Henry Surtees dies after F2 crash

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

I’ve just heard the terrible news that Henry Surtees, son of former F1 champion John Surtees, died today following a crash in a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch. He was 18 years old.

The accident happened in the second of the day’s F2 races. Surtees’ crash helmet struck a wheel which had been lost by another car, which is believed to have knocked him unconscious. His car ran straight on at the next bend, Sheene Corner, and into the barriers.

Formula 2 was re-formed this season having been wound up at the end of 1984. The Brands Hatch rounds were the fifth and sixth races in this year’s championship.

The single-specification cars are built by Williams and the championship is run by ex-F1 racer Jonathan Palmer, who also owns Brands Hatch. Palmer’s son Jolyon races in the championship, as well as Martin Brundle’s son Alex.

My thoughts are with Henry’s family at this terrible time.

55 comments on “Henry Surtees dies after F2 crash”

  1. This is really awful. I just saw it on youtube, hard to believe the tyre could do so much damage through the helmet.

    1. The tyre didn’t do damage “through” the helmet. When hitting his helmet, the tyre pressed his head down with a brutal force – and this must’ve crushed his neck. The head could’ve been not even injured.

      A very tragic accident, so unlucky.

      1. He died from severe trauma to the head though.

  2. James Brickles
    19th July 2009, 22:31

    That is really tragic. All my condolences are with the Surtees family.

    Rest in peace Henry :(

  3. I watched the race live this morning and feared the worst from the moment the accident happened. The cars are fitted with tire tethers. Although the chassis are very safe these days and fires very rare there still exists the possibility of debris strikes in open cockpits. I recently read that Vettel once had a finger almost completely severed in such an incident. My condolences to the family.

  4. Luckely it doesn’t happen so often anymore.
    But very sad, bit of a freak accident :(

  5. StrFerrari4Ever
    19th July 2009, 22:44

    This is truly sad for motorsport a great young prospect dying due to a tyre hitting him in the head. When I heard about this they said he was unconscious then I saw rumours that he was dead and indeed he was truly sad day and safety of the drivers has to be improved even in the junior series.

    R.I.P Henry Surtees

  6. Just terrible. My deepest condolences to Henry’s family.

  7. A freak accident and a horrible tragedy… RIP

  8. My heartfelt sympathies to John and his family.

  9. Tragic. Having seen the accident it was so incredibly unlucky for Surtees, a couple of inches either way and it might not have been so bad.

    With F2 a new series it is tragic for them too, to suffer such a dreadful loss so early on.

    Unfortunately the risks of single-seater racing will never be completely eliminated, but it’s merciful that incidents like this are so rare these days.

  10. Terrible incident :(

  11. am surprised the tethers didnt work. although there are examples in recent f1- sutil’s wheel in China (2009) flew off in a crash and hit heidfeld’s car. coulthard monaco qualy (2008) and a few more.
    my thoughts are with his family, RIP.

    1. Dreadful news, my condolences to his family and friends.
      The F2 cars are designed with safety as a paramount concern, there is always this risk with open cockpit cars.
      Horrible blow to his family and friends, and also to F2 in it’s debut year. A real shame.

  12. Bartholomew
    20th July 2009, 0:04

    R.I.P. Henry What a terrible tragedy for John and the family. Surtees is a glorious name to have been continued in the racing world.
    I guess this can happen anytime, really.
    Our thoughts and our prayers with the family

  13. RIP Henry

    It was devastating for the whole motor-sport world. Safety should be of utmost importance for the sport. Hopefully improvements can be made soon.

  14. I just had a look on Youtube. That was the most unlucky and unfortuate incident. At that speed it didn’t even look like the tyre hit with any force, or even at all. So incredibly sad.

    rest in peace Henry.

  15. Aaron Shearer
    20th July 2009, 1:15

    My sincere condolences to the Surtees family.

    Such a tragic loss of life at such a young age. May you rest in peace Henry! :(

  16. This is terrible. The worst luck in the world…


  17. It is a sad day for motorsport, and it shows that motosport can still be dangerous. It was a very unfortunate incident.

    My condolences to the Surtees family.

  18. It is truly sad to hear this news. Even so we all know the risks involved in racing, it’s always tragic when something like this happens.

