Deaths in Formula1
Cause of fatalities description

Name Nation Date Place
      (q)=qualifying
Ayrton Senna Brazil May 1, 1994 San Marino GP
Roland Ratzenberger Austria April 30, 1994 San Marino GP(q)
Ricardo Paletti Italy June 13, 1982 Canadian GP
Gilles Villeneuve Canada May 8, 1982 Belgian GP (q)
Ronnie Peterson Sweden Sept. 10, 1978 Italian GP
Tom Pryce Britain May 5, 1977 South African GP
Mark Donahue United States Aug. 19, 1975 Austrian GP (q)
HelmuthKoinigg Austria October 6, 1974 U.S. GP
Francois Cevert France October 7, 1973 U.S. GP (q)
Roger Williamson Britain July 29, 1973 Dutch GP
Jochen Rindt Austria Sept. 5, 1970 Italian GP (q)
Piers Courage Britain June 7, 1970 Dutch GP
Gerhard Mitter West-Germany August 2, 1969 German GP (q)
Jo Schlesser France July 7, 1968 French GP
Lorenzo Bandini Italy May 10, 1967 Monaco GP
John Taylor Britain August 7, 1966 German GP
Carel Godin de Beaufort Netherlands August 2 1964 German GP (q)
Wolfgang Von Trips West-Germany Sept. 10, 1961 Italian GP
Chris Bristow Britain June 19, 1960 Belgian GP
Alan Stacey Britain June 19, 1960 Belgian GP
Stuart Lewis-Evans Britain Sept. 19, 1958 Moroccan GP
Peter Collins Britain August 3, 1958 German GP
Luigi Musso Italy July 6, 1958 French GP
Onofre Marimon Argentina July 31, 1954 German GP (q)

Cause of fatalities description

Ayrton Senna
The weekend of the San Marino GP, Senna was particularly upset by two events: On the Friday of the Grand Prix, during the morning session, Senna's protege Rubens Barrichello was involved in a serious accident that would keep him out of the race.
On Saturday, the death of driver Roland Ratzenberger in practice caused Senna to consider retiring.

A crash at the start of the race caused the caution flag to wave, and Senna was leading the race. But on the second lap after the restart, Senna's car left the track in Tamburello and struck an unprotected concrete wall. Telemetry shows he left the track at 193 mph and managed to slow the car to 135 mph in less than two seconds but it was not enough. The FIA and Italian authorities still maintain that Senna was not killed instantly, but rather died in hospital, to where he had been rushed by helicopter, although the medics had performed an emergency tracheotomy before moving him. Many believe, however, that this was not the case, and the only reason why Senna was not declared dead on the scene is because this would have caused the race to be cancelled and money lost.

What is known is that the front right tyre with attached suspension piece become loose on impact, hit Senna on the head and pierced his visor, causing the fatal trauma. Images of Senna's battered helmet indicate that some sort of puncture had occurred at the top of the visor, just over his right eye. This led to the now most commonly accepted theory that one of the car's suspension bars had came loose and impacted with Senna's head.

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Roland Ratzenberger
He was killed in qualifying for the third race of the season at the ill-fated Imola circuit, ploughing into a wall at the Villeneuve corner at over 300 km/h after a front wing failure, apparently caused by an off-track excursion on the previous lap. A time he had achieved earlier in the session would have been sufficient to give him a place on the grid. The force of the head-on impact was enough to break his neck.

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Ricardo Paletti
When he qualified for the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday, June 13, 1982, it was the first time Paletti started in a full line up. At the start, the lights took an unusual long time to turn to green. During this time, Didier Pironi, who had pole position, stalled the engine of his Ferrari. When the lights switched to green, the other cars swerved across the track, trying to squeeze past the stationary car from Pironi. Unfortunately, Raul Boesel just clipped the back left of the Ferrari, spinning his March into the path of Eliseo Salazar and Jochen Mass. But Riccardo Paletti could not react in time and slammed into the rear of the stranded Ferrari at 180km/h, catapulting it into the path of Geoff Lees. Several other cars were instant retirees.

