Worst F1 Crashes Ever
Certain sports have always been associated with a high level of physical danger, and there can be no question that Formula One is one of them. While injuries and fatalities have declined drastically in frequency in recent decades, F1 will never be an entirely safe sport, given the inherent risks involved in piloting cars at high speeds in competition - check out this F1 preview for more info. Many of the worst crashes have taken place at Grand Prix events, whether the Spanish Grand Prix, Canadian Grand Prix or Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
We can therefore continue to expect crashes - and there’s no question that some of them down the years have been very spectacular and upset the Formula One betting odds. We therefore decided to have a look at just five of the biggest shunts to have affected the sport. And, if you fancy a flutter, make sure you check out the bookies' reviews before doing so.
5. Robert Kubica’s lucky escape
The 2007 Canadian Grand Prix will always be remembered for two reasons: it being the first Formula One Grand Prix to be won by Lewis Hamilton, as well as the occasion of Polish ace Robert Kubica’s very near miss.
His BMW Sauber’s crash into the back of the Toyota of Jarno Trulli sent it flying across the grass, a bump in the ground then springing it into the circuit’s concrete barrier, which bounced the car back across the track.
Somehow, the other cars managed to avoid the bouncing BMW, which finally came to rest on the other side of the track. Otherwise, the incident could have surely had far worse consequences for Kubica than the sprained ankle and concussion that he actually suffered.
4. The loss of a legend at Zolder
The late Canadian Gilles Villeneuve may have never won the Formula One World Championship and tasted victory in ‘only’ six Grand Prix races during his career, but his passion and swashbuckling style nonetheless endeared him to millions of motorsport fans across the world, not least his Ferrari team’s intensely loyal ‘Tifosi’.
The crash that ultimately claimed the much-loved driver’s life didn’t arise as a result of the kind of outrageous on-track risks for which he had become known, but instead due to a misunderstanding between himself and the desperately unfortunate McLaren driver Jochen Mass.
It was during qualifying that the Canadian found himself fast approaching the much slower German, who moved to the right to allow the Ferrari man to overtake him. However, Villeneuve was moving right at the same time to pass the slower car, meaning that the two collided, with the Ferrari being launched some 100m into the air before nosediving into the ground and disintegrating.
At some point, Villeneuve – still strapped to his seat, but without his helmet – was thrown from the wreckage into the circuit’s catch fencing. He was taken by helicopter to University St Raphael Hospital and was diagnosed with a fracture of the neck, but was unable to survive his injuries.
3. The Nurburgring conflagration that Lauda somehow survived
Have there been many hardier drivers to have ever stepped into a Formula One car than Niki Lauda? If one needed evidence that such a figure would only be in the low single figures, they would only need to look to one of the scariest accidents that the sport has ever seen – or will ever see.
Arriving at the 1976 German Grand Prix with a healthy championship lead, the Austrian had urged his fellow drivers to boycott the race, due to doubts about the circuit’s safety arrangements. Nonetheless, the race went ahead, only for his Ferrari to swerve off the track on the second lap, hit an embankment and burst into flames. As if that wasn’t fiery enough, he was then hit by the Surtees-Ford of Brett Lunger.
The defending world champion sustained horrendous burns in the wreckage, losing his right ear while also inhaling toxic fumes. He entered a coma and his life was in the balance – yet, he pulled off the miracle recovery, turning up in bandages just six weeks later to the Italian Grand Prix, where he finished in an astonishing fourth place.
However, still suffering the effects of his injuries and having missed several races in the meantime, Lauda was unable to prevent Briton James Hunt snatching the driver’s title for McLaren.
2. Martin Donnelly’s career ends while still strapped to his seat
Rising star Martin Donnelly had endured a frustrating season for the Camel Team Lotus team in 1990, the once all-conquering Norfolk team by now long a shadow of its former self. However, the squad’s mediocrity risked turning into outright tragedy when Donnelly suffered a serious crash during practice at the Jerez circuit for the Spanish Grand Prix.
The seat of the Northern Irishman’s Lotus 102 broke free from the car, flinging him clear of the wreckage and producing some of the most haunting images that have ever been seen in Formula One, of the driver lying on the tarmac while still strapped to his seat.
Donnelly’s fellow drivers – including legend Ayrton Senna – understandably thought he had been killed, but he did survive, albeit suffering brain and lung contusions as well as severe leg fractures. He did not ultimately have to have his leg amputated as had been feared, but he never raced in Formula One again.
1. The Crowthorne Corner disaster
The 1977 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami may have been won by Ferrari’s Niki Lauda – then en route to his second world championship title – but the race will always be remembered for the terrible accident that took the lives of 19-year-old race marshal Frederick Jansen van Vuuren and driver Tom Pryce.
Renzo Zorzi’s Shadow-Ford suffered technical problems that were being tended to by van Vuuren and another race marshal, William Bill, on the sidelines at the circuit’s Crowthorne Corner during an exciting race.
Unfortunately, while other competitors in the race were able to drive past the two marshals furiously working on Zorzi’s car, Pryce was unfortunate enough to collide with van Vuuren, who was flung away at a great distance and died immediately.
In the process, the fire extinguisher that van Vuuren had been carrying slammed into Pryce’s head, killing him instantly and almost decapitating him. His Shadow car continued at speed down the main straight, with Pryce’s body still sat behind the wheel. When the car finally left the track at the first corner, it took the Ligier of Jacques Laffite out of the race in the process.
While there can be no doubt of the sheer horror of these crashes, there can similarly be little question that many lessons have been learned from them that have helped to greatly boost the safety of Formula One and motorsport in general.
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