    My condolences to the family and friends of Henry.

  19. Mark Hitchcock
    20th July 2009, 4:32

    That’s terrible :(
    Any death in motorsport these days is a shock, especially when it’s someone so young.

    Sincere condolences to the Surtees family.


  20. I have just heard the news and viewed the footage, what a horrible freakish accident, 100% freakish. I was quite surprised, as at first it appears the tyre will roll harmlessly without incident. It seems to pick up a bit of speed before Surtees arrives on the scene, before bouncing, fatally at the wrong moment.
    I bet all the other drivers must be feeling this loss too. I could so easily have been them, but turned out to be this poor lad. My deepest sympathy to John Surtees and to their friends, this is a terrible blow to open wheel racing, and is something we have sadly seen all too often in the past.
    I hope this will not affect Brands Hatch too much, as in my opinion the circumstances could have occured anywhere. Its just that the tethers failed to do their job, and thats that.
    RIP Henry……………

  21. My deepest condolences to Henry’s family.

    Why can’t these cars be safe enough.He is so young.

  22. John Beamer
    20th July 2009, 7:19

    There is clearly an issue with the tyres in F2. Surtees also lost a wheel – it didn’t appeared to be tethered. It seems to me as though a well tethered tyre would have stopped this tragic accident

  23. Motor racing is dangerous and this looked to be the type of freak accident that is very difficult to predict. The only consolation to be had in these circumstances is that Henry Surtees died doing what he loved doing.

  24. sad and very tragic news. its so ironical that he died driving a williams designed car. may your young soul rest in peace. 18 is not the age to die. i’m devastated :(

  25. this has absolutely broken me. i’m unable to do anything. i feel so numb. i feel just like may 1st 1994. i dont feel like doing anything. i dunno why? but i had tears rolling down when i saw that video. he is the most unluckiest driver. john himself survived horrible crashes in the 60’s, yet his son died in 2009. i dunno. maybe i’ll stop following motorsport from now. i really dunno. i dont wanna blame anyone, but god. god is an idiot, who didn’t show mercy upon this young boy. god you are a loser. :(

  26. i think the time has come for motorsport, including formula 1 to have closed cockpits. this is absolutely appealing, to watch hear & experience. even though i’ve never heard of henry, i feel very very sad.

  27. Sincere condolences to the Surtees family – my thoughts are with them, their friends, and Jack Clarke whose car the wheel came from.

    Such a terrible accident, there was nothing that could have been done by either driver – just very very unlucky. Such a tragic loss of a life so young.

    What concerns me is how easily the wheels came off both cars – I thought a lot had been done about the wheel tethers in motorsport after the two accidents involving marshals in 2001/2002 in F1.

    RIP Henry.

  28. alan johnstone
    20th July 2009, 10:53

    another sad reminder the sport i love can be so cruel ,how very sad a young life lost in such a freak accident ,motor sport by its very nature harbours risks ,we all no that ,such a freak accident thankfully is very very rare but thats no consolution to the surtees family ,john himself raced at a time when the risk were so much greater ,deaths were all too common ,but henrys crash beggars belief ,alan johnstone,

  29. RIP Henry,

    but freakish accident. They driver who hit the tree ( !!! ) seems to have had a more massive crash than Henry. Unfortunate that the wheel of his car would cause such a huge accident,

  30. Really sad to hear… He should be so unlucky to have that tyre hit him on the helmet!

    I go with others, who suggest a closed cockpit for all open wheel series… I think it is far beyond our discussions (to have it or not), even if we don’t like it or even if it adds any further disadvantage to the racing, it is absolutely necessary for the safety of those who race out there!

    Can’t they come up with a better regulations for suspensions, that would prevent these tyres from cutting loose from the car during accidents?

  31. Chris Smith
    20th July 2009, 11:28

    I was lucky enough to work for JS in the 70’s and many drivers were killed in that era. Improvements over the decades has made the risks more manageable but to experience such a tragic loss by a freak accident is just awful. My sincere condolences to the John and his family.

