A high-octane sport like Formula One comes with it’s own set of challenges –out of which the greatest will definitely be the threat it poses to human life. Romain Grosjean’s heart-stopping crash in the Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend is a fine example of the same – despite all the precautions and the technological advancements in F1, the sport will always carry an element of risk to it that can explode at any moment. This of course, contributes to the thrill of the sport but it is important to appreciate the risk the racers carry at any given moment for our entertainment.
In this article, we take a look at the worst crashes in the history of F1:
5. 1978 Italian Grand Prix:
Losing his first choice car in the practice session, Swedish driver Ronnie Peterson was forced to start with the old model of Lotus. The race was defamed with a technical error of an early start signal which ultimately wreaked havoc across the track.
The later cars getting a rolling start rushed in to the grid and in an attempt to gain position, congested the track. James Hunt crashed into Peterson’s car and the Lotus burst up in flames after colliding with the barrier. In total, he suffered a total of 27 fractures in his legs and toes and despite wrestling with death for more than 24 hours; he finally succumbed to it the next morning.
4. 1955 Monaco Grand Prix:
Two-time world Champion Alberto Ascari was involved in the crash though he escaped following a broken nose.
Starting the race 2nd in the grid, Ascari was battling Mercedes duo J.M Fangio and Sir Stirling Moss. Sir Moss was leading the race however, in the 80th lap his engine blew up. Ascari gained the lead and was hopeful of victory.
Approaching from the tunnel, a significant misjudgment caused his Lancia D50 to break through the barrier, into the harbor. Sudden disappearance from the view raised concern among the common public. However, he swam his way out and was rescued by a boat.
Ascari was led to the local medical institute and was diagnosed with a broken nose. Even though he got away with a minor incident, the crash could’ve been fatal.
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3. 1976 German Grand Prix:
The naughty Nurburgring circuit, commonly known as the ‘Green Hell’ saw one of the most frightening incidents ever. Overcast conditions posed security concerns over the race authorities though they were against the cancellation of the race.
Niki Lauda called for a boycott of the race, which was not passed owing to the loss of one vote. Lack of safety materials and facilities pointed out the horrors of the race. During the second lap, Lauda’s Ferrari swerved off track and hit an embankment before setting on fire.
Lauda was trapped inside the burning car and picked up significant burns to his body. The contaminated air damaged his lungs and infiltrated his blood with impurities. The racer lost a significant part of his face to the fire.
Following medical aids, Lauda slipped into a coma and the racing world was certain of losing him forever. The hospital too performed his last rites and awaited his parting moment. Surprising everyone, Lauda survived miraculously and actually won multiple championships after this incident.
2. 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix:
Although there were no major casualties, Grosjean’s accident with the Haas car in Bahrain last weekend has sent shockwaves throughout the racing world. The accident occurred on the opening lap of the race, when Haas driver Grosjean veered across the straight that runs between turns 3 and 4. In doing so he clipped the oncoming car of Daniil Kvyat and was sent off the circuit towards the barriers.
What followed was perhaps the most shocking scene in recent Formula 1 history. The Haas car struck the barrier at a sharp angle while travelling at 137mph (221km/h). This appears to have resulted in the barrier being split open and the front of the car becoming wedged within it. While the precise reason for this failure is yet to be determined it is highly concerning, placing not only the driver but trackside workers in extreme danger.
A large fire ensued, and it took Grosjean 32 seconds to escape from it. Although he had minor burns on his hands and legs, it was still a scene that has shocked every racing fan across the globe.
1. 1994 San Marino Grand Prix:
The San Marino stretch was the gallery of bloodbath in the year 1994. Each session was smeared with tragic incidents and remains a black mark across the pages of F1 racing. Rubens Barrichello, during the Friday qualifiers faced serious trouble as his car became airborne and struck the tyre wall fence. He escaped with a broken nose and an arm as major loss was waived off.
The broken bones were only a start of tragedies as Saturday qualifiers saw a death in the tracks. Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger was riding his Simtek-Ford, which rammed straight in the concrete barrier. The impact instantly killed Ratzenberger and two incidents in two days smeared ink in the Grand Prix history.
If you think this was it then you’re wrong. The main race day too was met with another incident. Following a small crash, a safety car was deployed for several laps. The race resumed from the 6th lap, with Senna leading with Schumacher behind.
Quickly into the next lap, Senna looked comfortable with the lead. Not anticipating what lies ahead, Ayrton Senna quickened his pace and was looking to cover the Tamburello corner. His car skidding off track and instead of making a perfect turn went straight ahead and rammed into the concrete wall.
Senna was recovered with a weak heartbeat and significant blood loss. Airlifted to the local hospital, chances of survival were bleak. The three times World Champion breathed his last later that evening.
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