10 Shocking Formula 1 Crashes, Zero Lasting Injuries

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2011

10 Shocking Formula 1 Crashes, Zero Lasting Injuries

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    Formula One has a safety record in the modern era that is second to none.  Not since the tragic death of Ayrton Senna in 1994 has a driver died at the wheel, while even minor injuries are few and far between.

    But the cars are not bulletproof.  Given the speeds of the cars, serious injury is inevitable from time to time.  Mika Hakkinen, Olivier Panis and Michael Schumacher are among drivers who returned from injury after terrible accidents.

    We must, however, remember that, while the drivers have been kept safe, two marshals have lost their lives since 1994: Paolo Ghislimberti at the Italian Grand Prix in 2000 and Graham Beveridge at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix. 

    Listed are 10 crashes—all from after 1994—that made me sit up in my seat and stare in concern at the TV until it was clear the driver was OK.  And in most of them, the drivers walked away unaided.  None missed more than one race as a result of injuries, and no spectators or marshals were harmed.

    This slideshow is a tribute to the exceptional engineering of the cars, to the unsung heroes back in the factories who make them that way, to the safety personnel at the tracks and to individuals who have long campaigned for a safer Formula One.

Martin Brundle: Melbourne 1996

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    Any fan who watches or listens to the BBC live race coverage will be familiar with Martin Brundle, who experienced this terrifying crash at the Australian Grand Prix in 1996.

    It was shocking to watch, but this incident stands out as the moment I first realised Formula One drivers are just a little bit mad.

    Brundle hopped out of the shattered Jordan, saw the race had been red-flagged, ran back to the pits and was ready for the restart using the spare car.

    Then crashed it after one lap.

Michael Schumacher, Luciano Burti and Enrique Bernoldi—Hockenheim 2001

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    The start of a race is perhaps the most dangerous part, especially when a car near the front of the grid has a problem and is much slower than the cars coming up behind.

    Michael Schumacher got away very slowly, and while most of the drivers avoided him, Luciano Burti did not.  Hitting the back of the German's car at high speed, the Brazilian was launched into the air.

    Despite doing most of a back flip, a partial corkscrew and landing on Enrique Bernoldi's innocent Arrows, Burti climbed out unharmed.  All three men were ready for the restart.

Mark Webber: Valencia 2010

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    Really big accidents are becoming more rare as the years go by, but this one was a stark reminder of the dangers that still exist even in our modern F1.

    Webber hit the back of Kovalainen's Lotus at almost 200mph and was launched into the air in a spectacular back flip, going so high that he wiped out an advertising hoarding and then landed upside down.

    After a short slide, the car righted itself and Webber ended up hitting the barrier, still going at a fair rate of knots.

    In-car view is at the end of the video, so you can appreciate quite what it felt like.

Everyone: Spa 1998

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    Nowadays, when a track is very wet, the race will start behind the Safety Car.  This crash at the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix no doubt had something to do with that.

    Everyone got through the first corner OK, but on the exit, David Coulthard lost control and speared into the barrier.

    A few drivers got through unscathed, but everyone else, unsighted by the spray and unable to slow down enough in the wet conditions, joined the pile-up.

    The cars involved were Coulthard, Eddie Irvine, Alexander Wurz, Rubens Barrichello, Johnny Herbert, Olivier Panis, Jarno Trulli, Mika Salo, Pedro Diniz, Toranosuke Takagi, Ricardo Rosset, Shinji Nakano and Jos Verstappen.

    Rubens Barrichello and Eddie Irvine suffered minor injuries, but the latter was on the grid for the restart, while Rubens was back for the next race.

Nick Heidfeld and the Medical Car: Interlagos 2002

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    This one lacks the "spectacular" qualities of the others, but probably made me cringe more than most of them.

    Enrique Bernoldi crashed heavily in free practice, and, as is normal at such incidents, the Medical Car arrived at the scene to ensure he was OK.  The session was red-flagged (stopped), but Nick Heidfeld wasn't paying attention and was ill-prepared for the scene he came across on exiting the chicane.

    Fortunately, Medical Car driver Alex Ribeiro waited a few seconds after opening the door before climbing out. 

    Everyone was OK, though Heidfeld's ego no doubt suffered severe bruising.

Allan McNish: Suzuka 2002

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    The 130R corner is located at the end of the long back straight, and drivers experience at least 5g as they take it close to flat out.  That was then—now, the cars can take it flat out in their sleep.

    Allan McNish ran a fraction wide at somewhere close to 200mph, and at that speed, the car was impossible to catch.  He hit the barrier backwards with such force it was left with a gaping hole in it—one of the hardest hits the sport has ever seen.

    He didn't start the race the following day, but thanks to the car, he was fine, if a little shaken.

Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber: Interlagos 2003

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    Before he was a two-time world champion, Fernando Alonso ignored yellow flags and debris on the track.

    Only once, mind you.

    Mark Webber's initial crash was bad enough alone, but what followed was among the among the most hair-raising incidents I've ever witnessed in Formula One.  Alonso hit a wheel that had come away from Webber's car, instantly destroying his suspension and sending him into the tyre barrier at high speed.

    That wheel could have gone anywhere, and Fernando was very lucky to hop out with no lasting injuries.

    He was even luckier to end up classified third in the abandoned race, though he did miss the podium celebrations while he was being checked over.

Jarno Trulli: Silverstone 2004

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    Any crash coming out of Bridge corner at the old (ish) Silverstone is likely to be huge, and this one during the British Grand Prix of 2004 was no exception.

    The Renault left the track and went hard into the tyre barrier at the outside of Priory, sending it into a spin.  The wheels dug into the gravel trap and the car was flipped, ending the right way up but severely damaged.

    Trulli was unhurt and walked away from the wreckage.

Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta: Spa 1999

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    Actually two separate crashes, but placed together because they can't be considered apart.

    During qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix in 1998, Jacques Villeneuve crashed at high speed at the fearsome Eau Rouge corner.  The incident was nearly identical to the one shown here, which he produced in qualifying for the 1999 race.

    The session was stopped, while Villeneuve hopped out unharmed.

    His teammate Ricardo Zonta, not wishing to be outdone, watched a replay of the incident and then crashed in an even more spectacular fashion at the same corner barely five minutes after the session was restarted.

    Both men—and thanks to some brilliant pit work by BAR, their cars—were somehow fit to start the race the following day.

Robert Kubica: Montreal 2007

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    Without question, the most horrifying F1 crash since 1994.

    How Robert Kubica escaped with a light concussion and a sprained ankle is beyond my reckoning.

    He missed the US Grand Prix a week later as a precaution, then came back and finished fourth at the next race. 

    We should all hope he'll eventually recover from his far more serious current injuries.

And the Ones I Missed...

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    Formula One could not realistically be safer than it is today, and thankfully, crashes such as these are becoming more and more rare.

    This is by no means a comprehensive list of every nasty-looking crash since 1994, but I've tried to pick out from my memory a variety of different types.

    Again, no one missed more than a single race due to injuries—that was Kubica, for the 2007 crash.  I deliberately excluded incidents that caused more lasting injuries and the two crashes that resulted in the death of a marshal.