What thrills everyone about Formula One is the high speeds and skill at which a driver drives. It makes the race fun and exciting. But same factors can also be the means of danger for drivers. The open cockpit and speeding over 100 mph strike some fatal accidents that are unavoidable and has left many close to death or killed them.
Here is the list of the most striking Formula One crashes:
1. Niki Lauda (1976):
Niki Lauda, one of the greatest survivors of the most horrific crashes in the history of F1. In 1976 at the German Grand Prix in Nurburgring, Lauda lost control of his Ferrari in the second lap of the race, his car spun into the barriers on the right side and then back across the track, where he collided with another car and burst into flames. It was his fellow drivers who saved his life, pulling him out from the fire. Lauda experienced heavy burns; his lungs were tortured by the flames and gasses which later put him into coma. There were no hopes that Lauda would survive. In fact a priest was also called for last prayers. But Lauda survived and in just six weeks he was back driving his Ferrari.
2. Gilles Villeneuve (1982):
1982 was the year that Formula One lost one of its most skilled drivers, Gilles Villeneuve. A qualifying race at the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder saw the last glimpse of Gilles. On the final qualifying lap, Gilles’ Ferrari came into contact with Jochen Mass’s car and was launched into the air. The crash was so strong that his car was severely smashed and Villeneuve was thrown across the track still strapped to his seat. Doctors tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation at the scene, but his neck was broken. He died in a local hospital that evening. Gilles Villeneuve, a Canadian racing driver started his Formula One career in 1977 with the McLaren team. He was soon acquired by reigning world champions Ferrari. From that day to his death in 1982 he drove for the Italian team. He won six Grand Prix races in a short career at the highest level. Villeneuve died in a 140 mph (225 km/h) crash.
3. Gerhard Berger (1989):
The year 1989 proved to be lucky for Gerhard as he had narrow escape with death. It happened in 1989 at San Marino Grand Prix in Imola. It happened at the Tamburello corner, when Berger lost control of his car that was at 300 kmph and hit the wall, slided down the road and then went on fire since his gas tank was almost full. No one could believe that he had escaped with nothing but bruises and a few burns. nlike his country man Niki Lauda 13 years earlier Berger had survived a ruptured tank on the Ferrari with only minor burns, a broken rib and fractured shoulder blade. Gerhard Berger was born in Austria, on 27 August 1959. His father Hans was the owner of a quite big truck company and Gerhard started off working as a mechanic and later as a driver for the company.
4. Ayrton Senna (1994):
The death of three-time Formula One World Champion Ayrton Senna on May 1, 1994, occurred as a result of his car crashing into a concrete barrier while he was leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Italy. On lap 7, from the onboard camera of Michael Schumacher’s Benetton, Senna’s car was seen to bottom out heavily (as on the previous lap and during his first laps in the warmup session) and then seen to break traction twice at the rear and strike an unprotected concrete barrier at Tamburello corner. Telemetry shows he left the track at 310 km/h (190 mph) and was able to slow the car down by braking to 218 km/h (135 mph) in slightly less than 2 seconds before hitting the wall. The car understeered strongly off the track, hit the wall at a shallow angle, tearing off the right front wheel and nose cone, lifted slightly with the nose as it straightened, and spun to a halt. After Senna’s car came to a halt, he remained motionless in the cockpit.
Professor Sidney Watkins, a world-renowned neurosurgeon, Formula One Safety Delegate and Medical Delegate, and the head of the Formula One on-track medical team, performed the on-site tracheotomy on Ayrton Senna said “He looked serene. I raised his eyelids and it was clear from his pupils that he had a massive brain injury. We lifted him from the cockpit and laid him on the ground. As we did, he sighed and, although I am not religious, I felt his spirit depart at that moment.”
5. Roland Ratzenberger (1994):
Roland Ratzenberger was an Austrian racing driver who raced in Formula Nippon, Formula 3000 and Formula One. He died during qualifying for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, the same event at which three-time World Champion Ayrton Senna was killed the following day. Ratzenberger was killed during qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix at the Imola circuit on Saturday 30 April 1994. He went off-track on the previous lap, damaging his front wing, but rather than come into the pits he continued since he was competing for the final grid spot. The high speed on the back straight, and therefore high downforce, finally broke the wing off, sending it under Ratzenberger’s car. His car failed to turn into the Villeneuve Corner and struck the outside wall at 195.68 mph (314.9 km/h). The cause of death was a basal skull fracture. The day after Ratzenberger’s death, three-time world champion Ayrton Senna was killed in another accident that brought the sport of Formula One under international scrutiny. The double tragedy was marked before the start of the next race in Monaco, with the front row of the grid left empty and the two slots painted with a Brazilian and Austrian flag.
6. Jos Verstappen (1994):
Although it is not really a crash, we have to mention Jos Verstappen’s accident in 1994 in the GP of Germany at the Hockenheimring. At the end of lap fifteen, Jos Vertsappen dashed into the pits in his Benetton B194 for a scheduled fuel and tyre stop; things went horribly wrong. As the pit-crew worked on the car, it appeared that the fuel nozzle had not been correctly attached. As the fuel began to flow the pressure pushed the nozzle of the refueling rig off the car. A malfunction in the fuel rig meant that the fuel continued to flow after the refueling nozzle had been pulled from the car. Verstappen’s Benetton was engulfed by a massive fireball that lasted several seconds before the pit-crew extinguished the flames. Amazingly, Verstappen emerged from his Benetton largely unhurt. The situation could have been much worse. Verstappen later commented that his visor had begun to melt. Had the fire lasted for just a few more seconds, it is possible Verstappen may not have lived to tell the tale.
7. Rubens Barrichello (1994):
As if it was a warning for the upcoming days, Rubens Barrichello had a heavy crash at Imola in 1994 when his car lifted in the air and hit the fence. It was the same weekend that took two F1 lives: a F1 rookie Roland Ratzenberger and the magnificent Ayrton Senna. It was a terrible time for Formula One. Another incident was the huge pile-up in Belgium in 1998 which involved unbelievably 14 cars: Eddie Irvine, Coulthard, Wurz in his Benetton, Nakano’s Minardi, and both Prosts, Saubers, Stewarts, Tyrrells and Arrows drivers. It happened at the first start when Coulthard used too much throttle in his McLaren in wet conditions. Surely only a look at the video can best describe what a mess that was.