The 10 Most Tragic F1 Drivers Death of All Time

Speed Thrills , But Also Kills!

F1 has engaged its audience with its gripping nature since the 1950’s. Over time, engines have been modified, design changed, and safety of drivers have improved. However, the love for speed remained the same. Tragic incidents  regarding f1 drivers’ death are nothing new.

Over time, the passionate f1 drivers for the love of the sport, at times transgressed their limits of capacity. However, they were not successful in surviving to narrate the tale of their feats. Somehow death, most unfortunately, caught hold of them and they live among us as icons who changed the course of F1 racing.

#10. Mario Alborghetti

The earliest instance of an F1 death dates back to the 1950’s. The inception of Formula 1 race brought forth a huge chunk of investors in the sport right away. The promising sporting event was a freeway for the rich to flash their aristocracy and rank up in the social stair.

Italian tycoon Mario Alborghetti swopped in to the madness by commissioning a team to build for him a Grand Prix car. A Maserati 4CLT comprising a Speluzzi engine was chosen to be his ride. Restoration works hit the accelerator in the right time. However, unavoidable delays pushed its launch from the 1955 Turin Grand Prix to the Pau Grand Prix.

The Pau Grand Prix was a difficult race track where even experts dared not to drive. Alborghetti was on his first stint hence the situation was even more critical. Expectedly he slacked behind the majority of the group and was struggling to keep up with the pace.

The 19th lap saw Jacques Pollet on the verge of lapping Alborghetti. The approaching hairpin bend demanded caution, however, Alborghetti misjudged and accelerated instead of braking. He rammed straight into the straw bales and suffered fatal chest and head wounds. His inaugural stint in the F1 became the reason of his funeral. Due to the earliest instance of fatality in F1, he finds his place in the list of top 10 F1 drivers death.

#9. Bill Vukovich

Americans and speed goes hand in hand undoubtedly. The US Grand Prix and Nascar popularized the racing culture in the United States. However, as all good things have a tragic side, the American racing arena too faced one in its early days. The Indianapolis 500 dug the grave of William Vukovich, an American racing driver.

The relationship between Vukovich and Indy 500 is quite bittersweet. He should have steered all the way to the finishing point in 1952 had he not faced an issue with steering failure.

The 1953 and 1954 seasons saw him cruising to victory at the same venue. Returning in 1955, he aimed at the championship once more. Fate intervened, and he met death midway leading the race with a comfortable 17 seconds gain.

Vukovich was trailing three slower cars when one of them hit the outer wall and flipped. The car driven by Al Keller swerved to avoid the collision. However, it slid back to track and struck the third car driven by Johnny Boid. Boid’s car came in Vukovich’s way and his car hit the outer wall and flipped. Vukovich was trapped inside the car which cart-wheeled in air and landed on top of some parked cars. Recovery team rushed in immediately but Vukovich succumbed to his injuries owing to a partial decapitation.

#8. Peter Collins Killed In Crash

Peter Collins Killed In Crash
Peter Collins, Grand Prix of Great Britain, Silverstone, 19 July 1958. (Photo by Bernard Cahier/Getty Images)

The German Grand Prix is a notorious circuit. The Nürburgring is quite famous for its tragic track records. Over time there has been quite a handful of mishaps and some even more so as to bring forth death. The crash of 1958 was responsible for the death of British racer Peter Collins.

The German Grand Prix welcomed Collins as the British Grand Prix winner. Composed and subtle to conquer the chequered flag in the German circuit, Collins took off to a great start. Involving in a mad rush chase with Tony Brooks, Collins failed to keep up with the drift. Eventually his Ferrari ran wide, flipped into the air and landed upside down. Collins suffered critical head injuries after striking a tree. Fighting a fierce battle with life and death, he breathed his last in the following afternoon.

#7. Wolfgang Von Trips Fatality

German by birth, Wolfgang Von Trips stands as a phenomena in the tracks of his age. As a talented individual, he had the potential to swoop the Championship award. However, his success is often overshadowed by his tragic death in the Grand Prix of 1961.

In the 1961’s Championship battle with teammate Phil Hill, Wolfgang Von was fierce and engaging. The Italian Grand Prix saw one of the most devastating accidents that brought death to one of the finest racers. Vying for the Championship tying neck to neck with co-racers, his Ferrari collided with the Lotus driven by Jim Clark. The Ferrari went airborne and crashed into the side barrier, fatally throwing Trips out of the car.

#6. Piers Courage Crash In F1

Piers Courage Crash In F1
Piers Courage, De Tomaso-Ford 505/38, Grand Prix of Monaco, Circuit de Monaco, Monaco, May 10, 1970. (Photo by Bernard Cahier/Getty Images)

Faulty automobiles are responsible for f1 fatalities as much as rash driving. The Dutch Grand Prix of 1970 was one such occasion. British racer Piers Courage was driving the De Tomasso when a significant fault led to an accident and ultimately put him to death.

The De Tomasso, unreliable and overweight, pushed Courage to the lines beyond failure. The Dutch Grand Prix was the turning point of his career as he qualified achieving the 9th position.

Unfortunately, in the middle of the race, the De Tomasso’s front suspension broke at the bump. The malfunction caused the car to drive straight and strike the barriers. The engine caught fire instantly and the magnesium body turned into a funeral pyre for De Tomasso.

One of the wheels of his car struck him hard which broke his helmet. It is anticipated the impact was such that it broke his neck and caused his death.