  32. Williams 4ever
    20th July 2009, 13:12

    Tragic Incident. Sincere Condolances to the Surtees Family on their loss

  33. Bigbadderboom
    20th July 2009, 14:18

    My deepest condolences to Henry’s family, tragic and terrible, my thoughts are with them.

  34. What sad sad news, first race weekend I see of F2 a familiar name doing well.. then this weird accident. Condolances to everybody close to this boy.

  35. Condolences to the Surtees family. A terrible tragedy in taking part in that which has given them so much.

    If there was a problem with the tethers then I hope an investigation will reveal any failings. However one must consider that any tether is not of infinite strength or capability. There will always be unpredictable forces for which no tether is sufficient. These are the inherent dangers of motor racing.

  36. Henry will be rememebered as a very lovely young man with a huge disire for life and for a future in motor racing. I was very lucky to have known Henry from a baby and watched him grow into a gorgeous child and then an amazing teenager. Everyone is deverstated at such a great loss, he will be greatly missed by all of us who knew him and the motor racing industry. RIP x

  37. Very sad….so young.He was just getting his career started.I know if I had my way that I would leave this planet doing what I love but,it doesn’t make it any easier on the ones that love you.

    My condolences to the Surtees family.
    R.I.P. Henry

  38. My condolences to the Surtees family…

  39. does anybody know what actually killed him? they say it was hitting the wall but i believe he must of died instantly! does anybody know fore sure?

  40. A few days have passed, and interesting how we still didn’t hear anything from Max & FIA about the incident. This is the FIA Formula 2 series afterall.

    This is so sad and cruel.

    RIP Henry.

  41. What an accident… one out of a billion…
    very sad about that…
    My deepest condolences to the Surtees family…
    Rest In Peace Henry … we will never forget you…

  42. Dark day for Motorsport :(

    I thought the days of this happening in motorsport were over. A freak accident :(

    RIP Henry

  43. Indeed, this is a horrible tragedy. what else can be said? May his young soul rest in peace.

    My thoughts and prayers are with Surtees family.

  44. HounslowBusGarage
    21st July 2009, 21:11

    My sympathies go to young Henry’s family and friends too.
    And also to the driver of the car that crashed first and lost its wheel. He must feel apalling about this, through no fault of his own.

  45. In a sport that is measured in 1/1000th`s of a second that is a 1/10000th`s of a second alignment, what can you say apart from ` God works in mysterious ways `. RIP Henry , my thoughts and prayers go to your family and friends.

  46. The sri lankan
    23rd July 2009, 1:05

    R.I.P henry.

  47. Truly upsetting….. It’s just sad that despite all the new technology, the brilliant crash safety systems, a simple matter of a loose object hitting the driver can cause this….. At the Hungaroring qualifying for F1 earlier today, a harrowingly similar thing happened to Felipe Massa….. A piece of debris hit him on the helmet and seemed to concuss him….. Thank God he’s alright…..

    Ironic though, isn’t it, that most people will hear and worry over Massa’s injury, not knowing, nor caring that Henry Surtees has left the world, when he was given an extremely capable safety system, undone by something so simple?….. I agree with the need to have closed cockpits…..

    It’s an inherent problem with motorsports, the danger that comes with it. But safety has improved to an unrecognisable level from the 60’s and 70’s, when this young man’s father lived….. Yet Henry, not John, was the one to die in the cockpit….. In his father’s day, death was a regular feature of motorsport….. In Formula 1, there have been no deaths since 1994….. 15 years….. That was once unimaginable…..

    R.I.P Henry

  48. Terrible weekend for Formula racing. My prayers are with families of both drivers. It’s beens so long since on track tragedies that we forget the inherent dangers in this sport. Let’s hope that these were isolated incidents and that the remaining races of the year are injury free.

  49. João Matias
    26th July 2009, 15:35

    I was stunned when I knew. I feel sorry for his family… My deepest condolences

  50. R.I.P. HENRY

  51. Very sad news for the world of motorsports.

    My deepest condolences to his family.

    RIP Henry

  52. R.I.P Henry.

    Really Sad for his family, hope his family members would get over it, they are a really honoured and respectable family.

    Within the past few races, quite a few accidents have occured, hope less accidents would occur in future, and the safety measures will be taken..

    Deepest condolences

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