1994 German Grand Prix

Famous Fires in Sport – Jos Verstappen 1994 German Grand Prix

The world of Formula 1 has witnessed its fair share of dramatic moments throughout its rich history. One such incident that left an incredible mark on the sport occurred during the 1994 German Grand Prix. The race at Hockenheimring not only showcased the speed and skill of the drivers but also highlighted the inherent dangers of motor racing. This accident showed the world of motorsport the dangers behind refuelling and what could happen if something went wrong.

Background Behind the 1994 German Grand Prix

The 1994 Formula 1 season was plagued by tragedy, with the death of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola earlier in the year. Safety concerns were at the forefront of everyone’s minds, prompting a closer look at the sport’s regulations and the design of the cars. The 1994 German Grand Prix was to take place on July 31st 1994. This German Grand Prix would then go on to remind the world that danger still loomed on the track.

The Incident

Jos Verstappen, (father of current Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen) was behind the wheel of the Benetton-Ford when the incident occurred. During a routine pit stop on lap 18, the fuel nozzle malfunctioned, causing a spray of highly flammable fuel onto the car. In a matter of seconds, Verstappen’s car became engulfed in flames. This was due to the heat of the car igniting the spilled fuel.

Chaos ensued as the Benetton crew and nearby marshals rushed to extinguish the fire. The severity of the situation was evident, and the fear for Verstappen’s safety gripped both the pit crew and spectators alike. Miraculously, Verstappen managed to escape the inferno, suffering only minor burns on his nose and right foot.

When interviewed about the incident Jos Verstappen said this –

“I remember coming in for what I thought was a regular pitstop. Sitting in the car, I would always open my visor because when I stood still I would sweat a lot, so as I came to a halt I opened my helmet to get some fresh air.”

“Then I saw the fluid coming. This was before I could smell anything, and that is why I was waving my arm. Then everything went up [in flames] and it was suddenly dark and black, and I couldn’t breathe. It was a situation you don’t normally think about: it is like you are suddenly put in a dark room, and then you think, ‘I need to get out..’”

“It was a struggle to get the steering wheel off, and that took me a couple of seconds. Then I had to release the belts. So there were a lot of things I had to do before I stood up and realised what had happened.”

Immediate Aftermath

The fire was put out within a matter of seconds, but there remained frantic scenes inside the Benetton garage as the team tried to get to grips with what had happened.

The Benetton crew even had to start getting ready for Schumacher’s second stop, before his retirement meant the focus could shift to treating the burns of those caught up in the fire.

Impact of the Event on Formula 1

The incident raised serious questions about the safety procedures in place during pit stops. Investigations revealed that a valve in the refuelling rig had failed, leading to the uncontrolled release of fuel. As a result, changes were implemented to improve the safety of pit stops, including modifications to the refuelling equipment and stricter regulations regarding fuel handling.

The Jos Verstappen fire incident at the 1994 German Grand Prix served as a stark reminder of the dangers inherent in motor racing. While strides have been made to enhance safety in the sport, this incident underscored the need for constant vigilance and improvements in technology and regulations. 

In 2010, 16 years later, refueling was banned from Formula 1. This meant that cars would have to carry all the fuel for the whole race from the start. This came with safety concerns for the drivers. This rule could not be implemented before the 2010 season with the cars being too small to hold that much fuel. But along with the regulation changes in 2010 this allowed for the removal of refueling.

Conclusion

The 1994 German Grand Prix will forever be etched in Formula 1 history not just for the intense on-track battles but also for the terrifying incident involving Jos Verstappen. The resilience of both Verstappen and the sport as a whole was on display that day, prompting a renewed commitment to safety that continues to shape Formula 1 to this day.

Image Sources for Famous Fires in Sport – Jos Verstappen 1994 German Grand Prix

Photo 1 – Benetton Pit Fire (Germany 1994) – link

Photo 2 – From The Archives – link

Famous Fires in Sport - Grosjean 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

Famous Fires in Sport – Grosjean 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

The Bahrain Grand Prix in 2020 will forever be etched in Formula 1 history for a harrowing incident that unfolded on the first lap. The Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean experienced a horrific crash that sent shockwaves through the motorsport community. This crash was seen on major news and most people knew about the incident at the time, even if they were not into motorsports.

