How Many Formula 1 Drivers Have Died Over The Years?

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The top race speed for an F1 car was recorded as 223 mph or 360 km/h. With cars flying around the circuits at such speeds,  F1 has had to implement stringent safety regulations to prevent fatalities as far as possible. Sadly though, over the sport’s 74 seasons, 52 legendary F1 drivers have died in horror crashes. Here are the details of their final races.

1. Cameron Earl

On June 18, 1952, Formula 1 experienced the first tragic death. Cameron Earl, aged 29, was testing an R14B car for the English Racing Automobiles team (ERA) at the MIRA test circuit in Warwickshire. Earl’s car flipped, and the young technical consultant passed away in hospital due to skull fractures.

2. Chet Miller

At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 15, 1953, Chet Miller was out on a practice lap when his left front wheel went into the gravel, causing the car’s back end to spin into a concrete wall. Momentum bumped the car another 300 feet as far as Grandstand D. Sadly, the 50-year-old did not survive the horrific crash.

3. Charles de Tornaco

Charles de Tornado was a Belgian racing driver who drove his final lap on September 18, 1953, at the Autodromo di Modena in Italy. He rolled his car during practice, sustaining critical head and neck injuries. With no adequate medical services at the tracks in those days, Charles succumbed to his injuries on the way to the hospital in a private car.

4. Onofre Marimon

On July 31, 1954, this 30-year-old Argentinian F1 driver was out trying to improve his times. He hit a ditch, then a tree and the car subsequently flipped several times, trapping Onofre Marimon under the vehicle. He died shortly after he was rescued.

5. Mario Alborghetti

Mario Alborghetti fell victim to the hairpin bend at the Pau Grand Prix on April 11, 1955. He seemed to hit the accelerator instead of the break, careening into the hay bales on the side and died from severe chest and head injuries.

6. Manny Ayulo

American F1 driver Manny Ayulo’s car, crashed into a concrete wall on May 16, 1955, during practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had   no seat belt and had filled his pockets with wrenches. He died the following day.

7. Bill Vukovich

Two weeks after Manny Ayulo died at the Indianapolis 500, F1 was again in mourning as Bill Vukovich died in a chain-reaction accident on May 30, 1955.

8. Eugenio Castellotti

The Italian Castellotti was testing a Ferrari 801 on March 14, 1957. After being told to accelerate, he hit a curb, and his body was thrown from the car. He died instantly.

9. Keith Andrews

Keith Andrews became the third victim of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 15, 1957. While practicing, his car went into a 360-degree spin and crashed into a retaining wall. He broke his neck and perished on the spot.

10. Pat O’Connor

America F1 driver Pat O’Connor died in a 15-car pileup at the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1958. He rolled the car, and it caught fire.

11. Luigi Musso

On July 6, 1958, Italian Luigi Musso was killed in the tenth lap of the French Grand Prix when his Ferrari went into a spin, hit a ditch, and flipped before landing. He died later that day.

12. Peter Collins

Collins suffered fatal injuries at the German Grand Prix on August 3, 1958, just two months after his teammate and rival, Luigi Musso’s death. Strangely, the accidents were almost identical.

13. Stuart Lewis-Evans

The 28-year-old Brit died 6 days after his 1958 Moroccan F1 race accident. His Vanwall’s engine seized, slamming him into the barriers and causing his car to go up in flames.

14. Jerry Unser Jr.

Jerry Unser Jr. lost control of the F1 Kuzma on turn 4 during a practice lap on May 2, 1959. The car spun, smashed into a wall, and somersaulted down the straight before bursting into flames.

15. Bob Cortner

Bob Cortner entered the Indianapolis 500 in 1959 as a rookie. On one of his qualifying laps, his car was caught in a crosswind, causing him to hit the outer wall. He bashed his head on the steering wheel and died from head injuries on May 19, 1959.

16. Harry Schell

On May 13, 1960, Harry Schell was practicing for a non-championship race and lost control of his Cooper in the rain. Sadly, he crashed into a barrier at Abbey Curve and did not survive.

 17. Chris Bristow

The Belgian Grand Prix of June 1960 was a day of horrors. The practice had already seen two accidents, with one driver left paralyzed and another with broken bones. DURING THE RACE, the UK lost two of its drivers, including 22-year-old Chris Bristow, who was flung out of his car and decapitated by some barbed wire while his body was thrown back onto the track.

18. Alan Stacey

The second young Brit to lose his life at the Belgian Spa-Francorchamps was Alan Stacey, who lost control of his Lotus 18 at the same spot as Bristow just 5 laps later. A teammate said a bird had hit Stacey’s visor, causing him to lose control.

19. Shane Summers

Shane Summers was practicing for the Silver City Trophy at the Brands Hatch Circuit on June1, 1961, when he spun out of control at Paddock Hill. He slammed into a concrete wall near the entrance to the pit tunnel.

20. Giulio Cabianca

The young Italian Giulio Cabianca was testing a Cooper T51 at Modena on June 15, 1961. Two weeks after the last formula 1 death, Cabianca was fatally injured. His car jammed in fourth gear and hurtled through a gate onto a public road, ramming into vehicles head-on and killing three people.. Giulio passed away later in hospital.