Paletti sustained heavy chest injuries and was lying unconscious in his car, wedged against the steering wheel. Didier Pironi and Sid Watkins, the FIA's head doctor, were on the scene in a matter of seconds to stabilize and assist Paletti. As Watkins climbed over the wreckage of the Osella, the petrol that had leaked from the fully loaded car's ruptured fuel tank ignited, enveloping the car in wall of fire. The heavy fire was quickly extinguished but by then the critically injured Paletti was without a pulse. He was cut from his wrecked car and rushed to hospital, where he died soon after arriving. It is however a testament to the quality of Formula One's medical team and protective clothing that despite the fire he suffered no burns.

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Gilles Villeneuve
On May 8, 1982, on his final qualifying lap for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, the front left wheel of his car came into contact with the right rear wheel of Jochen Mass's car, which was on a slow 'in' lap. Villeneuve's car was launched into the air before nose-diving into the soft earthen embankment just outside the armco and somersaulting along the side of the track. The violence of the accident reduced the car to its cockpit, and ripped Villeneuve's seat from the back of the monocoque. Villeneuve, still strapped to his seat, was thrown across the track and into the catch fencing just outside the corner. When the medical team arrived, he was not breathing. He died shortly thereafter in hospital. Mercifully, his fatal injuries were likely caused by the force of his car landing for the first time after the initial impact.

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Ronnie Peterson
The 1978 Italian Grand Prix at Monza started badly for Ronnie, when in practice he damaged his Lotus 79 race car beyond immediate repair and bruising his legs in the process. Team Lotus possessed a spare 79, but it had been constructed for team-mate Mario Andretti, and the taller Peterson was unable to fit comfortably inside. The team's only other car was a type 78, last years car, which had been dragged around the F1 circus that season with minimal maintenance.

Come racing time, the grid lined up as normal. The race starter, however, was overenthusiastic and several cars in the middle of the field got a jump on those at the front. The result was a massive crush of cars up to the recently added chicane just before 'curva grande' corner and all hell broke loose. James Hunt collided with Peterson, with Riccardo Patrese, Vittorio Brambilla, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Patrick Depailler, Didie Pironi, Derek Daly, Clay Regazzoni and Brett Lunger involved in the ensuing melee. (Later on, Hunt, among other drivers, unjustly blamed Patrese for starting the accident, and viewers of Hunt's commentaries of Formula 1 races from 1980-1993 on BBC Television were regularly treated to bitter diatribes of Patrese when the Italian appeared on screen).

Peterson's poorly maintained and flimsy Lotus went into the barriers hard and caught fire. Though trapped, Hunt, Regazzoni and Depailler managed to free him from the wreck before Peterson received more than minor burns. He was dragged free and laid in the middle of the track fully conscious, his severe leg injuries obvious to all (Hunt later said he stopped Peterson from looking at his legs to spare him further distress). Scandalously, it took 20 minutes before the Italian circuit dispatched medical help to the scene. At the time, there was more concern for the Italian Brambilla (who as a matter of fact was born in Monza), who had been hit on the head by a flying wheel and was slumped comatose in his car (he later recovered and drove on in F1 until 1980). Peterson's life was not, however, seen to be in any danger. The injured drivers were taken to hospital in Milan and, after a major cleanup job, the race was restarted (for those with undamaged or spare cars at least).

At the hospital, Peterson's X-rays showed he had 17 fractures in one leg and 3 in the other. After discussion with Ronnie himself, the surgeons decided to operate to stabilise the bones.

Unfortunately, during the night, bone marrow from the fractures had got into Peterson's bloodstream forming fat globules on his major organs including lungs, liver, and brain. By daybreak he was in full renal failure and was declared dead a few hours later. The cause of death was given as fat embolism.