#5. Tom Pryce F1 Crash Death

Tom Pryce F1 Crash Death
Tom Pryce, Shadow-Ford DN3B, Grand Prix of Brazil, Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Sao Paulo, Brazil, January 26, 1975. (Photo by Bernard Cahier/Getty Images)

Probably one of the most tragic f1 drivers death is of Tom Pryce’s death. Neither he was struggling with his car, nor the weather was unfavorable that day. His death was sudden, almost out of the blue.

Italian racer Renzo Zorzi’s car caught fire and field marshals rushed in. However, due to the absence of prior permission, they intruded the tracks. Jansen van Vuuren was caught along the track as Joachim Stuck and Pryce cruised in. Pryce was trailing behind hence Stuck was able to avoid hitting Vuuren. However, Pryce could not control his speed and rammed into the field marshal.

The 40 pound fire extinguisher carried by Jansen stuck Pryce and smashed his head. His helmet was crushed and death was inevitable.

His death was tragic and unexpected to the world giving us sign of how unpredictable life can be. His death remains one of the most tragic f1 driver deaths ever.

#4. Ronnie Peterson Tragic F1 Driver Death

Coming alive out of a near dying situation and then succumbing to injuries and complications is quite a tragic incident. Swedish racer Ronnie Peterson faced such a situation and his name still echoes as one of the most deaths in F1 history.

The Lotus 79, which he rode that day, was damaged in the practice session of the 1978 Italian Grand Prix. The rejected Lotus 78 was taken up by him for the race on the final day. A faulty start signal caused havoc amidst the starting grid where James Hunt collided with Peterson. The Lotus collided with the barrier and caught fire.

Peterson was extracted out of the burning debris by other racers. However, there was serious injury on his legs and he was rushed for medical aid. With 27 fractures in his legs and feet, Peterson was rushed for surgery. During night, his condition worsened as he was treated with Fat Embolism. Multiple organ failure with kidney failure proved fatal for him.

The next morning, racing world lost one of its icons who despite surviving the racing track mishaps couldn’t survive the greater impact of that accident. Any f1 drivers death is not desirable and to consider this incident as reality is quite a tedious task.

#3. Gilles Villeneuve F1 Death Crash

Gilles Villeneuve F1 Death Crash
Gilles Villeneuve, Ferrari 126C2, Grand Prix of Belgium, Zolder, 08 May 1982. (Photo by Bernard Cahier/Getty Images)

The final qualifying session of the Belgian Grand Prix of 1982 saw one horrifying death of a racer. Villeneuve was aiming to improve his timing while others say he was aiming to beat Pironi. Hoping to qualify with a greater time lap Villeneuve took the stride forward, which was critical and fell heavily upon him.

The final stride of the qualifier saw Villeneuve pushing himself to get a better mark. Jochen Mass was ahead of him at a much slower rate. The intention of Mass was to clear the left side of the track to let Villeneuve pass. Villeneuve on the other hand anticipated passing Moss from the right hand side. This caused both the cars to manoeuvre to the same direction and ultimately it caused a horrific crash.

The Ferrari launched in the air and travelled almost 100 meter before crashing nose bound. Villeneuve, strapped to his seat, was launched out and dragged further from the wreckage. He was airlifted and a fatal fracture of neck was diagnosed. Soon he succumbed to his injuries while undergoing treatment.

#2. Ayrton Senna F1 Death

Probably the most famous name in the list, the three-time world champion bears the fate of dying in the F1 track. The San Marino grand Prix of 1994 was marred with incidents from the very beginning. Senna’s compatriot, Rubens Barrichello suffered broken bones and nose after a collision in the practice session.

The qualifying race of Saturday saw an even more disastrous impact with Austrian rookie Rolan Ratzenberger. The Ford he drove, shoved straight into the concrete wall with a speed of over 300 km/h. This incident shocked Senna and he intended on reforming the Drivers Association.

The main race was left, and so was the main tragedy. A minor accident caused the safety car to be deployed and after safety laps, the race resumed from the 6th lap. Fate awaited Senna in the 7th lap as his car went straight into the concrete wall and struck at the speed of over 200 km/h.

Upon extraction, Senna was found with a weak heart beat and a significant blood loss due to the crash. He was taken to the nearby hospital though chances of his survival were bleak. Later in the afternoon Senna breathed his last and the racing world marked one more to the list of f1 drivers death.

#1. Jules Bianchi Tragic F1 Death

Jules Bianchi Tragic F1 Death

Weather plays an essential role in determining the course of a race. The Japanese Grand Prix of 2014 was washed with torrential rainfall and low visibility. The most recent incident involving the death of a driver was due to severe weather conditions.

On the 43rd lap, Bianchi’s car lost control and rammed straight into the tractor crane. Lack of response through radio caused the medical team to rush in and tend to his injuries. Due to overcast conditions, he was taken to the hospital by road. The medical board released the statement of him suffering a massive head injury.

Battling death for nine long months, Bianchi passed away in the July of 2015. He became the first driver to succumb to in-track injuries after Ayrton Senna. Bianchi’s death brought forth new set of rules and regulations related to safety of the F1 drivers.

These are few of the instances which will never be washed away from the history of f1.

Always remember to ensure safety for you and your family whenever you hit the road. Life is very precious and you get only one chance to live it. So take the ultimate precautions and ride responsibly.

Francis Banerjee

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