21. Wolfgang von Trips

On September 10, 1961, the Italian Grand Prix must have been one of the sport’s biggest tragedies. Wolfgang von Trips had collided with Jim Clark, and his car flew up the bank next to the track. He crashed into a fence, killing fifteen spectators and himself.

22 Ricardo Rodriguez

On November 1, 1962, Mexican driver Ricardo Rodriguez died in front of his home crowd in Mexico City. He was out on an unofficial practice in the Lotus 24 when his right rear suspension failed. He crashed into the barriers, dying instantly.

23. Gary Hocking

It is still unclear what caused Gary Hocking’s Lotus to double somersault after veering off the track at the Natal Grand Prix in South Africa on December 21, 1962. He passed away later in a Durban hospital.

24. Carel Godin de Beaufort

The Dutch nobleman was driving a Lotus 718 during practice at the German Grand Prix on August 1, 1964. His car left the road, and he was flung out. He died from severe head, leg, and chest injuries the following day.

25. John Taylor

The Nürburgring circuit, Germany, was again the site of a fatal crash, this time of the British driver, John Taylor. On August 7, 1966, his car collided with Jacky Ickx’s vehicle. He survived but was severely burned and succumbed to his injuries a month later.

26. Lorenzo Bandini

Lorenzo Bandini was in second place at the May7 1967 Monaco Grand Prix. His car burst into flames after it clipped the chicane and overturned. The blaze intensified as some nearby straw bales caught fire. Marshals could not get Bandini out for some time, and he died three days later from his burn wounds.

27. Bob Anderson

It was a rainy day at Silverstone on August 14, 1967. Bob Anderson was testing the Brabham BT11 ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix and hit a marshal’s post. The Brit broke his neck and passed away later that day.

28. Jo Schlesser

July 7, 1968, was another tragic day in the history of Formula 1. During the second lap, the 40-year-old Frenchman Jo Schlesser crashed his Honda RA302 in the French Grand Prix. His car was highly flammable, causing flames to leap fifteen feet into the air and span the road in a wall of fire. He did not survive the horror smash.

29. Gerhard Mitter

Mitter, a Formula 2 driver, was due to break into Formula 1 in 1970. Still, while practicing at Nürburgring on August 1, 1969, his car’s steering failed, causing his fatal accident.

30. Martin Brain

This British driver was dicing another driver in a race planned by the Nottingham Sports Car Club at Silverstone. On May 25, 1970, Martin Brain died as his Cooper T86B veered off the track and landed upside down.

31. Piers Courage

A month after the death of Martin Brain, his countryman, Piers Courage’s car plowed into the dunes at the side of the track, with the wreckage resembling a ferocious bonfire, taking the life of the young Englishman.

32. Jochen Rindt

The Italian Grand Prix of 1970 saw the death of the first driver to win the drivers’ championship posthumously. Just before he died, he had a 20-point lead in the drivers’ standings, but the car’s brakes failed and flew off the track during qualifying.

33. Jo Siffert

Jo Siffert, affectionately known as “Seppie,” was a Swiss driver who had two F1 wins under his belt at the time of his death. On October 24, 1971, Siffert’s car rolled because of a mechanical failure, and he was trapped underneath the flaming BRM P160.

34. Roger Williamson

The young Roger Williamson’s torturous death has haunted F1 for years. On July 29, 1973, at the Dutch Grand Prix, Williamson’s left rear tire blew, and when he crashed, his car burst into flames. The yellow flags were put out, but no help was sent to the burning vehicle. Another driver, David Purley, tried to help but couldn’t lift it on his own. Williamson was burned alive.

35. Francois Cevert

In a qualifying lap at the USA Grand Prix, 1973, Francois Cevert’s car went a little too wide through the bends, and he hit a barrier at 90 degrees, dying instantly from terrible injuries.

36. Peter Revson

American Peter Revson was racing at the South African Kyalami track on March 22, 1974, when a ball joint on the car failed, sending him flying into a barrier at high speed. Before help could arrive, he died on the scene.

37. Helmuth Koinigg

Exactly a year after Cevert passed away at the USA Grand Prix, the same race track, Watkins Glen, took the life of Helmuth Koinigg. His suspension failed, causing the car to slam into a barrier. The bottom part buckled and decapitated Koinigg as the car sent straight under it.

38. Mark Donohue

Donohue came out of retirement at the Austrian Grand Prix of 1975, only to suffer a fatal crash. One of his tires blew and sent him flying through several fences and billboards. He and a marshall who was hit by debris both died two days later.

39. Tom Pryce

The South African Grand Prix of 1977 was the site of one of the most gruesome freak accidents that took the life of Tom Pryce and Frederick Jansen van Vuuren, a marshal. As the marshal ran across the track to help another driver whose car had caught fire, Pryce collided with him, his vehicle cutting the marshal’s body in half. Pryce was partially decapitated by the strap of his helmet.

40. Brian McGuire

Australian Brian McGuire was practicing for the August 1977 Shellsport International Series at the Brands Hatch Circuit when he lost control of the racing car. He careened into the marshal’s post, and both McGuire and the marshal were killed.

