Biggest First lap crashes
Article is from ESPNF1. I take a liberty to ad some pictures and videos.
Martin Williamson April 25, 2011The start of a grand prix is a fraught time for even the best drivers, and a mass of cars piling into the early corners can too often cause chaos. We look at ten first-lap pile-ups.
Monaco Grand Prix, 1950
Proof that first-lap crashes are nothing new came in what was the second Formula One championship race. Nino Farina, in second place, skidded on the part of the road soaked by the sea at Tabac Corner after a manic start. In the resulting melee, eight others were put out and by the end of the second lap only nine of the 19 starters remained and the tracked was soaked in spilt fuel. Only Juan Manuel Fangio and Luigi Villoresi escaped the chaos, but as Fangio came round again he became aware of yellow flags waving. "The spectators … were not looking at me leading the race but the other way," he said, and instinctively raised his hand to warn drivers behind him of the danger. Arriving on the scene, Fangio found the track blocked and fuel spilling everywhere, along with marshals desperately trying to clear the area. He leant out and gently nudged one of the crashed cars out of the way and continued. Villoresi and Alberto Ascari followed but none came close to catching Fangio who finished a lap ahead of Ascari.
British Grand Prix, 1973
A multi-car pile-up which could have been far more serious had it not been for the quick thinking of Jackie Stewart. The race started with a two-car accident on the grid when Jackie Oliver rear-ended Niki Lauda, and developed into a multi-car pile-up after one lap, causing it to be stopped. Rookie Jody Scheckter was held to blame after he ran too wide; he clipped the grass and spun across the track and into the pit wall. The pack was left with nowhere to go and many cars were caught up in the resulting melee. The leaders were oblivious, other than by yellow flags, of the extent of what had happened until they sped round a lap later to be confronted with a wall of debris. Stewart did superbly to brake in time, holding up his hand to warn those behind him to do likewise. "His lightning appreciation of the situation undoubtedly saved lives," noted Eric Dymock in the Guardian. Most drivers escaped unharmed, but it took 40 minutes to cut Andrea de Adamich out of his Brabham, and he never raced again. Most affected was the Surtees team, already suffering a poor season, which lost all three of its cars. By the time the race restarted 100 minutes later, nine of the original starters were missing.
British Grand Prix, 1976
Three years later and another shambolic start to a British Grand Prix triggered a near riot. A huge crowd flocked to Brand Hatch to see James Hunt, but when he was caught up in a first-corner crash which started when Clay Regazzoni hit Ferrari team-mate Niki Lauda, his day seemed to be over. As debris from at least half-a-dozen cars was cleared, several teams prepared spare cars for drivers whose own ones were undriveable. But stewards ruled replacement cars could not be used unless drivers had completed the first lap, ruling out Hunt and others. Faced with an increasingly angry crowd, they backed down; Hunt raced and went on to win. His joy did not last as Ferrari appealed, and more than two months later he was disqualified and Lauda declared the winner.
In terms of the number of cars involved, the 11-vehicle shunt at Monza holds the record and it also resulted in the tragic death of Ronnie Peterson. Much of the blame was leveled at the starter who turned on the red lights before the grid had finished lining up, and then several mid-field cars started before those at the front. The net result was a catastrophic funneling of cars into the chicane - James Hunt was forced to swerve to avoid Riccardo Patrese and clipped Peterson who careered into the barriers. Eight other cars piled into the melee, and for a time medical efforts centered on Vittorio Brambilla, who had been hit on the head by a loose wheel and was unconscious. Peterson had been pulled free of his Lotus by other drivers and lay on the track with serious, but apparently not life-threatening, injuries but it was an age before he was treated. Eventually both drivers were taken to hospital - Brambilla was soon discharged but following surgery, Peterson developed complications and died the following day of an embolism.
Argentina Grand Prix, 1979
Eight cars were involved in a crash as the field headed into the esses on the first lap when John Watson and Jody Scheckter touched wheels and took several others with them in the resulting accident. Fortunately, nobody was injured, and a day which started in chaos ended in farce when Juan Manuel Fangio waved the chequered flag a lap too soon, mistaking the Lotus of Ronnie Peterson, in fifth, with that of race leader and winner Mario Andretti.