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Tom Pryce
Pryce was killed in one of the most bizarre accidents in the history of Formula 1. At the end of lap 21 of the Grand Prix at Kyalami, South Africa, on March 5, 1977, Renzo Zorzi retired his Shadow with a split fuel pipe which had caused a small, but harmless fire. Zorzi's car was parked in a blind brow but two marshalls stationed on the opposite side of the track decided to cross to tackle the fire. At that moment, cars driven by Pryce and Hans-Joachim Stuck suddenly appeared, nearly side-by-side. Stuck's car passed behind the first marshall and ahead of the second marshall, 19 year old Jansen Van Vuuren. Pryce however could not avoid Van Vuuren, hitting him at high speed and killing the marshall instantly. The fire extinguisher Van Vuuren was carrying struck Pryce on the head, killing Pryce instantly. Pryce's car continued down the straight track, gradually slowing down and verging to the right. Jacques Laffite, who was unsure what was going on, moved alongside as the two cars approached Crowthorne, at that point Pryce's car skidded off the barriers, back on the track again, where it hit Laffite's Ligier, taking Laffite out of the race but not injuring him.

As to Van Vuuren, the injuries to his body were extremely severe. His body was split in half and dismembered. It was identified only by exclusion, after the race director gathered all of his colleagues.
(The Impact was so severe it ripped Pryce's helmet off)

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Mark Donahue
During practice for the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix, Donohue lost control when a tire failed and he crashed into catch fencing. A track marshal was killed by debris from the accident, but Donohue didn't appear to be injured significantly. However, a resulting headache worsened and after going to the hospital the next day, Donohue lapsed into a coma from a brain hemorrhage, and died.

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Helmuth Koinigg
Helmut Koinigg died in a crash in the U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, only the Austrian's second Grand Prix start. Approaching the braking zone for the corner known as the Toe, a suspension failure on the Surtees car sent the vehicle crashing head-on into the outer armco. The speed at which Koinigg crashed was relatively minor, and he ought to have escaped the scene uninjured. Unfortunately, as with a number of other circuits a that time, the armco barrier was insecurely installed and buckled as the vehicle struck it, killing the luckless driver instantly.

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Francois Cevert
Tragically, at Watkins Glen, with Stewart having already clinched his third World Championship, Cevert was killed during Saturday morning qualifying for the Grand Prix at Watkins Glen while battling for pole position with Ronnie Peterson. In the fast right-left uphill combination called "The Bridge" Cevert's car was a little too much on the left side, getting a bump from the kerbs described by Niki Lauda in his book The Art and Science of Grand Prix Driving as unbelievably dangereous. Due to the bump, Cevert's car swerved too much to the right-hand side of the track, where it touched the safety barriers causing the car to spin and crash into the barriers on the other side of the track at a near 90° angle, uprooting and lifting the barrier. Cevert died instantly of massive injuries inflicted by the barrier.

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Roger Williamson
In 1973, Formula One returned to the Zandvoort for the Dutch Grand Prix, after an absence of a year due to extensive safety upgrades to the race track which amongst others included new asphalt, installation of barriers and building a new race control tower. This race was only the second Formula One start for the March team and the second Grand Prix race for the promising Williamson.

During the race, Williamson suffered a sudden tyre deflation, which pitched him into the barriers at high speed and catapulted his car 300 yards (275 metres) across the track against the barriers on the other side. Williamson's car came to a rest upside down and the driver was unable to extricate himself from the burning car. Fellow driver David Purley came to Williamson's aid but he was unable to overturn the car. Initially some people, like the commentators on Dutch tv, race control and some of the other drivers participating in the race, thought that Purley was the driver that belonged to the burning car, and thus thought that the driver had gotten away safely.

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Jochen Rindt
During practice for the 1970 Italian Grand Prix in Monza, near Milan, Jochen Rindt lost control of his car upon braking for the Parabolica, possibly one of his four wheel disc brakes failed, and his car darted left, straight into and under the barriers which were placed too high for the revolutionary wedge design of his Lotus 72. He was immediately rushed to hospital, but died on the way. Rindt had only recently acquiesed to wearing a simple lap belt, and had slid underneath where the belt buckle cut his throat. Because Rindt had won five of that year's ten Grands Prix, his lead in the World Drivers Championship had become unassailable, and Rindt became motor racing's first posthumous World Champion. Jochen Rindt won the championship that year, because his Lotus team mate, Emerson Fittipaldi won the following and next to last Grand Prix of the year at Watkins Glen, depriving Ferrari driver Jacky Ickx of the points he needed to win the crown himself.

