4 times the Formula 1 ‘safety’ car has crashed

Alex Gassman

by Alex Gassman

Mercedes C43 AMG F1 Medical car crash 2000 Monaco Grand Prix

Safety cars are there for a reason in Formula 1, and all other types of motorsport. To keep the drivers safe on track.

But sometimes its the safety cars themselves that get in to a bit of trouble. Below is a list of 4 times the Safety or Medical car has crashed in Formula 1.

The safety car's role

Usually when there’s been an incident on track that’s big enough to require cleaning up with marshals on the circuit, the safety car will be deployed.

The safety car will come out on track in front of the leader and maintain a pace much slower than the F1 race pace. This will control the field and give the marshals and track workers time to clear up the accident in a safe environment.

If the incident is much more serious then the race is likely to be red flagged and stopped completely.

Merc AMG Black series F1 pace car

The medical car's role

When a Formula 1 race begins, look at the very back of the grid as the lights are just about to go out. You’ll see a normal looking road car parked up behind all the F1 cars.

That’s the medical car. Its job is to follow the Formula 1 cars around for the first lap which is when there’s the highest risk of a crash happening.

If an incident does occur on the first lap the medical car will be on the scene almost immediately and will be able to tend to the drivers.

Grosjean crash medical car

That’s exactly what we saw happen with Romain Grosjean’s horrific crash at Bahrain in 2020. The medical car was on the scene almost right away, and its driver and passengers helped extinguish the fire and get Romain out of the burning wreck of his HAAS.

Who drives the F1 safety and medical cars?

The safety car in Formula 1 has been driven by the German ex-racing driver Bernd Mylander since 2000. Mylander used to race in DTM, the German touring car series, and won the Nurburgring 24 hours in 2000.

He’s driven the safety car for almost every Formula 1 race since 2000, with only a handful of exceptions.

Mercedes SLS AMG Bernd Meylander

The Formula 1 Medical car was driver by South African ex-racing driver Alan van der Merwe from 2009 until the end of 2001. Van der Merwe was the 2003 British Formula 3 champion, and raced in the A1 Grand Prix for South Africa.

4 times the safety and medical cars have crashed in F1

Whilst their job is to make things safer, that doesn’t always happen. Here’s 4 occasions where the safety / medical car go in to a bit of trouble.

1995 Monaco GP: Taki Inoue crashed in to by safety car

During qualifying for the 1995 Monaco Grand Prix, Taki Inoue’s Arrows broke down. It was being towed back to the pits when it was hit from behind by one of the coolest F1 safety cars, a Renault Clio hot hatch.

Unfortunately the cameras didn’t catch the collision, but you can see the pretty comprehensive damage on the front of the Clio. It was a heavy enough hit to leave Inoue concussed.

1995 Hungarian GP: Taki Inoue crashed in to by medical car

Taki Inoue didn’t have much luck with safety and medical cars in 1995. Only 3 months after his previous incident, he came to blows with the Medical car at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

This time it was worse, but thankfully it could still have been a lot worse.

Taki Inoue medical car crash

During the race his Arrows broke down and Inoue had to pull off to the side of the track. When he got out of his car he thought it was on fire, so he ran over to a marshal to grab their fire extinguisher.

When he turned round to run back to his smoking car with the extinguisher, he didn’t look to his left. The medical car, a Tatra 613, was approaching on the grass and hit Inoue in his side, flinging him up on to the bonnet before he collapsed on the floor.

Luckily Taki was well enough after getting whacked by the medical car to compete in the rest of the season.

2000 Monaco Grand Prix: Medical car crash

In between F1 sessions at the 2000 Monaco Grand Prix the medical car was doing a lap to check the track was clear.

The driver was Brazilian ex-F1 driver Alex Ribiero and his passenger was the legendary Formula 1 Doctor Professor Sid Watkins.

The footage shows the end of the crash, just as Ribeiro is reversing his mangled C43 AMG estate out of the tyre barriers. It looks like he simply went too fast in to the left hander of Tabac, couldn’t make the turn and ploughed in to the barriers.

In the video you can definitely hear the car skid, plus the tire marks on the ground afterwards suggest he locked up when he hit the brakes. The AMG should have had ABS, so maybe that had failed.

Either way a very embarrassing moment, and one which resulted in 3 broken ribs for Sid Watkins in the passenger seat.

2002 Brazilian Grand Prix: Nick Heidfeld hits Medical car

One of the most well known medical car incidents took place at the 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Enrique Bernoldi crashed his Arrows F1 car at the Senna S during free practice, which caused a red flag and brought the medical car on to the track.

The medical car was again driven by Alex Ribeiro but this time he was not at fault. He parked up behind the Arrows, seeming out of harm’s way. That was until Nick Heidfeld in the Sauber came around the turn at full speed.

Somehow he squeezed through a gap between the Mercedes medical car and the barrier. But unfortunately just before Heidfeld appeared on the scene, Ribeiro had opened his driver’s door. Heidfeld hit it with his front wing and bent it backwards.

Luckily Ribeiro hadn’t yet stepped out of the car. If he had it could have been a very different result.

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Alex Gassman

I‘m Alex. I write F1 and motorsport guides based on my own experience as a racing driver and full-time motorsport nerd. I’ve traveled the world watching F1 and other racing series.

I started oversteer48 with the aim of helping other motorsport fans who want to learn more about racing.

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Join the oversteer48 F1 Insider's club

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