Formula One: A look back at the 10 most harrowing F1 crashes and accidents

An ambulance is dispatched after the race was stopped following a crash by Marussia Formula One driver Jules Bianchi of France at the Japanese F1 Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit on Oct 5, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
An ambulance is dispatched after the race was stopped following a crash by Marussia Formula One driver Jules Bianchi of France at the Japanese F1 Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit on Oct 5, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MARUSSIA'S French driver Jules Bianchi is fighting for his life after his car hit a recovery vehicle during the rain-affected Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday. Accidents like these are a stark reminder that Formula One remains one of the most dangerous sports. Here is a look back at some of the most horrific accidents that the sport has seen over the past few years.

1. Niki Lauda (1976)

The 1976 accident at the German Grand Prix in Nurburgring almost cost the F1 sport one of its greatest drivers, Niki Lauda. Laua had lost control of his Ferrari in the second lap, sending his car crashing into the barriers and then back across the track, where he collided with another car and his vehicle burst into flames. Fellow drivers rushed to the burning vehicle and managed to yank a badly burnt Lauda out. With his lungs also injured, Lauda slipped into a coma. At one point, his condition was so critical that a priest was asked to read him the last rites. Fortunately, Lauda survived and was back in the seat of his Ferrari just six weeks later.

2. Gilles Villeneuve (1982)

Gilles Villeneuve died in a 225kmh-crash caused by a collision with the back of Jochen Mass' car during final qualifying lap for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. According to reports, Villeneuve's car was airborne for more than 100m before it nosedived into the ground, disintegrating as it somersaulted along the edge of the track. The crash was so intense that Villeneuve was thrown acoss the track still strapped to his car's seat. Despite efforts to resuscitate the Canadian, he died at a local hospital that evening.

3. Gerhard Berger (1989)

Gerhard Berger managed to escape death despite a horrific crash during the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola's Tamburello corner. Berger went straight into a wall at almost 300kmh, sending his car, which was still full on fuel, spinning multiple times along the wall before bursting into flames. Berger walked away with remarkably few injuries save for burns to hands and some broken ribs.

4. Ayrton Senna (1994)

Three-time World Champion Ayrton Senna was killed in an accident while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. As Senna rounded the high-speed Tamburello corner on lap 7, he left the track and hit into a concrete wall. It is believed that during the impact, the front right wheel and suspension struck Senna on the head. A piece of the assembly also pierced his visor, casuing the fatal trauma. Senna's death was considered by many of his Brazilian fans to be a national tragedy.

5. Roland Ratzenberger (1994)

Roland Ratzenberger was killed in a crash a day before Ayrton Senna at the same race. His car crashed into a wall at over 300kmh after a front wing failure during the qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix at the Imola circuit. The impact was so strong that it broke the rookie's neck.

6. Rubens Barrichello (1994)

Rubens Barrichello's career nearly ended when his car smashed into the wall at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. During the second lap, Barrichello's car went out of line and hit a steep kerb, launching him into the air. The car hit the ground on its nose and rolled over, coming to a rest on its side. The accident knocked him unconscious. Marshalls also found him unable to breath due to a blocked airway.

7. Jos Verstappen (1994)

Jos Verstappen's car was set ablaze at the 1994 German Grand Prix during his first scheduled pitstop during the race. Fuel had spilled into the car even after the fuel hose was disconnected, setting the car, with Verstappen in it, ablaze for a brief period. Because Verstappen had the visor of his helmet slightly opened then - a convention during a pitstop - he suffered slight burns to this nose. The dramatic incident led to the modification of the fuel delivery hose so that it now incorporates a fail-safe cut-out system.

8. The massive pile-up in Belgium (1998)

On the first lap of the race, David Coulthard lost control of his McLaren, causing a massive collision involving thirteen other drivers, which led to the race being stopped. The race ran entirely in extremely wet weather and despite the heavy rain it was decided that the race would start at the scheduled time without a safety car. No one was seriously injured.

9. Michael Schumacher and Luciano Burti (2001)

At Hockenheim, Michael Schumacher started to have problems with his Ferrari's gear selection and had to slow down. While several cars managed to avoid him, Luciano Burti had no time to react. Burti launched over the crawling Ferrari and was propelled several metres into the air before coming down on top of Enrique Bernoldi’s Arro. Thankfully, no one was severely hurt.

10. Nick Heidfeld and Takuma Sato (2002)

During the Austrian Grand Prix, Nick Heidfeld's car smashed into Takuma Sato after Heidfeld lost control over his vehicle due to a rear suspension failure on the way into a corner. This caused it to spin across the infield and back across the circuit, spinning backwards into the side of Sato's car. Sato suffered a concussions and some bruises and was stuck in the wreckage for a bit, while Heidfield was carried away in shock.