Our editors have compiled a list of the 10 most striking Formula One crashes ever. Some were tragic and some with a happy ending, but surely no crash that we chose here will leave you indifferent.
Niki Lauda (1976)
Surely one of the most horrific crashes in the history of F1 was the one which almost cost the F1 sport one of its greatest drivers, Niki Lauda. It was 1976 and the German grand prix at the Nurburgring. Lauda lost control of his Ferrari in the second lap of the race, his car spun into the barriers on the right side and then back across the track, where he collided with another car and burst into flames. It was his fellow drivers who saved his life, pulling him out from the fire. Although his face was heavily burned, his lungs had been badly damaged by the flames and gasses, although he fell into coma and looked so critical that a priest was invited to read him the last rites, he has survived. But not only he had survived, it's just six weeks later that he sat again into his Ferrari.
Gilles Villeneuve (1982)
1982 was a year of a great tragedy, a tragedy that claims the life of the best and most impressive F1 drivers ever, Gilles Villeneuve. On his final qualifying lap for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, his Ferrari came into contact with Jochen Mass’s car and was launched into the air. The crash was so strong that his car was severely smashed and Villeneuve was thrown across the track still strapped to his seat. Doctors tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation at the scene, but his neck was broken. He died in a local hospital that evening.
Gerhard Berger (1989)
Many probably remember the horrific accident of Gerhard Berger in his Ferrari in 1989 at Imola. It happened at the Tamburello corner, when Berger lost control of his car and hit the wall in high speed, slided down the road and then went on fire since his gas tank was almost full. No one could believe that he had escaped with nothing but bruises and a few burns.
Ayrton Senna (1994)
Sport fans around the world will never forget and never stop mourning the death of Ayrton Senna, not only a master on the track, but also a compassionate and a generous man. It was after his death that it was discovered how he donated millions of dollars to children charities, but always kept it a secret during his life. He died in a sad and tragic way at Imola in 1994, on the black weekend of Formula One. He was leading the race when he left the track and hit into the concrete wall at Tamburello corner. There have always been speculations whether he died at the scene or at the hospital and the lack of information on the cause of death brought up a lot of questions. What is known is that the front right tire with attached suspension piece became loose on impact, hit Senna on the head and pierced his visor, causing the fatal trauma. Here is what professor Sidney Watkins, head of the Formula One on-track medical team reported on Senna’s death:
"He looked serene. I raised his eyelids and it was clear from his pupils that he had a massive brain injury. We lifted him from the cockpit and laid him on the ground. As we did, he sighed and, although I am totally agnostic, I felt his soul departed at that moment."
Roland Ratzenberger (1994)
It is almost unbelieveable when we remember that black weekend in 1994 at Imola when two Formula One drivers died. It is always the unforgetable Ayrton Senna who is mourned and remember, but not many mention the death of Roland Ratzenberger, a rookie in F1, who died a day earlier at the same race. His car crashed into a wall at 314,9 km/h after a front wing failure. The impact was so strong that it broke his neck.
Jos Verstappen (1994)
Although it is not really a crash, we have to mention Jos Verstappen's accident in 1994 in the GP of Germany at the Hockenheimring. It happened during the pit stop, when gasoline was spilled on Verstappen’s car, setting it on fire, with him still sitting inside. Fortunately, Verstappen got away only with a few burns to his nose, although the visor on his helmet was open.
Rubens Barrichello (1994)
As if it was a warning for the upcoming days, Rubens Barrichello had a heavy crash at Imola in 1994 when his car lifted in the air and hit the fence. It was the same weekend that took two F1 lives: a F1 rookie Roland Ratzenberger and the magnificent Ayrton Senna. It was a terrible time for Formula One.
The huge pile-up in Belgium (1998)
The huge pile-up in Belgium in 1998 involved unbelievably 14 cars: Eddie Irvine, Coulthard, Wurz in his Benetton, Nakano's Minardi, and both Prosts, Saubers, Stewarts, Tyrrells and Arrows drivers. It happened at the first start when Coulthard used too much throttle in his McLaren in wet conditions. Surely only a look at the video can best describe what a mess that was.
Michael Schumacher and Luciano Burti (2001)
The crash between Michael Schumacher and Luciano Burti in 2001 at Hockenheim is also worth mentioning. Immediately at the start of the race things went wrong: M. Schumacher had problems with Ferrari's gear selection and started to slow down. Luciano Burti couldn't see that until the last moment because his sight was obscured by Ricardo Zonta. His Prost hit the Ferrari from the back and was launched into the air, and then fell on Bernoldi's Arrows. Luckily, no one was severely hurt.
Nick Heidfeld and Takuma Sato (2002)
The crash that happened between Nick Heidfeld and Takuma Sato in 2002 at Austrian Grand Prix amazingly ended without difficult injuries for both of the drivers. That is a pretty hard to believe after you take a look at the video and see with what kind of force Heidfeld’s car hit Takuma Sato. Sato received medical treatment immediately at the track and suffered a concussion and a few bruises, while Heidfeld was carried away from his car in deep shock.