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Piers Courage
He lost his life at only 28 years old, at the Dutch Grand Prix in Circuit Zandvoort, while racing a De Tomaso for Frank Williams Racing Cars.

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Gerhard Mitter
Due to the long Nürburgring track, it was possible to take part in the German Grand Prix with Formula 2 cars that were classified in their own contest. Mitter was killed there at Schwedenkreuz while practising for the 1969 German Grand Prix with BMW's 269 F2 project. As a suspension or steering failure was suspected, the BMW team with Hubert Hahne and Dieter Quester withdrew from the race, as did Mitters teammate at Porsche, Hans Herrmann.

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Jo Schlesser
Honda team had completed an experimental air-cooled F1 car (dubbed the RA302) which was tested by their works driver John Surtees. Surees pronounced it as not ready for racing, and a potential deathtrap. Undaunted, with the financial help of Honda France, Honda entered it for the 1968 French Grand Prix at Rouen. Being the local hero, Jo Schlesser was hired to drive it. Sadly, after only two laps, the car slid wide at the Six Frères corner and crashed sideways into a bank. The magnesium bodied Honda and 58 laps worth of fuel ignited instantly, leaving poor Schlesser no chance of survival. As result, Honda withdrew from Formula One at the end of the 1968 season.

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Lorenzo Bandini
In 1964 Bandini won the first Austrian Grand Prix at the Zeltweg circuit, his only GP win though. In May of that year, he was racing at the Monaco Grand Prix, running second to Denny Hulme, when he lost control of his car at the harbour chicane and crashed. The car rolled over and caught fire, with Bandini trapped beneath it. His burns were terrible and three days later he succumbed to his injuries.

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John Taylor
John Taylor was killed at the 1966 German Grand Prix.

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Carel Godin de Beaufort
He died on the Nürburgring during the practise for the 1964 German Grand Prix, driving an outdated Porsche 718 from 1961.

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Wolfgang Von Trips
He was killed in an accident at Monza while driving for Ferrari. After a collision with Jim Clark's Lotus on the second lap of the race, his car became airborne and crashed into a side barrier, killing von Trips and fourteen spectators.

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Chris Bristow
Chris Bristow perished during the 1960 Belgian Grand Prix. He started four World Championship races without scoring a point.

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Alan Stacey
Alan Stacey was killed during the Belgian GP of 1960 when he crashed after being hit in the face by a bird.

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Stuart Lewis-Evans
Lewis-Evans died in hospital of burn injuries six days after crashing heavily at the dusty Ain-Diab circuit, where his Vanwall engine seized and sent him lurching into barriers at high speed, igniting his car in flames.

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Peter Collins
Pushing hard to keep pace at the German Grand Prix, Collins lost control of his car and, in Hawthorn's direct sight, spun off the track, disappearing over a bank. During the ensuing accident Collins was thrown clear of the Ferrari, but sustained critical injuries to his head. Despite being airlifted to hospital, Collins died later that afternoon.

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Luigi Musso
In 1958, he picked up two second place finishes in his first three races but was killed in an accident during the 1958 French Grand Prix at Reims, France.

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Onofre Marimon
Marimon was killed July 31, 1954 during practice for the 1954 German Grand Prix, becoming the first driver to be fatally injured at a World Championship Grand Prix.


Some of the Formula 1 drivers who nearly died:

Jackie Stewart, 1966 Belgian GP, Spa

Mike Parkes, 1967 Belgian GP, Spa

Niki Lauda, 1976 German GP, Nürburgring

Clay Reggazzoni, 1980 USGP West, Long Beach

Jean-Pierre Jabouille, 1980 Canadian GP, Montreal

Didier Pironi, 1982 German GP, Hockenheim

Jacques Laffite, 1986 British GP, Brands Hatch

Rubens Barrichello, 1994 San Marino GP, Imola

Mika Hakkinnen, 1995 Australian GP, Adelaide

Olivier Panis, 1997 Canadian GP, Montreal



The most dangerous tracks have been the Nürburgring, Spa and Monza, with countless other accidents which drivers were lucky to escape from.

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