Tragic death: How Elio de Angelis' fire accident changed Formula 1


( – Before 34 years Elio de Angelis has his life in a fire accident on the Circuit Paul Ricard lost at Le Castellet. Sport has learned valuable lessons from this. De Angelis' death in May 1986 has illustrated that little has changed despite improved security standards since Roger Williamson in the Dutch Enormous Prix 13 Years before battle.

Elio de Angelis

© Motorsport Photos

Elio de Angelis died at the age of 27 years in Paul Ricard zoom Acquire

While the Zandvoort tragedy are residing went around the world on TV screens, de Angelis crashed on a quiet test day on Wednesday morning. This also explains why the gruesome story about chaotic conditions after the accident received very little media attention.

In fact, many observers in a hurry described the black Imola weekend 1994 the death of Gilles Villeneuve and Riccardo Paletti on the race weekends 1982 as the last tragedies that have occurred in Enormous Prix racing. Snappy as if an accident in a test was a footnote and even less important.

“He was incredibly classy “

This fact did not only injustice to the deceased, but also to those who were brave for his life that Wednesday morning in France

De Angelis grew up in a wealthy family in Rome. 1979 he first appeared in the shadow group in Formula 1, shortly before his 21. Birthday. He previously won the Formula 3 race in Monaco – at that time, this success was considered an entry ticket to the premier class.

“He battle an endearing guy,” recalls his then Shadow- Team colleague Jan Lammers. “I thought he was a gentleman. He was one of the nicest guys in Formula 1. He was incredibly classy.”

Elio de Angelis

© Motorsport Photos

1979 started de Angelis with Shadow in Formula 1 zoom Acquire

With an outstanding drive to fourth place in the wet US Enormous Prix in Watkins Glen, de Angelis closed his rookie season 1979 from. The following year he switched to Lotus and was second in his second race for the Group in Brazil. As a teammate of Mario Andretti, he should learn a lot.

He had to defend himself against his image as a rich child right from the start, but soon he was able to build a name as a fast driver. Moments of moodiness were mainly part of his early career, later he was able to wrap people around his finger with his relaxed charm.

His interests went far beyond racing, he also enjoyed once an evening with a cigarette and a glass of whiskey. “He's an extremely talented driver,” says former Lotus supervisor Peter Collins. “He had a wonderful driving style, very safe and very fast.”

Two unexpected Enormous Prix victories

Lotus engineer Peter Wright added: “Of all the drivers I worked with, I probably liked him the most.” In four years next to Nigel Mansell, de Angelis was often only in the shadow of the British.

His first victory was 1982 celebrate in Austria – in He finished finish a few meters against Keke Rosberg. Many remembered his piano concert during the driver strike in Kyalami that year.

His first pole region followed 1983 at the Enormous Prix of Europe at Brands Hatch, although the year overall was a disappointing battle due to the new, unreliable Lotus-Renault. Another pole region created de Angelis 1984 in Brazil, that year things went up again.

Elio de Angelis

© Motorsport Photos

Austria 1982: De Angelis wins wafer-thin in front of Keke Rosberg – first victory! zoom Acquire

With regular top 6 results, the Italian even pushed himself to third place at the end of the year behind McLaren drivers Niki Lauda and Alain Prost. He also left Mansell behind with four podiums.

De Angelis was seen as a team leader within the Lotus team. Opponent Mansell left 1985 the team, whereby a certain Ayrton Senna became his new teammate. Inevitably, he often had trouble keeping up with the Brazilian on a lap.

In Canada, he was still able to secure his third career pole and also qualify in two more races ahead of Senna. De Angelis also had his second Enormous Prix success in the San Marino Enormous Prix because Prost was excluded due to an underweight McLaren.

In the shadow of Senna

With further consistency, the Italian secured fifth place in the World Cup, just five points behind Senna. Aged swiftly 28 Years ago he had seven years of Formula 1 experience, de Angelis was now one of the established pilots in the field.

In 90 Race starts with Lotus he drove impressive 42 Time in the top 6 – at a time when reliability mostly left something to be desired, especially in the turbo era. Still, de Angelis felt neglected in the group, all attention battle focused on Senna – time for a change.

