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Formula One (F1) is the highest class of single-seater car racing and amongst the fastest circuit racing cars in the world, reaching speeds of up to 220 mph! However, with such speed and excitement, there is always the possibility of tragic and sometimes fatal circumstances.

The following are just some of the most horrifying in this dangerous sport.

Wolfgang von Trips

After injuring himself in two previous crashes, the track at Monza seemed to be cursed for von Trip. While racing in the Italian Grand Prix in 1961, von Trip’s car touched Jim Clark’s causing von Trip’s car to spin twice, smash into a side barrier then bounce back hitting Clark’s car before flying into the crowd killing 15 spectators!

Niki Lauda

After failing to convince other drivers to boycott the race because of safety concerns, Lauda went ahead and raced anyway in the 1976 German Grand Prix in Nűrburgring that is now remembered for this most horrendous crash.

During only his first lap his Ferrari veered off the track (due to suspected rear suspension failure), hit a barrier and catapulted back onto the track bursting into flames. Lauda was trapped in the wreckage, unable to escape and with his helmet dislodged from the impact; he suffered extreme burns to his head and lungs.

He was conscious when finally pulled out of the inferno by his fellow drivers who had saved his life but later slipped into a coma and was administered his last rites in hospital. Miraculously he survived but suffered extensive scarring from the burns to his head and returned to racing only six weeks later, his burns still bandaged!

Tom Pryce

It’s the 1977 South African Grand Prix and this particular crash was even more horrific as it was fatal for not only Tom Pryce but also race marshal Frederick Jansen van Vuuren.

After one of Pryce’s teammate’s cars pulled to the side of the track with engine failure, it caught fire and race marshals hurried across the track with fire extinguishers. The next moment Pryce came flying down the track ploughing straight into van Vurren, killing him instantly. The fire extinguisher smashed into Pryce’s head almost decapitating him and his car continued speeding straight down the track until finally crashing into a wall.

Ayrton Senna

A tragic weekend of events that saw Rubens Barrichello involved in a serious accident and Roland Ratzenberger killed (both incidents during qualifying), turned even more disastrous during the last race of the season in the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, Italy. After the death of Ratzenberger, Senna was concerned enough to meet with his fellow drivers to discuss Formula One safety.

Sadly, Senna crashed his car on this fateful circuit as his car left the track hitting a concrete wall. It appeared that on impact the front wheel was pushed back into the cockpit into Senna’s head causing fatal skull fractures. Although not killed instantly, Senna died several hours later in hospital. Since then many safety improvements have been made and, thankfully, Senna remains the last driver fatality in F1.

Gilles Villeneuve

On May 8, 1982 during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, another F1 driver lost his life. Driving back to the pits trying to get the fastest lap time, Villeneuve manoeuvred to the right side of the track to pass a slower car but the car in front also moved to the right to let him through.

Slamming into the slower car at an estimated speed of 140 mph, Villeneuve’s car was then propelled into the air, flipping and flew more than 100m before plummeting into the ground nose-first with so much force his helmet was torn from his head and he was thrown 50 m across the circuit and into track fencing. He was rushed to hospital but pronounced dead seven hours later.

The Belgium Grand Prix 1998

Held at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in heavy rain, this race became legendary for the massive pile-up that occurred when David Coulthard lost control of his car and slammed into a trackside wall.

He ricocheted into the path of oncoming cars creating a massive pile-up, and one of the biggest first-lap shunts in F1 history. A couple of drivers made it through the chaos but a total of thirteen drivers including Eddie Irvine, Rubens Barrichello Alexander Wurz and Olivier Panis were not as lucky. Amazingly nobody was carseriously injured!

A freelance proofreading and copy editing expert, Diane is currently writing content for the personal injury specialists Claims National who can investigate both motorbike accident claims and road traffic accident claims.