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F1's Forgotten Potential

matt hillCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2010

Hi

To say F1 us dangerous is an understatement. People began to forget that until the Felipe Massa incident in Hungary last year. The fact that the sport hasnt experienced a fatality since 1994 doesn't mean the sport is not still possibly a killer. There will be someone else killed in F1; it's a matter of if, not when.

One of the most dangerous decades in F1 was the 70's. Through this decade there were the deaths of Ronnie Peterson, Jo Siffert, Jochen Rindt and thats to name just the more famous drivers. There was also the most bizarre fatal crash in F1 with Tom Pryce and the tragic loss of Roger Williamson.

The 70's was a decade of extravagance with sponsership becoming more and more important and technology was evolving more. However, whilst technology and speeds were increasing there was no real improvements in the standards in safety. Do you think honestly that an incident similar to that that happened during the 1975 Spanish GP,would happen now? Never.  

Now most people who know F1 have heard of all of the individuals listed above but one of the most unfortuante deaths in F1 was not on that list. One of the most tragic, bizarre and unfortuante deaths in the history of F1. It was an accident that really proved how unconcerned officials were with driver safety.

When you read the deatils further on in this article remember that the Roger Williamson incident had already happened where due to poor circuit safety a young man was killed when he otherwise could have easily been saved.

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I am referring to the tragic loss of young Austrian Helmuth Koinigg. Now to most people that name will mean absoultly nothing so I will give you some background information on his life.

He was a talented driver without doubt racing in touring cars, Formula Vee and Formula Ford. He had trobule with securing funds so he never had the best of equipment and he never therefore could ever really challenge for wins that otherwise he could of been challenging for, without a huge a degree difficulty especially in single seaters. He was a safe bet to secure a podium more often than not in these catagories.

If he was in the modern day he would of been looked at by one of the teams for a young driver programme I think Red Bull Racing would have been intrested in him for a drive at STR. Was he the finest driver of the day? No he wasn't. He was a good driver without doubt and he could of been a solid F1 mid-table competitor. He would of been a Nick Heidfeld for that era.

During the end of the 1974 F1 season he managed to just about get enough sponsership together to get himself a Brabham BT42 car which was a 2 year old car and was entered for the 1974 Austrian Grand Prix and rather unsurprisingly he failed to qualify. Could you imagine anyone being able to qualify a 2 year old F1 car against modern F1 machines? No.

However his performance was enough to catch the eye of John Surtees. John Surtees offered him the drive for the final 2 races and looking forward to the 1975 season where they were going to run Koinigg as a full time driver. He was being looked at as good prospect for the 1975 season.  

He had a good run in the Canadian GP performing solidly qualifying in 22nd position out of the 26 and he managed to keep his car on the road and he ended up finishing in 10th position overall 2 laps down. Not amazing and mind blowing but he didn't have the best of cars and for a new driver the performance has very good.

All was looking good for Helmuth with the United States Grand Prix being the final race of the season and Helmuth was looking to end on a high. He qualified in 23rd place and was having an ok race and then on lap 9 tragedy struck. Helmuth went off the road due to a suspension failure.

This wasn't at a particularly high speed part of the track so he sould of been fine. But due to the negligence of the track official the armco barrier wasn't secured properly and when his car hit it the bottom part of the armco, it gave way. However whereas the bottom part of the armco gave way the top half didn't budge.

The Surtees went through the armco but Koinigg's head hit the top half which didn't move. As the car kept going Koinigg stood no chance. The unfortaunte Koinigg was deciptated.  Another bright career was over.

Helmuth Koinigg is a man that very few have heard about. There is no footage of the crash so his crash hasn't become one of those thats on youtube. He didnt win any races, points or really anything in F1 so he doesn't go down in history because of that. He goes down in history because of the amount of potential he had that sadly remains unfufilled.

Helmuth Koinigg RIP

A great driver never forgotten

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