Video: How drivers react to big crashes

Posted on

| Written by

Sebastien Bourdais had a big crash in testing at Barcelona on Wednesday. Happily he was unhurt but he may have dealt a blow to his standing in the team if the damage to the new STR3 forces the team to delay its introduction.

Major crashes can affect F1 drivers in different ways. Even though drivers regularly walk away from even the most shocking crashes these days, the effect it has on their state of mind can be a lot harder to judge.

Bourdais in 2008, Hamilton in 2007

Lewis Hamilton found himself in a similar situation to Bourdais when he crashed his McLaren MP4/22 in pre-season testing last year, leaving McLaren short one of their new chassis in the run-up to the new season. Test driver Pedro de la Rosa said:

It’s been a setback because it slows us down right in the middle of the off-season. We have lost several days and we have to get them back quickly.

Hamilton bounced back but Bourdais’ situation is a little trickier, especially if the team are no longer able to ready the new car in time for its planned d?�?�but at the Turkish Grand Prix. The team is up for sale, and Bourdais will want the new owners to consider him an asset to the team rather than a liability.

Career deviations

The consequences for Bourdais may be no more than political but there are plenty of examples of F1 drivers whose career paths changed for the worst after major crashes in which they were injured.

JJ Lehto and Karl Wendlinger both returned to the cockpit after big accidents in 1994 – Lehto suffering neck injuries twice, and Wendlinger going into a coma – but their F1 careers did not last much longer.

Olivier Panis was challenging for wins in his Prost early in 1997 before breaking his legs in a crash at Montreal. How much of his subsequent dip in form was down to that crash, and how much was down to the inferior machinery he had at his disposal, is difficult to separate – but likely it was a little of each.

Ralf Schumacher suffered back injuries in 2003 and 2004 forcing him to miss races – the latter at Indianapolis (above). He stopped winning races and his career slipped into a downward trajectory.

Recent shunts

Formula 1 cars have become so strong in recent years that seeing drivers injured in any way is thankfully becoming a rarer sight. Michael Schumacher walked away from a gigantic crash in testing at Monza in 2004 which could well have been around the time he first considered retiring.

Last year’s biggest accident by far was Robert Kubica’s at Montreal.

The Pole was completely uninjured and given that I thought it strange at the time that he didn’t race in the following event at Indianapolis. The explanation given was that if he suffered another severe crash within such a short space of time it could have a particularly adverse affect on him.

It certainly didn’t seem to have affected Kubica once he got back in the cockpit. He matched his best qualifying result of the season at Magny-Cours next time out…

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

17 comments on “Video: How drivers react to big crashes”

  1. Kubica managed to bounce back in spectacular fashion, and it looks like he will only be going up.Panis was always a tragedy for me as I saw him get his first win at Monaco ’96 then challenging for wins in ’97 – Jacques even went to say that Panis was a challenger for the championship – then after that crash he wasn’t the same. Sure, I don’t think Panis would have been able to keep the form up, but the crash did contribute to his slip in pace in mu opinion.Michael Schumacher’s crash I didn’t even hear about until now! How bad was it, are there any pictures of the incident? It must’ve been pretty bad if it rattled Schumi – especially after he broke his leg in ’99 and dominated on his return race…

  2. If you’re looking for a big comeback after a crash in recent years, don’t look any further than Mika Hakkinen after Adelaide 1995. Actually I know of no similar crash where the driver came back and became world champion, let alone much else…

  3. That’s an excellent example – and the consequences for his relationship with Ron Dennis are especially interesting, as David Coulthard would agree…

  4. Well, that’s true, but it is also true that DC was never the driver that Mika was, regardless of how Mika might have had a better relationship with Ron. I think this relationship was just something that DC could point to when he failed, time after time, and didn’t match his own expectations that he made publicliy known before the season.

  5. What about Michael Schumacher breaking his leg at Silverstone and then winning 5 straight world titles from the following season on?

  6. Thanks Gabriel. I was about to bring that up. Michael won 5 championships on the trot, upon his return.

  7. I would be curious how much driver were affected after a team mate or close friend died. Jacky Steward would be the extreme case.

  8. What about Kubica’s big crash at Montreal in 2007, which he then followed with a world championship the following year?

    // to soon?

  9. Following that logic, I hope Heidfeld has a big off this year!

    Not really.

  10. Nice one Scootin159, but too soon indeed. I say come back with it next year and no-one will have doubts about Kubica’s meisterschaft…

  11. dan m:  i think berger would be another example.  and possibly even prost after pironi’s crash at hockenheim.  pironi survived but, i think it hung onto prost for a long time after.  especially coming as close on the heels of villeneuve’s death.  i’m not sure how close the friendship was but, i did read an interview with him later -much later, after he’d retired i think and it still bothered him even though it wasn’t his fault.  

     i won’t say anything about villeneuve’s death  had affected pironi if at all.  i don’t think i ever heard he’d talked about it.

  12. Would not mind seeing that Scootin’.

  13. Lady Snowcat
    19th April 2008, 14:05

    You are all forgetting Niki Lauda….

    That has to be the comeback of all time….

    And in those days you didn’t often get to try again….

  14. Well said Lady Snowcat…

  15. all these accidents give me a lump in my throat. its my belief that F1 drivers are exceptional and amazing athletes and deserve every penny they get. the senna accident was horrific and still has me in mourning.

  16. James Steventon
    20th April 2008, 6:36

    As somebody pointed out, Aryton Senna’s crash and that of
    Ratzenberger in 1994 were horrific milestones in Formula One history.
    If any good at all came from the loss of these two great men, then it surely has to be the huge safety improvements in the fourteen years since that weekend in San Marino.
    When I saw Robert Kubica’s car spear off the road in Canada and slam into the retaining wall, memories of Imola 1994 came flooding back. I must admit, I was fearing the worst.
    The cars now are super strong, able to take incredible loads when in an accident, however, complacency can never be overlooked.
    Motor racing, no matter what series, will always be dangerous
    and there will always be risks involved. Partly due to this risk, in my opinion, is why so many people are fascinated with racing, and Formula One especially.
    Every driver deep down knows that he is risking his own life every time they get in the cockpit. Thanks to the standards of
    2007 F1 cars in terms of safety, Kubica is still with us, and for that I am gratefull. As I am sure, is he.

  17. Good post James

Comments are closed.