Safety concerns will always exist due to Formula 1 (F1) racing’s high-speed nature. How many F1 drivers have been killed? Let’s take a look at the deaths.
Fifty-two drivers were killed in accidents during FIA World Championship events, or any other event while driving Formula 1 cars. Most of the fatalities occurred in the 50s-60s, 70s, and 80s. Since 1994, the FIA has adopted safety protocols that have prevented one death at an FIA World Championship event.
If you’re new to Formula 1 and motorsport, or even if you’ve been watching Grand Prix for decades, deaths haven’t been as commonplace as it was in motorsport’s infancy. So let’s take a look at some of the tragic accidents that have occurred throughout the years.
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Threety-two F1 drivers died at World Championship Grand Prix races. Seven were killed during tests. 13 deaths occurred outside of official F1 events. Let’s look at the stories behind every fatality at Formula One events. We do not include deaths among officials, pit teams, spectators.
Cameron Earl, a British driver in F1, was the first to die on the track. Earl was an engineer testing out the R14B car at the Motor Industry Research Association’s (MIRA) test track in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, on 18 June 1952. The 29-yearold died from a skull fracture after he flipped the ERA racecar.
Eleven months after Earl’s death at the MIRA test track, American driver, Chet Miller, would be the first driver out of a group of seven to lose his life at the Indianapolis 500, which formed part of the World Championship between 1950 and 1960, despite having a different set of rules. Miller, 50, became the first driver to die at a World Championship event during a test run.
Miller, whose 20-year career earned him the moniker “Dean of the Speedway”, was fatally injured in a Turn One accident during his practice run of the 1953 Indianapolis 500 while driving the incredibly powerful and dangerous Kurtis Kraft that contained a Novi Engine that was used on the Indy 500 circuit between 1941 and 1966.
Belgian driver Charles de Tornaco also died after crashing his practice run at the Modena Grand Prix on 18 September 1953. On the way to the hospital, he rolled his Ferrari Tipo 500. He suffered neck and head injuries. The 26-year-old’s death can be considered a consequence of a lack of medical staff and facilities, considering that there wasn’t even an ambulance present, and he died in a private car.
Onofre Marimon was a 30-year old Argentinian driver who died in an F1 accident at the Nurburgring circuit on 31 July 1954. He had been practicing in his Maserati 250F and lost control of his car. Marimon lost control and crashed into a tree. After being lifted by rescuers, he was pinned beneath the tree and later died.
On his F1 racing debut on 11 April 1955, Italian driver Mario Alborghetti was killed while driving his Maserati 4CLT on the Circuit de Pau-Ville at the Pau Grand Prix.
A fatal accident occurred at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on 16th May 1955. Manny Ayulo (American racer) died while practicing in his Kurtis Kraft racing car.
Just two weeks after Ayulo’s death, in the same car on the same circuit, but in a race, American driver Bill Vukovich died on 30 May 1955.
Eugenio Castellotti, a Ferrari 801 test driver on the Autodromo di Modena, was involved in a fatal accident on March 14, 1957.
Keith Andrews, an American driver who was driving his Kurtis Kraft racecar, was also killed in the Indy 500 crash on May 15, 1957.
A year after Andrews’ death, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway experienced deja vu Another American driver in the Kurtis Kraft car was killed in a race on 30/05/58.
Italian driver Luigi Musso, an Italian driver, was killed at the Circuit de Reims Guex on 6 July 1958. He was driving his Ferrari 246 F1 in a race for the French Grand Prix.
Peter Collina, an Englishman, was killed in his Ferrari 246 F1 at the Nurburgring in Germany Grand Prix on 3 Aug 1958. He lost control of the car and it flipped into a ditch.
Stuart Lewis-Evans, an Englishman, was killed when his Vanwall crashed on the Circuit de Ain-Diab in the Moroccan Grand Prix.
Jerry Unsur Jr., an American driver, was the penultimate to be killed in an accident at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Indianapolis 500. He was doing a practice run with his Kuzma.
Bob Cortner, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s last driver to die on that track was part of Formula 1 events. Driving his Cornis in a practice run on 19 May 1959, Cortner’s death, which is thought to have been caused by heavy winds, was the final straw that broke the camel’s back for the Indy 500’s participation in the FIA World Championships.
Harry Schell, a Cooper T51 driver, was practicing at the BRDC International Trophy on May 13, 1960 when he was involved in a fatal accident on Silverstone Circuit.
English drivers Chris Bristow, and Alan Stacey both died in the same turn at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on the 19th of June 1960. This was during a race for Belgian Grand Prix. They were racing their Cooper T51 and Lotus 18 racecars.
Shane Summers was also killed in an accident while driving his Cooper on Brands Hatch’s circuit. This happened during a practice session on 1/6/61.
Giulio Cabianca, an Italian driver who was testing his Cooper T51 was killed in an accident on the Autodromo di Modena. This happened on 15 June 1961.
German driver Wolfgang von Trips crashed into his Ferrari 156F1 during the Italian Grand Prix race on September 10, 1961. It was on the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza circuit.
Ricardo Rodriguez, a Mexican driver, died on November 1, 1962 at the Mexican Grand Prix. He was practicing in his Lotus 24 on Autodromo Magdalena mixiuhca.
Gary Hocking, a Rhodesian driver, was killed in a practice run at the Westmead Circuit on 21 December 1962 during the Natal Grand Prix. He was driving his Lotus 24.
Carel Godin-de Beaufort, a Dutch driver who was participating in the German Grand Prix on Nurburgring circuit was involved in a fatal accident in his Porsche 718 during a practice race on 1 August 1964.
John Taylor, an English driver who crashed his Brabham Brabham BT11 during the German Grand Prix on 7 August 1966 was another victim.
