Watching Formula 1 regularly on TV has made it seem slower and made us somewhat immune to the risks undertaken by the drivers, until something horrific happens. Today, all the additional safety measures instituted by the authorities has made F1 safer and drastically brought down the number of fatalities. Still, the potential dangers at every Formula 1 race continue to hang over the drivers´heads like the sword of Damocles. And even today, things sometimes do go terribly wrong and land some of the drivers in horrific accidents. And that sets us all recalling the ones in the past. The grim fatalities that decreed the end of many talented racers.
And then there have been the survivors whose escape from these deadly crashes were nothing short of miraculous.
Here´s a lowdown on five such F1 drivers who were involved in deadly accidents on the track, but managed to survive and race again.
When we talk about the most dangerous accidents in the history of F1, the incident involving Niki Lauda is the first to pop up! Lauda lost control of his Ferrari and collided with the metal barriers. The sheer impack of the crash catapulted the car back onto the track in the path of an oncoming race car. His helmet fell off and he was trapped in a raging inferno in his car. He was pulled out of the car by other race drivers.
Lauda´s face and head were badly burnt, his lungs damaged by inhaling toxic fumes and he had slipped into a coma in the hospital. It was unclear at that point whether he would survive. Forty days later, Lauda was back in the driver seat, showing astonishing resolve. Not only did he race, he was a direct contender for the title despite missing two races (when he was in the hospital). Wearing a modified helmet and ignoring the blood soaked bandages underneath and the difficulty in vision, Niki Lauda came in fourth in his comeback race.
While driving down at high speed, Massa missed a turn and went straight to the tyre barriers. Later inspection revealed that Massa’s helmet had been visibly struck. Turns out, Rubens Barrichello’s car suspension failed and caused a spring to come off and hit Massa’s helmet. The Brazilian racer had to be airlifted. He later underwent emergency surgery for his left eye.
Romain Grosjean’s accident at the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2020 shocked everyone and watching its video still causes goosebumps. After crashing through the barriers, Grosjean’s car got sliced in half and immediately caught fire. Grosjean was trapped in the inferno for a full 27 seconds, with his foot stuck. He managed to wrench his leg out of his shoe and jump out. Although his flame-retardant suit prevented any major damage, it was still a chilling sight to see Grosjean emerge from the crash enveloped in flames. He survived with second degree burns to his hands and a broken ankle. Later inspection revealed that his car crashed the barrier at an estimated force of 67 Gs.
The British driver never failed to miss a single World Championship title throughout his 14 years of F1 racing. The crash involving Coulthard is deemed one of the most significant accidents of F1. Despite the accident’s severity, Coulthard didn’t have any significant injuries.
The race started under heavy rains, and Mika Hakkinen took off the grid in a flash. As Hakkinen sped away on the wet track, water sprayed in his wake onto the car behind. This momentarily hampered visibility, causing Coulthard to lose control and hit the side barriers. His car rebounded onto the path of oncoming racers. The incident created a massive pile-up of 13 cars. Miraculously, no one was hurt.
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During the incident, Mark Webber’s Red Bull car was racing at 190mph on the 9th lap, tailing Lotus´Heidi Kovalainen. When Webber tried to overtake the Lotus car with a tight right hander, Kovalainen hit the brakes sharply. With less than one second to react, Webber braked too late and the Red bull car drove straight into the Lotus car’s rear.
The nose of the Red Bull rose, and the vehicle flipped and landed upside down, pinning Webber underneath. The car then skidded across the race track and crashed into the tire barriers. This horrific crash had everbody expecting the worst, but Webber managed to get out of the car, unscathed.
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F1 has been witness to some spectacular incidents where chances of survival seemed slim indeed. And we will never truly understand what motivates these drivers to keep getting back behind the wheel and risking their lives all over again even after the horrors they faced.
Keyword: F1 Drivers Who Survived Horrific Accidents