Canadian Grand Prix, 1980
There was no giving way when Alan Jones and Nelson Piquet stormed from the front row into the second corner at the cramped Ile Notre Dame circuit. The pair touched wheels and Piquet slammed into a wall, "triggering a chain reaction of skidding, bumping cars behind him" reported the Times. Bernie Ecclestone, at the time Piquet's manager, wailed: "Jones leaned on Nelson and pushed him into the wall." Six drivers jumped into reserve cars, while others had to surrender theirs to senior drivers in their team. At the re-start Jones beat Piquet off the line only for Piquet to battle back into the lead soon after. He seemed set for victory when his engine died, and although Didier Pironi crossed the line first, he was disqualified for jumping the start and Jones awarded the win, and with it the world championship.
Canadian Grand Prix 1982
The first winner in Montreal was Quebec native Gilles Villeneuve who died in 1982 on the final qualifying lap for the Belgian Grand Prix. A few weeks after his death, the race course in Montreal was named Circuit Gilles Villeneuve after him. Gilles Villeneuve was one of the first inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, and the only Canadian winner at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
The 1982 Canadian Grand Prix, in the shadow of the death of Villeneuve a month earlier, saw another accident when Villeneuve’s teammate Didier Pironi stalled on the grid. Raul Boesel struck the stationary vehicle, and Riccardo Paletti then struck the rear of Pironi’s Ferrari. Pironi and F1 doctor Sid Watkins came to Paletti’s aid to try to extract him from his car, which briefly caught fire. After a half hour, Paletti was extracted and flown to a nearby hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
British Grand Prix, 1986
Not so much a pile-up as a roadblock as damaged cars littered the track after a mechanical failure heading into the first bend caused Thierry Boutsen's Arrows to spear across the track and bounce back off the barriers, with many of those behind unable to avoid the debris. Jacques Laffite's day started with him being feted for equaling the most number of grand prix starts but ended with him in hospital with two broken legs: career-ending injuries. Far luckier was Nigel Mansell who suffered driveshaft failure in the opening seconds and who had radioed his pits to say his race was over. The re-start allowed him to jump into the reserve car, in which he went on to win, a feat made all the more remarkable as in their haste to get the Williams ready, the pit crew had forgotten to put a water bottle on board.
French Grand Prix, 1989
One of the more spectacular crashes came at Paul Ricard, with Mauricio Gugelmin's March flying through the air after colliding with Thierry Boutsen's Williams rear tire and landing on Nigel Mansell's Ferrari. Again, several reserve cars were called into action, and although Mansell suffered neck and head injuries, he knuckled down, took over team-mate Gerhard Berger's car, started from the pit lane and finished second.
Belgian Grand Prix, 1998
This was the craziest start in the history of F1. The race ran in extremely wet weather and started with no safety car. Seconds after the start David Coulthard lost control, spun of his car, and the drivers behind him started to brake in panic, causing a collision involving 13 drivers, which led to the race being stopped. After a delay to clear the track, a second attempt was made to start the race, albeit without four of the drivers involved in the incident. At the second start, championship leader and pole sitter Mika Häkkinen spun his car at the first corner and was hit by Johnny Herbert's car forcing them both to retire from the race. Damon Hill took the lead of the race, until Michael Schumacher overtook Hill on lap eight. Schumacher had built up over 30 seconds of advantage over Hill by lap 24 when he came up to lap David Coulthard.
After being instructed over the team radio to let him past, Coulthard slowed down, but stayed on the main racing line, and due to the spray behind him was unsighted by Schumacher who hit the back of his McLaren causing terminal damage to Schumacher's Ferrari. A livid Schumacher stormed into the McLaren garage and yelled "eere you trying to f***ing kill me?" at Coulthard, and the pair had to be separated by mechanics.
German Grand Prix, 2001
This was not a huge incident by numbers of involved cars but proof even the greats have off days came at Hockenheim when world champion Michael Schumacher struggled with his gear selection off the line, and Luciano Burti was unable to avoid slamming into the crawling Ferrari. "Burti's Prost twisted in the air before landing upside down between the Orange Arrows of Bernoldi and Jos Verstappen," the Daily Mirror reported. "The impact thrust Schumacher 's Ferrari at least an extra 200 metres down the track and left Burti shedding wheels and debris in all directions." A re-start was ordered but Schumacher did not enjoy the reprieve as his replacement Ferrari expired, leaving him to watch the remainder of the race from the cool shelter of trackside trees. The home crowd still had a Schumacher victory to cheer, Ralf enjoying one of his six career wins.