He signed a contract for Bernie Ecclestones Brabham-Group, where he replaced 1986 Nelson Piquet. Riccardo Patrese became de Angelis' teammate. “He hasn't been there long, but Elio battle is very popular in the group,” Charlie Whiting recalled 2014.

Elio de Angelis

© Motorsport Photos

With Ayrton Senna de Angelis got a strong teammate to the side zoom Acquire

The late ex-FIA race director battle had been promoted to racing engineer by Patrese at the time, previously he was the chief mechanic. “He was a lovely guy, everyone got along well with him. It was always a pleasure to talk to him. Just a nice guy.”

However, the Brabham BT 55 was a “big disappointment”, according to Whiting. Gordon Murray's new car with a humble look and a strange cockpit region promised a lot – in reality, however, it turned out to be a disappointment.

“It should have been brilliant,” says the former Brabham -Team manager Herbie Blash today. “I remember sitting in the pub with Bernie, Gordon, Elio and Riccardo. We flipped a coin to determine who would win the first race – we were so confident!”

Test accident on a quiet Wednesday morning

But not once Brabham-Fashioned Patrese could handle the car. After eighth place in Brazil, de Angelis had three mechanical defects in a row. In the past two years he swiftly started every race from the top 10 – his best starting position in those four Brabham races battle place 14.

After a frustrating weekend in Monaco, the Group immediately traveled to the official test before the Enormous Prix from France to Le Castellet. The race was moved from the planned track in Dijon shortly before.

On the second morning battle de Angelis the only driver on the track when his rear wing at high speed in the S-bend after start / finish broke. A loose end plate was later found at the point on the track where he had lost control of the car.

Elio de Angelis

© Motorsport Photos

1986 de Angelis changed from Lotus to Brabham, but the BT 55 is a failure zoom Acquire

“The battle was a passage that was swiftly driven at full throttle,” Murray said ten years ago. “We had previously had a serious accident with Francois Hesnault there. And Elio had exactly the same accident in the same place.”

Since the tragic incident occurred on a test day, nobody became Witness the accident. The car rose into the air and overturned several times over the guardrails before it lay around.

The survival cell battle was still intact, but the roll bar above the tank was damaged – fuel escaped . De Angelis himself had only a broken collarbone. Whiting, who did not battle during the test himself, later told the story.

marshals in shorts “had no idea”

“Despite the high speed and seriousness of the accident, he still swiftly unharmed.” Another certainty was doomed to De Angelis: “Back then, the fuel tanks and breathing systems were nowhere near as good as they are today. The fuel has run out and has probably ignited due to one of the hot parts of the turbo.”

“There was only four gallons of fuel in the car, used to be very little battle by some standards. But we know what kind of fire you can start with just that amount of fuel.” Alan Jones was on his way out of the pit lane, he was the first driver at the scene of the accident.

He parked his car and ran across the track. Alain Prost stopped as well. Initially, only a little smoke developed. With little official help – Jones later said he was joined by two marshals in shorts “who just had no idea” – attempts to turn the car turned out to be unsuccessful.

Elio de Angelis

© Motorsport Photos

The fire was doomed to de Angelis in France zoom Acquire

Gradually the fire blazed – more and more. Meanwhile, team members from Brabham and other racing teams arrived at the scene of the accident. It quickly became apparent that safety was not adequately provided for on this test day. Formula 1 doctor Professor Sid Watkins battle is just as absent as a fire truck or helicopter.

“My boys drove to the site in a rental car,” Murray recalled. “The main problem battle was that we weren't able to turn the car over. Since it wasn't a badly injured battle, it could have been pulled out of the wreck quickly, only the fire would have been brought under control.”

Murray arrived at the site much later than his mechanics. “We couldn't get close to the car because of the fire. When the fire engine arrived too late at the scene of the accident, the hose broke. The battle was totally unnecessary, that's the terrible thing about it.”