Lorenzo Bandini was an Italian driver who died in a tragic accident at the Monaco Grand Prix, on the Circuit de Monaco, on 7 May 1967. He was driving his Ferrari 312 in a race.
Bob Anderson, an English driver, was killed while testing his Brabham BT11 circuit at Silverstone in August 1967. He suffered fatal neck and head injuries after sliding off the track.
Jo Schlesser, a French Formula One driver crashed his Honda RA302 at the Circuit de Rouen-les-Essarts during French Grand Prix. He lost his life on July 7, 1968.
Gerhard Mitter was killed in an accident with his BMW 269 on the Nurburgring circuit, during the German Grand Prix of 1969.
Martin Brain, another English driver, was killed in a crash of his Cooper T86B at the Nottingham Sports Car Meeting on the Silverstone Circuit.
Less than a month after Brain’s death, another English Formula One driver, Piers Courage died at the Dutch Grand Prix on 21 June 1970, where he crashed his De Tomaso 505/38 in a race on the Circuit Park Zandvoort.
Jochen Rindt from Austria was also a driver who lost his life racing his Lotus 72 in the qualifying rounds for the Italian Grand Prix on the Autodromo Nationale di Monza, 5 September 1970.
Jo Siffert, a Swiss driver who was racing in his BPM P160 during World Championship Victory Race, died in a fatal accident on 24 October 1971.
Roger Williamson was an English F1 driver who died after his March 731 crashed during a race at Circuit Park Zandvoort. This was the Dutch Grand Prix.
Francois Cevert, a French driver, was killed in an accident at the United States Grand Prix qualifying rounds on October 6, 1973. His Tyrrell006 crashed on the Watkins Glen International circuit.
American driver Peter Revson, who was testing the Shadow DN3 at the Kyalami Racing Circuit in preparation for the South African Grand Prix on March 22, 1974, died.
Helmuth Koinigg (Austria) crashed his Surtees 16 during a race at Watkins Glen International circuit. He was killed after the car’s suspension failed.
American driver Mark Donohue crashed the March 751 during practice rounds for the Austrian Grand Prix. It happened on 17th August 1975.
Tom Pryce was a Welsh driver who died on 5 March 1978 at the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami Racing Circuit. He crashed his Shadow DN8 during a racing event.
Brian McGuire, an Australian F1 driver, was killed in Round 11 of Shellsport International Series at Brands Hatch. He crashed his McGuire BM1 during practice 29 August 1977.
Ronnie Peterson, a Swedish driver who crashed his Lotus 78 during a race, died in a fatal accident at the Italian Grand Prix circuit.
Patrick Depailler (French driver) crashed his Alfa Romeo 171 during a test at the Hockenheimring circuit, 1 August 1980.
Gilles Villeneuve, a Canadian driver, was killed in a crash of his Ferrari 126C on the Circuit Zolder during the qualifying rounds for Belgian Grand Prix.
During the Canadian Grand Prix, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was responsible for another fatal accident on 13 June 1982, shortly after Villeneuve’s death. Ricardo Paletti from Italy crashed his Osella FA1C into the Ferrari of Didier Pironi.
Elio de Angelis of Italy, who was driving a Brabham BT55, crashed into a barrier on the sidetrack and died in an F1 accident. His racecar burst into flames and he was trapped inside it. He was able to escape, but he died from lack of emergency help.
Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger was killed in an accident in his Simtek 941 during the qualifying rounds for the San Marino Grand Prix on the Autodromo Enzo E Dino Ferrari circuit, 30 April 1994. However, his death has been largely overshadowed by the tragedy that would occur the very next day…
One of the most memorable moments in Formula One’s history was the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix tragedy. The day after Roland Ratzenberger’s death, Brazilian legend, Ayrton Senna, lost his life on the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit on 1 May.
Senna and Ratzenberger’s deaths would send shockwaves through the FIA and lead to significant reform of safety protocols that would end fatalities in any World Championship events for 20 years.
John Dawson-Damer, a British driver, was killed while racing a vintage F1 vehicle, the Lotus 63, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on the Goodwood Hillclimb, on 24 June 2000.
Fritz Glatz, an Austrian driver who was competing in the Czech Superprix, now the BOSS GP series, crashed his Footwork FA17 at the Autodrom Most circuit on July 14, 2002. This would have been the last fatality of Formula One for more than a decade.
Denis Welch, a British businessman who developed a taste for vintage F1 cars, crashed his Lotus 18 at the Jack Brabham Memorial Trophy in a race on the Silverstone Circuit on 27 July 2014 and died, reminding F1 fans that there’s a good reason behind the additional safety features that are now required for all modern F1 cars.
Jules Bianchi, a French driver who lost control during a race at Suzuka International Racing Course on the 5th October 2014, during the Japanese Grand Prix, is one of the most tragic F1 incidents. Although he initially survived, he would soon succumb to his injuries after nine months in a coma.
French driver David Ferrer’s death is the most recent incident associated with Formula One cars and, once again, it was a vintage vehicle, with Ferrer losing his life behind the wheel of a March 701 during a race at the Historic Grand Prix on the Circuit Park Zandvoort on 2 September 2017.
You will notice that the vast majority of all deaths in Formula One occurred within the first 30 years of the motorsport’s existence. This is due to a lack safety protocols and protocols, which are now mandatory for all World Championship events. Pilots can now escape from an emergency situation by opening the cockpit doors. Ayrton Senna’s death led to the introduction of measures such as bodywork aerodynamic limitations, speed limits for pit lanes, and circuit modifications.
These measures have proved to be extremely successful in making Formula One safer. Fans are happy to see the reforms, comfortable knowing that their favorite drivers aren’t putting their lives in danger.