Death, Danger and Popularity

11 April 2023

Safety and F1 have been significant since the series’ inception in the 50s.

Due to the continuing good work of the F1 and FIA, we now have fewer crashes resulting in deaths.

Fifteen drivers died in the 1950s; fourteen in the 1960s; twelve in the 1970s; four in the 1980s, and two in the 1990s with the death of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna on successive days.

Five drivers died after that till 2017, with Jules Bianchi being the only fatality in a Championship race.

Fifty-two Formula One drivers have died while testing, practising, qualifying or racing in Formula One.

The first F1 World Championship was held at Silverstone in 1950; the car’s priority was speed, not safety, with front engines, drum brakes, and nil medical backup facility.

In 1975 fireproof clothing became mandatory. In 1994, all members of the refuelling team had to wear protective clothing.

The drivers of that early period were more worried about whether they would survive the race rather than where a sponsor’s ‘sticker’ should be placed and its team value.

With the modern essential safety measures, there is now a lack of danger.

A journalist commented:

‘The spectre of death no longer hangs over every Grand Prix and, while this is certainly a positive development, has Grand Prix racing lost some of its essence.’