Craziest Moments in F1 – Part Two: Incredible Crashes
In part two of our Craziest Moments in F1 feature, we look at some of the biggest and craziest crashes Formula One has ever seen. The nature of Formula One is such that speed and ego combine to create a very hazardous working environment for the drivers and even today, with improved safety standards, crashes still occur and some are really spectacular. Even in the 90’s when safety standards were starting to come in following the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, there were incidents that shocked television audiences and spectators and it was a miracle that those drivers walked away.
Here are 4 of the most incredible grand prix crashes from the last 20 years.
Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps 1998
This was considered to be the biggest crash to ever have happened in Formula One. It was a massive 13 car pile up in an incident that was instigated by David Coulthard’s Mclaren sliding into the barrier and veering back across the track, ahead of the whole pack turning round La Source hairpin at the end of the back straight. This was at the start of the race and so with the pack arriving at the corner together there was an incredible amount of spray, with weather conditions and visibility at a minimum, it was destined to be an accident-prone race. But one car after another hit each other as they desperately tried to avoid cars ahead of them. Wheels bounced loose, debris went as high as the chain link fence and it was carnage.
Miraculously, noone was hurt and the race was able to be restarted under a safety car and in fact it was this race that caused the FIA to consider weather conditions and to introduce the safety car when visibility was dangerously low. It took an hour to restart the race and it became a crucial race in the title race as Michael Schumacher easily led the field at the midway point but an incident with Coulthard’s Mclaren caused both to retire and to ultimately shatter Ferrari’s title hopes once again. It was a high-tension race due to the weather but Damon Hill went on to win in the unproven Jordan and Schumacher nearly came to blows after their incident when the German confronted the Brit in the garage, ready to “start swinging punches”. It was a day for big incidents and an unforgettable Belgian Grand Prix. Click to see the carnage for yourself.
Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne 2002
Not known for it’s race incidents but more for its timidness Melbourne was the first race of the 2002 season and usually delivered nervous drivers and lots of mechanical retirements, after the long winter break. However, it wasn’t natural retirements that caused headlines as Ralf Schumacher’s Jordan ploughed into the back of Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari taking them both out, along with several others and scattering debris in every direction. It was a dramatic accident because it was as the cars gained speed from the start line and Ralf Schumacher literally launched over the top of the Ferrari as Rubens moved slightly across to defend the racing line. The speed and nature of the accident and the fact it was less than 10 seconds into the new season make this one of the more dramatic incidents in F1.
Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, 2007
This will go down as one of the most violent of crashes of the last 20 years of Formula One. Robert Kubica’s BMW hit the wall coming down to the hairpin at 300kph and barrel-rolled multiple times back across the circuit. It was a miracle noone was killed, although Kubica was prevented from driving in the following race. It’s believed that he experienced intense deceleration at around 2.8g. That type of g force is excessive even for a Formula One driver and audiences were stunned when the BMW flew across the track. Check out the video here
German Grand Prix, Hockenheim, 2001
This incident occurred in the German Grand Prix when Schumacher’s Ferrari had trouble with its gear selection from the start line. Unfortunately, this is one of the fastest tracks on the calendar and with such a long straight before the first turn, speeds were reaching over 130mph before Luciano Burti’s accelerating Prost ran into the back of Schumacher’s slowing Ferrari and launched into the air. He subsequently landed on Burnoldi’s Arrows car and scattered half of his car across the track. Luckily noone was seriously injured and the race continued.