Video: How drivers react to big crashes

Sebastien Bourdais, Scuderia Toro Rosso, 2008, Barcelona, 2, 470150

Sebastien Bourdais had a big crash in testing at Barcelona on Wednesday. Happily he was unhurt but he may have dealt a blow to his standing in the team if the damage to the new STR3 forces the team to delay its introduction.

Major crashes can affect F1 drivers in different ways. Even though drivers regularly walk away from even the most shocking crashes these days, the effect it has on their state of mind can be a lot harder to judge.

Bourdais in 2008, Hamilton in 2007

Lewis Hamilton found himself in a similar situation to Bourdais when he crashed his McLaren MP4/22 in pre-season testing last year, leaving McLaren short one of their new chassis in the run-up to the new season. Test driver Pedro de la Rosa said:

It’s been a setback because it slows us down right in the middle of the off-season. We have lost several days and we have to get them back quickly.

Hamilton bounced back but Bourdais’ situation is a little trickier, especially if the team are no longer able to ready the new car in time for its planned d?â?®but at the Turkish Grand Prix. The team is up for sale, and Bourdais will want the new owners to consider him an asset to the team rather than a liability.

Career deviations

The consequences for Bourdais may be no more than political but there are plenty of examples of F1 drivers whose career paths changed for the worst after major crashes in which they were injured.

JJ Lehto and Karl Wendlinger both returned to the cockpit after big accidents in 1994 – Lehto suffering neck injuries twice, and Wendlinger going into a coma – but their F1 careers did not last much longer.

Olivier Panis was challenging for wins in his Prost early in 1997 before breaking his legs in a crash at Montreal. How much of his subsequent dip in form was down to that crash, and how much was down to the inferior machinery he had at his disposal, is difficult to separate – but likely it was a little of each.

Ralf Schumacher suffered back injuries in 2003 and 2004 forcing him to miss races – the latter at Indianapolis (above). He stopped winning races and his career slipped into a downward trajectory.

Recent shunts

Formula 1 cars have become so strong in recent years that seeing drivers injured in any way is thankfully becoming a rarer sight. Michael Schumacher walked away from a gigantic crash in testing at Monza in 2004 which could well have been around the time he first considered retiring.

Last year’s biggest accident by far was Robert Kubica’s at Montreal.

The Pole was completely uninjured and given that I thought it strange at the time that he didn’t race in the following event at Indianapolis. The explanation given was that if he suffered another severe crash within such a short space of time it could have a particularly adverse affect on him.

It certainly didn’t seem to have affected Kubica once he got back in the cockpit. He matched his best qualifying result of the season at Magny-Cours next time out…

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17 comments on Video: How drivers react to big crashes

  1. James Steventon said on 20th April 2008, 6:36

    As somebody pointed out, Aryton Senna’s crash and that of
    Ratzenberger in 1994 were horrific milestones in Formula One history.
    If any good at all came from the loss of these two great men, then it surely has to be the huge safety improvements in the fourteen years since that weekend in San Marino.
    When I saw Robert Kubica’s car spear off the road in Canada and slam into the retaining wall, memories of Imola 1994 came flooding back. I must admit, I was fearing the worst.
    The cars now are super strong, able to take incredible loads when in an accident, however, complacency can never be overlooked.
    Motor racing, no matter what series, will always be dangerous
    and there will always be risks involved. Partly due to this risk, in my opinion, is why so many people are fascinated with racing, and Formula One especially.
    Every driver deep down knows that he is risking his own life every time they get in the cockpit. Thanks to the standards of
    2007 F1 cars in terms of safety, Kubica is still with us, and for that I am gratefull. As I am sure, is he.

  2. Mark said on 21st April 2008, 10:31

    Good post James

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