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5 worst crashes in the history of Formula 1

Track marshals clear the debris following Romain Grosjean
Track marshals clear the debris following Romain Grosjean's crash during 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix. Photo: Getty Images
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Modified 23 Feb 2021
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Formula 1 is undeniably one of the most exciting sports to watch. But lurking behind the spectacle of speed is the danger which accompanies it all the time. One small mistake can leave the drivers with severe injuries, or worse, take their lives.

Over the years, the number of fatal crashes in Formula 1 has decreased significantly due to multiple safety reforms. Even Grosjean's fiery crash in Bahrain last year, which saw his car split in two, allowed the Frenchman to walk away under his own power.

Unfortunately, the important safety measures in Formula 1 that saved Grosjean's life came as a result of reactive changes over the years. Here, we will look back at the 5 worst crashes in the history of Formula 1.

#1. San Marino Grand Prix of 1994 saw some of the worst crashes in Formula 1 history

Medical team surrounds Ayrton Senna after he crashes during the San Marino Grand Prix. Photo: Getty Images
Medical team surrounds Ayrton Senna after he crashes during the San Marino Grand Prix. Photo: Getty Images

The 1994 San Marino Grand Prix weekend is widely regarded as one of the most tragic in Formula 1 as Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna lost their lives on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Even before these fatal accidents, Jordan's Rubens Barrichello suffered a crash during Friday's practice when his car came to a violent stop against the tyrewall at the Variante Bassa section. Fortunately, he survived the incident.

During the following day's qualifiers, Simtek driver Roland Ratzenberger lost his life after a damaged front wing caused him to lose downforce at the end of the fearsome Tamburello sweeper and crash into a concrete wall. Although he was quickly airlifted to a hospital, he was declared dead upon arrival. This was the first death at a Grand Prix since Riccardo Paletti in 1982.

The disastrous events of this unlucky weekend at Imola didn't stop there as, on race day, triple world champion Ayrton Senna’s car veered off track in the middle of the same Tamburello bend and struck the outside retaining wall. Upon sustaining skull fractures, multiple brain injuries, and a ruptured temporal artery after a tie rod pierced his helmet, the legendary Formula 1 driver was gone forever.

Already shaken by the death of Ratzenberger and Barrichello's accident on Saturday, Senna was apparently rethinking his decision to participate in the race. But he eventually decided to go ahead with it, which cost his life.

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This tragic weekend led to Formula 1 introducing a host of safety measures during the rest of the season and in the years that followed.

#2. The 1961 Italian Grand Prix was deadly for the audience

The 1961 Italian Grand Prix at Monza was the penultimate round of that year's Formula 1 championship. Moments after the start, a disastrous accident on the approach to the Parabolica corner not only took the life of Wolfgang Von Trips, a leading title contender from Ferrari, but also killed 15 spectators.

Wolfgang Von Trips in his car before the start of the Italian Grand Prix, 1961. Photo: Getty Images
Wolfgang Von Trips in his car before the start of the Italian Grand Prix, 1961. Photo: Getty Images

The unfortunate event took place when the cars of Jim Clark and Von Trips collided. The impact on Clark was less severe as his car came to a halt after skidding for a few meters. However, Von Trips' car flew into the fencing at the edge of the circuit as he lost control, and crashed into the doomed spectators, while Von Trips died instantly as he hit the ground on impact.

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Published 23 Feb 2021, 19:07 IST
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