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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77 comments on “F1’s safe decade: Ten years since last F1 fatality”

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  1. People here are obviously confusing driver fatalities with adequately punisheing driving errors.

    Well, if they make a small driving error, life drifting wide of braking a bit too late, then they should have to deal with dirt on their tyres and losing track position, this is F1 after all.

    If they have lost control at 180mph in a corner, then the run off should be there to keep then safe. Their Grand prix should be over, they should also be alive. I hold no truck with the idea that Grand prix racing needs to more safe, it just needs to be more discerning.

    And we should never have a marshall or spectator fatality again, just for entertainment.

  2. Nobody wants to see drivers killed every week, but the element of danger is what makes F1 so attractive to a lot of people. Not everyone is interested in shark-fins, F-ducts and double diffusers.

    To be honest, Kubica in Montreal ’07 is the only crash since Ratzenberger’s where I’ve really thought: “He’s dead.”

    F1 is pretty safe nowadays – it will NEVER be totally safe, people WILL be hurt and be killed in future, it is the nature of the sport.

    “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” Ernest Hemingway.

  3. People kind of confuse spectacular crashes with drivers actually getting injured or dying.
    You can have one without the other!

    We all love spectacular crashes, and there’s nothing wrong in it. As long as you have fast cars, there will always be crashes.
    It’s not the injury to the driver that makes them spectacular – it’s the damage to the car.
    So, I hope to see great crashes, but with the drivers always getting out of the cars fine and healthy.

    I’ve seen a lot of deaths live on tv in my life as a motorsport fan.
    Senna 1994, F1 (I didn’t see Ratzenberger’s death)
    Jeff Krosnoff 1996, Indycar
    Greg Moore 1999, Indycar
    Gonzalo Rodriguez 1999, Indycar

    It breaks your heart every time. It’s not part of the sport. Crashes are, death is not.

    1. “Crashes are a part of motorsport. Death is not”

      I think that would be a very cool, if somewhat politically incorrect, slogan for a safety campaign.

  4. Fatalities are inevitable, i think we have been lucky to have a 10 year gap really, yes safety has obviously ben massively improved but just look at incidents like even a couple of the top of my head from this year like schumacher and liuzzi at abu dhabi, lucky. There is a lot of incidents like that – Trulli going over the top of chandhoks head at Monaco…you know sooner or later one of these seemingly minor incidents wont go so well and i dread the day.

  5. Burnout’s formula is an interesting one, but for those craving the thrill of a fire or massive head injury, crashes will not be good enough. Because where would be the famous risk that signifies “balls” or whatever the childish machisimo demands, if people just walk away and wave to the crowd—as if they were shot out of a cannon at the circus and landed in a net.

    Im not quite at ease with Keith blessing F1 safe because of a lack of accidents with bad injuries. It’s easy to say and fair to say that Kubica’s accident would have killed in a car from 15 years ago. But as an analytical matter, Kubica walking way does not disprove the proposition that a driver faces a high risk of death in that type of accident, and faces a high risk of having that type of accident. The worst possible form of risk management would be to look at escapes from back crashes and say, there, that proves the cars are safe. You might say its like how the space shuttle engineers decided that foam hitting the orbiter at launch was not a problem beause it never caused a big enough hole in a heat shield, until it did.

    If you see a crash where the monocoque is shattered and the guys feet are flapping in the breeze, and if your goal is that the safety cell lives up to its name, that means you have a serious saftey issue with car design to look at, rather than an occasion to pat yourself on the back. My sense, if you look at recent examples, such as the Schumacher-Luzzi crash in Abu Dhabi,is that we may be whistling past the graveyard, that we have become complacent due to the lack of deaths.

    1. I didn’t put up any formula for entertaining racing. But safety standards are going up everywhere in F1. I read somewhere that if Massa had been using the same kind of helmet that he had when he started in 2002, he may not have survived that accident in 2009.

      Of course, it’s impossible to make an open-wheel open-cockpit car completely safe. That doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

    2. @DaveW
      The complacency of which you speak is what has resulted in the role over hoop being pushed further back from the driver’s head as we see inrecent years.
      The role over hoops being as much as 6 – 10 inches behind the drivers head is what frightens me with accidents like Luizzi – Schumacher and Trulli – Chandok.

      1. Roll!!!!! I meant. Oh dear!

  6. SennaNmbr1 (@)
    5th March 2011, 7:53

    I wish the drivers were sat a bit more upright. I’m sure they could then see to the sides better and avoid all the stupid little crashes that ruin races. Like Webber and Hamilton at Singapore, for example.

    I wouldn’t want a return to the late 80s/early 90s where the head and shoulders of the driver are sticking out of the cockpit, but if the driver had a bit more sideways vision I think it would improve the racing on the odd occasion that two cars are side-by-side.

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