41. Ronnie Peterson

The Italian Grand Prix of 1978 saw a 10-car pileup of epic proportions. Riccardo Patrese started a domino effect accident, resulting in Ronnie Peterson suffering multiple leg fractures. After surgery, he was in a stable condition. Subsequently, he died from a fat embolism, which sometimes happens after a thigh fracture.

42. Patrick Depailler

Depailler died ten days before the 1980 German Grand Prix after his car crashed into the Armco due to a suspension failure, sustaining catastrophic head injuries when the vehicle overturned and flew over the barrier. Before flipping onto its top, the Alfa Romeo skidded along the top of the guard rail for several hundred feet.

43. Gilles Villeneuve

In the qualifying rounds of the Belgian Grand Prix of 1982, the Canadian Ferrari driver hit the back of Jochen Mass’s car in an error of judgment. The car flew into the air, and bounced nose-first onto the track, disintegrating as it flipped a few times.

44. Riccardo Paletti

Five weeks after the death of Gilles Villeneuve, Riccardo Paletti crashed into the back of a car that had stalled. Pironi, the driver of the stalled car, stopped to try and help Paletti out of the car before it went up in flames. It was twenty minutes before he was freed – too late.

45. Elio de Angelis

On May 14, 1986, de Angelis was testing at Ciruit Paul Ricard. His car had a rear wing failure, causing him to fly through the air, and roll, landing upside down. Elio only had a broken collarbone, but he was trapped in the inverted Brabham BT55. The car caught fire while people tried to right it. De Angelis died the next day. At that stage, there were very few rescue teams on testing days.

46. Roland Ratzenberger

During the second qualifying session for the San Marino Grand Prix, April 30, 1994, Ratzenberger had a minor accident. It broke and got stuck under the car, causing it to slam into the outside wall at 197 mph. He didn’t know that his right wing had been damaged.

47. Ayrton Senna

The legendary Brazilian died during the San Marino Grand Prix after Ratzenberger was killed. Senna was distraught at Ratzenberger’s death but decided to race anyway. His car slid wide at the Tamburello bend and smashed into a concrete barrier, killing him instantly.

48. John Dawson-Damer

It seems that John Dawson-Damer had a fatal heart attack while driving in the Goodwood Festival of Speed on June 24, 2000. He tore into a wooden gantry, killing himself and marshal Andrew Carpenter.

49. Fritz Glatz

Austrian Fritz Glatz lost his life during the Czech Superprix on July 14, 2002. He bounced on a curb, and his car catapulted into the air. Glatz passed away due to his injuries.

50. Denis Welch

A the Silverstone circuit on July 27, 2014, Denis Welch crashed into two other cars that had collided. He was rushed to a medical center but died from his injuries.

51. Jules Bianchi

The Japanese Grand Prix on October 5, 2014, was very wet, causing Jules Bianchi to collide with a recovery vehicle. He was placed into a medical coma and died 9 months later, never having regained consciousness.

52. David Ferrer

Ferrer passed away five days after crashing during the Historic Grand Prix. He lost control of his car in a fast corner. Medics resuscitated him, but he passed away five days after the crash.

Conclusion

So many lives were lost during the early years of Formula 1 due to a lack of medical support on and around the track. In the last twenty years, F1 has radically improved its safety regulations. This is evident in that far fewer drivers pass away these days. Thank goodness.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Formula_One_fatalities

https://f1.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_fatal_accidents

https://www.f1-fansite.com/f1-drivers/list-of-formula-1-drivers-that-died-racing/

https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/how-fast-is-an-f1-car-top-speeds-of-f1-indycar-motogp-and-more-4980734/4980734/

https://motor-racing.fandom.com/wiki/Manny_Ayulo

http://indymotorspeedway.com/memorial_1957.html

https://f1i.com/magazine/67594-f1i-classic-unforgettable-harry-schell.html

https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/database/drivers/giulio-cabianca/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricardo_Rodr%C3%ADguez_(racing_driver)

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12850665/gary-hocking

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carel_Godin_de_Beaufort

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Taylor_(racing_driver)

https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/database/drivers/bob-anderson/

http://en.espn.co.uk/f1/motorsport/story/56635.html

https://newsroom.porsche.com/en/2019/history/porsche-works-driver-gerhard-mitter-50-death-anniversary-18284.html

https://www.grandprix247.com/2017/06/21/remembering-piers-courage/

https://www.bbc.com/sport/formula1/54973818

https://www.sportscasting.com/the-tragic-circumstances-of-formula-1-driver-roger-williamsons-horrific-death-in-1973/

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/521297-the-loss-of-cevert-the-prodigy-that-never-got-to-be-the-master

https://www.hemmings.com/stories/article/peter-revson

https://www.nytimes.com/1975/08/21/archives/mark-donohue-returns-to-die.html

https://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/british-racing-driver-tom-pryce-dies-freak-accident-during-south-african-grand-prix

http://atlasf1.autosport.com/2000/ita/preview/peterson.html

https://montrealgazette.com/sports/auto%20racing/death-of-riccardo-paletti-in-1982-ranks-as-worst-gp-memory

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