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Formula One History: Five Of The Worst Accidents
17 September 2019
Part of Formula 1’s appeal is certainly the driving skills of the competitors as well as the awesome speed and incredible power of the racing cars on view. Yet another compelling aspect is the knowledge that these young drivers are exposing themselves to all the inherent risks and challenges of hurtling around racing circuits at almost supersonic speeds. Yet those who follow motor racing and track spinsports betting analysis will probably know that the sport’s accident record in recent times has much improved. But even though it’s statistically true that the picture is improving, over the years there have been some very serious incidents. Here are some details about five of the baddest accidents in Formula 1 motor racing history.
1) Michael Schumacher, British Grand Prix, 1999
Afterwards, Michael Schumacher freely admitted it was almost impossible to forget about the horrendous accident he suffered during the British Grand Prix. As he prepared for the race, Schumacher could be forgiven for thinking there could be very little worse than the three years Ferrari had just endured without a racing title to their name. But he was mistaken. During the opening lap at Silverstone, his Ferrari’s brakes failed, causing him to shoot across the track at Stowe corner and smash straight into a solid tyre barrier. Not only were Schumacher’s 1999 title hopes reduced to shreds, he had also broken his leg. He missed the race re-start, of course; but he also had to sit out the following six races in order to recover from the injuries he sustained. Winning later titles can certainly help, but Schumacher could never completely erase that moment from his mind. ‘It’s not exactly a pleasant feeling,’ he later recalled, ‘driving into a wall (without brakes) and knowing what's in store for you.’
2) Ralf Schumacher, US Grand Prix, 2004
Williams driver Ralf Schumacher suffered a spectacular crash driving in the 2004 US Grand Prix at Indianapolis. His car burst a rear tyre and collided with a concrete wall. Eye witnesses suggest that, had the collision occurred at just a slightly different angle, Ralf Schumacher may well have lost his life. As it was, the US doctors who examined him declared he had sustained little more than some bruising to his back, accompanied by severe concussion. Consequently, he was discharged from hospital and allowed to fly back home to Austria just one day later. Still in a great deal of pain, the Williams driver was re-examined when he arrived back in Europe. This time the medics discovered he had actually suffered two spinal fractures, injuries which would take at least two to three months to heal, and effectively rule him out of much of that year’s Formula 1 race calendar – including both the French and British Grand Prix events.
3) Felipe Massa, Hungarian Grand Prix, 2009
The horrific accident involving Felipe Massa occurred during the pre-race qualifying phase of the Hungarian Grand Prix. While driving on the track, the talented Brazilian racing driver suffered a blow to the head which quickly rendered him unconscious. It seems a spring, weighing around 700 grammes, managed to detach itself from the Brawn race car driven by Rubens Barrichello. Massa’s Ferrari was driving behind Barrichello, so the flying object struck him on the head, just a little above his left eye, while he was travelling at a speed of around 175 mph. The Ferrari Massa had been driving ended up colliding with a four-layer trackside tyre barrier and Massa suffered bleeding and swelling to his eye, which was successfully treated in hospital after he was put into an artificial coma. He had in fact managed a somewhat miraculous escape. The projectile struck only inches from his cornea and could thus have inflicted far more serious and potentially life-threatening injuries.
4) Mika Häkkinen, Australian Grand Prix, 1995
Another driver to suffer injury during a qualifying session, Mika Häkkinen’s McLaren car sustained a left rear tyre puncture just as he was about to negotiate Adelaide’s fast Brewery Bend. The blow out caused Häkkinen’s car to fly off the track and crash into a flimsy tyre wall. When the crash occurred, he was travelling at a speed of 124 mph. Suffering multiple injuries, the McLaren driver was trapped in his car for three minutes. One of the doctors who fortunately attended the scene promptly had to make an incision in Häkkinen’s trachea to allow him to breathe properly. This critical emergency measure undoubtedly saved Mika’s life on that fateful day in 1995. To everyone’s great surprise, Mika Häkkinen was back behind the wheel around four months later, and the brave Finn eventually went on to secure two further drivers’ championships.
5) Heinz Harald Frentzen, Italian Grand Prix, 2000
In a horrific accident on the first lap of the Italian Grand Prix – which Jordan driver Heinz Harald Frentzen consistently describes as the ‘darkest moment’ of his career – a trackside race marshal, Paolo Ghislimberti, 33, was killed by a damaged wheel flying through the air. Many initially blamed Heinz Harald Frentzen for reckless driving which led to the crash, but an inquiry after the race concluded that the tragic event should just be deemed ‘a racing accident’. The fatal event happened as the drivers were negotiating a tricky chicane, and many participants felt that Frentzen’s poor driving technique was what caused him to clip the rear of the Ferrari driven by Brazilian ace, Rubens Barrichello. This triggered a multiple pile-up during which a stray wheel was hurled into the air and thus causing the fatal injury.