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Has The F1 Safety Car Ever Crashed Or Been Hit?

The Formula 1 safety car is shipped to every race weekend, and it plays an integral role in keeping the drivers and marshals safe during each event. But you might be wondering if there has ever been a situation where the F1 safety car crashed.

The F1 safety car has never crashed or been hit, even in torrential rain. However, there have been some close calls where the safety car driver has made a mistake out on track. There was also an incident where an F1 car crashed into the medical car at the 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Despite the safety car being used to neutralize the race and create a safer environment for drivers and marshals, there have been some incidents over the years. Below, we discuss these in more detail.

Has The Safety Car Ever Crashed In F1?

The Formula 1 safety car has never crashed during a Grand Prix. Despite being called upon to slow the cars down, the safety car driver is still driving the car close to its limits. The only time the safety car would slow down is to guide the pack through debris and past marshals working to clear the track, or through the pit lane.

The safety car driver is incredibly skilled and can control the car even in torrential rain when the track is slippery. The car also has some driver aids, such as traction control and ABS, which means that it’s much easier for the driver to keep control of the car, especially in tricky conditions.

Despite driving the safety car close to its limits, the Formula 1 safety car has never crashed. During a Grand Prix, the safety car driver is fully focused on ensuring the pack of cars behind them is under control, and as such, they would never drive the car to the point where they could crash it.

Safety Car Drivers Also Practice

Aside from the fact that the safety car has driver aids turned on, there is another reason the drivers would be less likely to crash when leading the pack during a Grand Prix. That is the fact that drivers of the safety car and medical car also practice on the circuit throughout the course of the weekend.

If you watch Formula 1 from home, it’s likely that you might have missed it. The safety car is often sent around the track in between the Formula 1 sessions and the support races, such as F2 and F3, which gives the driver time to familiarize themselves with the circuit and how the safety car handles on the track in the weather conditions they’re having that particular weekend.

The driver will also be doing laps before the start of the race, giving them even more time on track. In other words, when the safety car is called upon during the Grand Prix, the driver will be ready to lead the pack, and they will be comfortable and confident with the vehicle.

Safety Car Drivers Do Make Mistakes

But safety car drivers are still human, and they are still prone to making mistakes. Luckily, there have been no major mistakes during a Grand Prix. However, as the drivers explore the limits of their cars during their practice rounds, there are bound to be some errors.

There was one particular incident where the safety car driver, Bernd Mayländer, was overtaking the medical car but missed his braking point. On a dusty track, the safety car struggled to find enough grip and stopping power, which forced the German driver to take to the run off area at the first corner.

Luckily there were no barriers nearby, and the safety car didn’t sustain any damage. Perhaps Mayländer would be more relieved about the fact that there were no fans in the stands to witness the clumsy mistake first-hand! All we have is a couple of seconds of recorded footage to look back on, but it’s a very rare instance of him not being in full control of the safety car.

Has Anyone Ever Crashed Into The F1 Safety Car?

Nobody has ever crashed into the F1 safety car during a Grand Prix, or even during any other official Formula 1 event. The leader of the race is the one directly behind the safety car, and if you’re leading, you’re going to be paying close attention and trying to stay focused at all times.

Unless a driver makes a serious mistake, or they are caught out by treacherous weather conditions, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would ever crash into the safety car.

The safety car is usually found at the front of the pack leading the cars through the field as the race is neutralized. If a car loses control behind the safety car, it’s highly likely that they could crash into the safety car, especially in rainy conditions when the cars are aquaplaning often. However, F1 drivers are some of the best drivers in the world, so it has never happened.

KEY FACT: Many drivers have crashed on their own behind the safety car, but never into the safety car itself!

Has The F1 Medical Car Ever Crashed?

The F1 medical car has never crashed during a race, qualifying, or practice session. There was one unofficial incident before an F1 session at Monaco in 2000, where the medical car crashed into the barriers. Nick Heidfeld also famously crashed into the medical car at the 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix.

The medical car plays an important role, often driving at the back of the pack in case of an accident on the first lap. This is how Romain Grosjean was saved from his fiery crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix.

The medical car does not have to drive as fast or push as hard as the safety car does in most cases, which means that it is far less likely to crash while it is out on track. The medical car also uses driver aids like traction control and ABS to give the driver more control over the car, which F1 cars don’t have.

Just like the safety car driver, the medical car driver will also spend time out on track throughout the weekend to get some practice in, although their job does not necessarily require them to complete multiple laps at once, but rather to get to the scene of an accident as quickly as possible.

Monaco 2000

Technically the incident at the 2000 Monaco Grand Prix involving the medical car did not occur during an official Formula 1 event, but it’s still worth mentioning. The incident happened in between two Formula 1 sessions, rather than during one.

The Formula 1 medical car was completing its practice laps as they normally do in between sessions when the track is not being used. However, former F1 driver Alex Ribeiro made a mistake heading into Tabac, the brakes locked up, and the medical car went straight into the barriers.

Luckily, he was able to reverse out of the barriers and drive the car back to the pits under its own power. There was some severe bodywork damage to the car, and most likely some embarrassment on the driver’s part, as there were some fans in the grandstands who witnessed the incident.

Brazil 2002

Perhaps the worst Formula 1 medical car incident happened at the 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix. During the race, Enrique Bernoldi suffered a heavy shunt at the Senna S corners. Alex Ribeiro, the medical car driver who crashed in 2000 at Monaco, pulled up on the side of the track to check on the Brazilian driver.

However, just seconds later, Nick Heidfeld came through the Senna S at high speed and was unable to slow his car down in time. Ribeiro opened the door of the medical car at the same time and was about to exit the vehicle when Heidfeld steamed past him, taking the door off the Mercedes with his Sauber.

It was a nasty incident, but if Heidfeld had arrived half a second later, it could have been a serious fatal incident for the medical car driver. Neither of them were at fault, as it came down to poor marshaling as the drivers should have been given double waved yellow flags at least. 

However, the right course of action would have been to red flag the race due to there being a stricken car on the circuit with a medical car attending to the driver. In the end, we’re lucky that no one was seriously hurt, and these kinds of incidents don’t happen anymore.

Taki Inoue Incident, 1995 Hungarian Grand Prix

At the 1995 Hungarian Grand Prix, there was an incident where the medical car hit a driver. Taki Inoue was known for being one of the worst drivers to race in Formula 1, and this was perhaps one of his most famous incidents.

Inoue’s car was stopped on the side of the track with a mechanical issue. The Japanese driver jumped out of his car to grab a fire extinguisher when he saw smoke pouring from the car’s engine. As he grabbed the fire extinguisher and turned around to rush back to his car, he ran straight into the path of the medical car.

Luckily, no one was injured, and Inoue was able to walk away from the incident without being harmed. In fairness to Taki Inoue, it is difficult to be aware of your surroundings when you have a helmet on while you’re rushing to put out a fire!

Final Thoughts

The F1 safety car has never crashed. However, the safety car and the medical car have had close calls over the years, including an incident where a driver was hit with the medical car. Nevertheless, the safety car is operated by skilled drivers, so it’s unlikely to crash.