This crash was part of the Netflix Formula 1 documentary ‘Drive to Survive’ and was the key aspect of the Season 3 Episode 9 ‘Man On Fire’. The Netflix documentary brought a lot of viewers to the sport, and this documentary gave a great insight into the behind-the-scenes of Formula 1 that the viewer could not see before. This episode gives a great look into the crash and what happened that weekend.

The 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

The race took place at the Bahrain International Circuit on November 29, 2020. As the lights went out for the start, chaos ensued. Romain Grosjean, starting from 19th on the grid, found himself involved in a dramatic incident just a few corners after the race began.

The Crash

Grosjean’s Haas car collided with AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat, sending him off the track and into the barriers at a high speed. The impact was so severe that the car split into two, with the front section penetrating the barrier, and erupting into flames. This sort of crash is very uncommon, that is what made it so terrifying.

The most remarkable aspect of this incident was Grosjean’s miraculous escape. After freeing himself from the constraints inside the cockpit, he hoisted himself out of the fire and climbed over the safety barrier. The prompt response of the track marshals and the effectiveness of the safety features in place played a vital role in preventing a more tragic outcome. The marshalls did an excellent job rushing to help Grosjean out of the flaming cockpit as well as extinguishing the fire with fire extinguishers as soon as possible.

A full investigation by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) was taken out of the cause of the fireball that was caused in the crash. Their statement read – 

“The car suffered extensive damage during the impact including separation of the power train assembly from the survival cell. The fuel tank inspection hatch on the left-hand side of the chassis was dislodged and the engine fuel supply connection was torn from the fuel tank ‘safety bladder’; both providing primary paths for the escape of fuel from the tank.”

“The high voltage Energy Recovery System (ERS) battery was significantly damaged, with some parts of the ERS battery assembly remaining with the powertrain and others remaining attached to the survival cell. The fire was ignited during the final moments of the barrier impact, starting from the rear of the survival cell and progressing forwards towards the driver as the fire grew.”

Grosjean 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

Safety Measures

Formula 1 has continuously evolved its safety standards, and Grosjean’s crash highlighted the effectiveness of these measures. The ‘Halo Device’, a safety innovation introduced in 2018, played a crucial role in protecting Grosjean’s head from the barriers during the impact. When the ‘Halo Device’ was introduced into Formula 1 back in 2018, many drivers and people around Formula 1 said they were not a fan and it ruined the look of the car. This device since its introduction has gone on to save countless lives and prevent many bad injuries.

The fire-resistant Nomex racing suit that the drivers are made to wear gave Grosjean the crucial seconds he needed for him to escape the flames.

Medical Intervention

Following his escape, Grosjean was immediately taken to the medical centre for examination. He suffered burns to his hands and a sprained ankle but was otherwise remarkably unharmed, a testament to the advancements in safety technology and the meticulous planning of the FIA.

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Investigation and Changes after the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

The FIA launched a thorough investigation into the crash, analysing data from the car and the circuit. Changes were subsequently made to the barrier design and other safety protocols to further enhance driver protection in similar incidents.

Conclusion

Romain Grosjean’s crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2020 was a terrifying moment that showcased the resilience of both the driver and the safety measures in Formula 1. The incident prompted a reassessment of safety protocols, leading to improvements that continue to shape the future of the sport. As we reflect on this remarkable event, it serves as a stark reminder of the risks inherent in motorsport and the relentless pursuit of safety to minimise those risks.

Image Sources for Famous Fires in Sport – Grosjean 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

Man on Fire – Image 1 – Motosport.com – link

Crash Diagram – Image 2 – Crashalog – Grosjean 3D Crash Animation – F1 Bahrain 2020

Hands – Image 3 – Formula 1 – link