Deaths caused during F1 races

Formula 1 is a high-risk sport and we have witnessed a number of unfortunate incidents including deaths during F1 races. Let us take a look at some of the most unfortunate incidents in F1 history which led to deaths

In the first decade of F1 racing ending in 1960, 18 drivers died while there were 14 more casualties in the following decade. The number of deaths dropped to 10 in the decade leading up to 1980. From 1982 to 1994 five drivers died culminating with the death of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna on successive days.

Further, five drivers died after that till 2017 with Jules Bianchi being the only fatality in a Championship race. Fifty-two Formula One drivers have died to date either while testing, practicing, qualifying, or racing in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas after his huge crash
Imola GP 2021 (F1)

With time, the number of deaths has reduced drastically due to stringent safety regulations and much better quality cars with driver safety being the main point of focus. Since 2001 till date, four deaths have been recorded involving either F1 cars or F1 events. The FIA as well as the Formula 1 drivers and constructors have made concerted efforts to improve safety in Formula 1 racing and the decreased number of casualties is a result of such effective measures.

Top 5 tragic incidents leading to death in F1 history

Let us take a look at the top 5 tragic incidents in F1 history which led to deaths. The following list follows no ranking and is written on a random basis.

Ayrton Senna – 1994

The incident occurred in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix (now known as the Emilia Romagna GP). Ayrton Senna was always vocal about the safety of F1 drivers and was the leading figure in the campaign for the cause. As fate would have it, Senna passed away in a horrific accident in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit.

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During the race, Senna rounded the high-speed Tamburello corner on lap 7, and his car left the racing line at around 307 km/h, ran in a straight line off the track, and smashed against a concrete wall. Within two minutes of crashing, Senna was extracted from his car and his initial treatment took place by the side of his car with Senna having a weak heartbeat and significant blood loss. Senna was airlifted to the hospital and was declared dead in the evening.

Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna won three F1 titles during his career (Image credit: Getty)

Jules Bianchi – 2014

Jules Bianchi was a French motor racing driver who made his debut at the Australian Grand Prix in 2013. Bianchi lost control of his Marussia on 5 October 2014 at the Japanese Grand Prix on a very wet Suzuka circuit. He suffered an extensive brain injury and was placed in an induced coma in a hospital. He was comatose until his death on 17 July 2015.

Roland Ratzenberger – 1994

Roland Ratzenberger, an Austrian driver, lost his life on 30th April 1994 when he crashed during qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. Ratzenberger had damaged the front wing of the Simtek S941 during the previous lap but continued. The high downforce created tore the front wing off and sent it under the car. The car hit the outside wall at 314 km/h ramming the steering wheel inside the cockpit. Ratzenberger was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital in Bologna to which he was airlifted.

IMOLA, ITALY – APRIL 30: Austrian Formula One driver Roland Ratzenberger lies in his car 30 April 1994 just after he crashed during a practice run on the Imola, Italy track. Ratzenberger was practicing for the San Marino Grand Prix 01 May. Ratzenberger died of his injuries according to race organizers and hospital officials. (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Peter Revson – 1974

Peter Revson, a 2-time World Championship Grand Prix winner was killed during a test session before the 1974 South African Grand Prix on the Kyalami circuit on March 22. The front suspension of his car failed, resulting in his car crashing into the Armco barrier on the outside of the Barbecue bend. The car caught fire and Revson was dead before he could be rescued.

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Piers Courage – 1970

Piers Courage was a British F1 racer who died on 21 June 1970 at the Dutch Grand Prix. Courage’s steering or front suspension failed to cause the car to go straight up an embankment and disintegrate. A wheel of the car came off and hit Courage on his head ripping off his helmet. Courage died instantly of a broken neck.

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