Seven Fatal Accidents in Formula 1 Racing: A Fan’s Take

With open cockpits and high speeds, the Formula 1 series has long been exciting and fun for fans. However, those same factors also increase the danger to the drivers. Here are seven drivers who were killed in the series.

Roger Williamson and Piers Courage

Roger Williamson and Piers Courage died in nearly identical accidents. In 1970, Courage was killed at the Dutch Grand Prix when his car hit an embankment and flipped. He had been driving a De Tomaso which lightened the car with the use of magnesium, a highly flammable material. When the car flipped, he was trapped. The car caught fire and exploded, killing Courage. In 1973, Williamson was racing at the same track when he also hit an embankment at the same turn and overturned. He was trapped as his car slowly caught fire. The only one who came to his rescue was a fellow driver who was unable to lift the car. Williamson died when the fire got out of control. There was no reason for Courage's car to be using magnesium or for the rescue workers to not attempt to save Williamson or call for a red or yellow flag.

Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey

Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey died at the same track during the same race within minutes. Bristow typically ran a slightly reckless race, taking chances other drivers would not. At the 1960 Belgium Grand Prix, Bristow failed to negotiate a sharp turn, hit an embankment and flipped. His car hit a barbed wire fence, which decapitated the driver. Stacey's fatal accident occurred in the same turn, but it was speculated that a bird hit him just before he crashed. He did not hit the fence in the same way. Stacey was well known for racing with a prosthetic leg. The race likely should have gone to caution or to a red flag so that the accidents would not have happened within minutes of each other.

Tom Pryce

In 1977, at the South African Grand Prix, Tom Pryce and a track worker were both killed in a crash. An earlier crash ended with a car on fire, and track workers ran across the track with fire extinguishers. As one worker ran across, Pryce's car was unable to avoid the worker and the car hit him, killing him instantly. The fire extinguisher the worker had carried hit Pryce in the face and killed him instantly. The track workers failed to stop traffic or call for a caution before crossing the active race track.

Ronnie Peterson

In the 1978 Italian Grand Prix, Ronnie Peterson was involved in a large crash. His legs had been badly injured, but he was conscious after being pulled from the wreckage. After being left on the track for up to 18 minutes without treatment, he was finally transported to a hospital. Before he could receive surgery, he died from a fat embolism. Doctors had found that bone marrow got into his blood stream due to the waiting at the track, which made the injury worse.

Ayrton Senna

In the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna was in the lead when the car's steering column broke, causing Senna to veer off and hit the wall at a high rate of speed. Though officials got him out of the car, he sustained massive head injuries and died shortly after. Senna had planned on running the race in memory of a rookie driver, Roland Ratzenberger, who died the day before. Senna's crash was the fatal crash that was a wake up call for the Formula 1 series.

Kristin Watt has been a fan of motorsports since she was a young girl and she watched NASCAR races with her mother. That love of NASCAR quickly evolved into a great enjoyment of many different motorsports including everything from local dirt track action to the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans to the adrenaline rush of the extreme motocross events. She has been following motorsports for many years.

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Updated Friday, Oct 21, 2011