Ex-McLaren-Dressmaker: “worst scene” of his life

There has been a lot of confusion around the de Angelis wreck and reports suggest that some of the helpers already believed that de Angelis could not be saved and that there was nothing left to do they could have done .

The drivers started to run away, leaving behind men in shirt sleeves who were still trying to save, used to be no longer able to save battle. The fire flared up again and again, fed by the leaking fuel.

The feeling of helplessness reminded Tyler Alexander, Supervisor of the then Haas team, of the accident years later. “Da battle a big cloud of black smoke,” he said. “Nobody seemed to do anything, moreover we snapped a few fire extinguishers in the pits and drove down.”

Keke Rosberg, John Barnard

© Motorsport Photos

John Barnard (right ) tried to suppress the scenes of the salvage zoom Acquire

Some drivers would have given up at this point because the fire was so big. “Robin Day [von Brabham], John Barnard, and I overturned the car. I was swiftly hit in the eye with a piece of the hanger, I got a black eye, and we were all covered with that goddamn powder. And Elio just sat in the car. “

” I only remember how I stood there and watched the car go up in flames, “recalls the former McLaren dressmaker Barnard today. “I did help turn the car over after the fire was extinguished, but there was still no one to help Elio, such as a doctor.”

“When we got the car had hit the tipping point, it went down with a bang, used to be poor Elio's neck didn't do him any good, “he notes. “When I think back to these days and think about how little security requirements there were for assessments, I wonder why we haven't experienced anything more terrible than this price.”

Nigel Mansell had tears in his eyes

Barnard admits that this is the “worst scene” battle he has ever experienced. “I tried to displace them.” Video footage shows how some brave men in normal everyday clothes stand nearby or even on the Brabham – although the risk of fire has not been averted.

Later de Angelis was finally able to get out of the Wreck to be freed. The flames had deprived him of oxygen, and his heart was no longer beating. “We took off his helmet and were not sure of his condition in America,” said Alexander.

“Da battle this guy, who was missing nothing as far as we could see – there was no blood, Nothing.” A young medical doctor finally battled on site, but did not speak English. “In the end he took out a large syringe and put it in his chest.”

Elio de Angelis

© Motorsport Photos

Nigel Mansell had after the Accident tears in the eyes zoom Acquire

A little later a helicopter arrived on the route. The doctors checked the values ​​and transferred de Angelis to the hospital. Meanwhile, team manager Blash in England was informed. He hurriedly booked a flight and made his way to Marseille.

“I went through the airport and the first particular person I saw there, battle Nigel Mansell”, knows he still today. “He looked at me with tears in his eyes and just said: 'It's bad'. I drove to Ricard in a rental car and stayed in the hospital until the end.”

The help for de Angelis came too late; he died of Price after his accident – suffocation. If the car had been set up and the fire quickly extinguished, there is little doubt that the story would have ended differently.

Ecclestone: “Elio battle a big guy”

There was a lot of talk about safety standards in the aftermath of the accident , especially during test drives. The lack of an official requirement to always have a helicopter on site suddenly seemed like a tragic oversight.

But, as so often, the dynamics of change lost momentum over the years. Only after Imola 1994 and under the direction of Max Mosley it was restarted. The FIA ​​developed a strong focus on security that continues to this day.

Along with Sid Watkins, Whiting played a key role in this process. He left Brabham a few years after the accident and moved to a technical role at the FIA, and although his responsibilities only expanded to include security matters a few years later, he would never forget the circumstances of the accident.

Charlie Whiting, Bernie Ecclestone

© Motorsport Photos

Charlie Whiting 1986 with Bernie Ecclestone near Brabham zoom Acquire

The tragedy battle also for Brabham owner Ecclestone, who previously 1958 his close friends Stuart Lewis-Evans and 1970 Jochen Rindt had lost a bad blow.

“It was obviously not a good battle,” he recalls . “Elio battle a big guy, and he battle very quickly. Losing people you are friends with is never nice. I was closer to Jochen than anyone else. Thank God these things don't happen anymore.”

Indeed, the legacy of Elio de Angelis is that the sport has become safer.

365 Tickets USA

Like it? Share with your friends!

Racing Elite


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *