructor since 2010, fighting with the Saubers and Manors to avoid the wooden spoon in that year's constructor's championship.

Incidents ahead of the Renaults meant that Jolyon Palmer was running in seventh, while Magnussen was in eighth, but Kevin wasn't going to settle for that. K-Mag followed Palmer up Eau Rouge, but perhaps too quickly, as Magnussen lost the back-end of his car and flew into the barriers at the exit of Raidillon. The impact was so great that it knocked his head-rest out of the car, making the danger of a severe head injury all the greater. Thankfully, though, Magnussen avoided serious injury, and took part in the following race at Monza as normal.

#3 Alonso & Gutierrez, Australia 2016

Alonso's McLaren was little more than a smouldering wreck after his shunt down under.
Alonso's McLaren was little more than a smouldering wreck after his shunt down under.

While Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were leading the race on Lap 17 of 57 of the 2016 Australian Grand Prix, our attention would soon be drawn further back down the grid.

Fernando Alonso of McLaren was challenging Esteban Gutierrez for the lower reaches of the points, and Alonso seemed as though he would overtake the Mexican with relative ease going into Turn 3. However, Gutierrez swerved and broke unusually early, something that even Fernando's cat-like reflexes couldn't react in time for.

'Nando's McLaren ploughed into Esteban's Haas and got airborne, not touching the ground again until well into the gravel trap, ending up at the edge of the barriers. His MP4-31 was a wreck, but the Spaniard was still in one piece and emerged from the smouldering wreck, albeit with a limp.

Needless to say, the red flags were brought out, but more importantly, both the involved in the crash were relatively alright. The double world champion would miss the next race in Bahrain as a precaution, handing an F1 debut to Stoffel Vandoorne.

#2 Turn 1 crash, Belgium 2018

Alonso's McLaren was once again a wreck in Belgium two years later.
Alonso's McLaren was once again a wreck in Belgium two years later.

The Halo was a controversial addition to the Formula 1 regulations ahead of the 2018 season, but this crash changed a lot of fans' opinions. While Magnussen showed the danger of Spa's high speed, the first corner of the famous Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is no stranger to large pile-ups. La Source has seen spectacular incidents in both 1998 and 2012, but this was perhaps the worst. Turn 1 is a tight hairpin, which means that it's inevitable that collisions somewhere in the field will occur, but nobody saw what happened last year coming.

Going into the first corner, Nico Hulkenberg locked up both his front wheels - possibly due to a brake failure - and slammed into the back of Fernando Alonso's McLaren. Alonso's car spun around, collected the rear of Charles Leclerc's Sauber, and got airborne. Fernando's car came down on top of Leclerc's, in an incident that resulted in those three cars retiring immediately, plus both Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo later.

If Leclerc's Sauber hadn't had a Halo on it, Alonso's McLaren would've almost certainly made impact with the youngster's helmet. If that would've happened, the consequences don't bare thinking about. The Halo had a lot of doubters before the Belgian GP last year, it had little to none after it, as it probably saved one of the biggest prospects in motorsport's life.

#1 Jules Bianchi, Japan 2014

The 2014 Japanese GP was sadly Jules Bianchi's last.
The 2014 Japanese GP was sadly Jules Bianchi's last.

Unfortunately, this had to be number 1.

The reason why the Halo was introduced into F1 is largely down to this tragic crash. The attention was largely at the front of the race, as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg continued their season-long battle for the driver's title in Japan. The race was plagued by heavy rain thanks to a Typhoon throughout, so much so that the initial start had to be abandoned after a few reconnaissance laps before the Safety Car. The eventually got underway about half an hour later, and aside from Fernando Alonso's Ferrari cutting out behind the SC, the entire field was still circulating.

That remained the case until Lap 42 of 53, when Adrian Sutil ran wide and off the track at the Dunlop corner, just after the famous "S" curves. The rain had eased somewhat during the race, allowing drivers to switch from extreme wets to intermediate tyres, but it had once again picked up by the time of this incident.

Sutil was unharmed, and his Sauber was being routinely extracted by a tractor crane in order to clear any hazards. However, it wasn't done so quickly enough to avoid Jules Bianchi, who aquaplaned on the same tarmac as Sutil and flew off the road. Bianchi's car collided with the rear of the tractor crane, and slid underneath it, destroying most of his Marussia in the process. The impact was so severe, that Bianchi was thrown into an unconscious state before being transported to the nearest hospital. Jules remained in this condition for nine months, before passing away in July 2015. He was only 25 years old, and is one of Grand Prix racing's great lost talents.

Jules Bianchi remains Formula 1's most recent - and hopefully last - fatality during a Grand Prix.

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Edited by Kingshuk Kusari


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