2001 Australian Grand Prix

F1’s safe decade: Ten years since last F1 fatality

HistoryPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

2001 Australian Grand Prix
2001 Australian Grand Prix

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the last fatality during a Formula 1 event.

Graham Beveridge, a marshal working at the Australian Grand Prix, died when he was struck by a wheel following a crash during the race.

That F1 has gone so long without another death is a tribute to the efforts of the FIA and competitors to improve safety standards.

Cars have been made stronger and have to withstand tougher tests. Helmets can withstand huge forces. And tracks have been made safer with larger run-off areas and better barriers.

Protection for marshals has improved as well, in reaction to the deaths of Beveridge and Paolo Ghislimberti, who lost his life during the Italian Grand Prix six months earlier.

The ever-improving safety standards have been tested to some astonishing extremes. Robert Kubica’s crash at Montreal in 2007 and Felipe Massa’s at the Hungaroring in 2009 would not have been survivable in earlier seasons.

While at times we may feel that the pursuit of safety has sapped some of the spectacle from the sport, preventing needless endangerment of life clearly has to take priority.

The challenge for those involved in running Formula 1 is to make it demanding for competitors, yet as safe as is realistically possible, in a sport where humans drive machines that cover almost 100 metres per second.

The FIA has done excellent work in its pursuit of greater safety and this year sees a range of further improvements to the car including extra wheel tethers and stronger survival cells.

Other disciplines have not been spared tragedy. Days before Massa’s crash in 2009 John Surtees lost his son Henry in a Formula Two crash.

Motor racing is dangerous and despite best efforts that danger can never be removed entirely. The pursuit of still higher safety standards goes on.

It is a reflection of the level of safety in Formula 1 that people now question whether it’s appropriate for F1 drivers to compete in other forms of motor racing at much lower speeds.

The appalling injuries suffered by Kubica during a rally last month – in the kind of accident F1 hasn’t seen since the 1970s – are a reminder that the commitment to safety demanded in F1 must be reflected throughout the world of motor sport.

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