L&T Motorsport

Melbourne 1996 – F1’s Safety turning point

March 10th 1996 was the date of the Australian Grand Prix, the opening round of the 1996 season.

Many fans were excited for the new season as it saw one of the biggest shake ups in the driver market for a few years, Michael Schumacher leaving champions Bennetton for Ferrari, Jacques Villeneuve making his F1 debut for Williams alongside Damon Hill, Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger teamates at Ferrari in 1995 both signing for world champions Bennetton.

Despite this however the first Australian Grand Prix to be held at Albert Park was remembered for the huge crash Martin Brundle suffered in his Jordan at turn three.

Remarkably Brundle was able to get out of the car unscathed, to the crowd’s delight he got in the spare car and took part in the restarted race.

How Brundle got out of the wrecked car totally uninjured had showed not just F1 but also the World that Safety had come a long way in just 2 years.

After the tragedy of Ayrton Senna losing his life in his crash at Imola in 1994, the FIA lead a scientific research into Safety in the aim at making Formula One cars safer, the crash structures were changed and the headrests were raised to protect the driver’s head in a heavy impact.

Melbourne 1996 was the first race with the raised headrests and they certainly did their job as Brundle was uninjured in the accident, his shunt was the biggest the sport had seen since Imola 1994 and the fact that he had walked away and restarted the race in the spare Jordan showed that Formula one had turned a huge corner.

It’s hard to think that just a couple of years earlier Brundle may not have survived the accident, it shows all the determination and hard work that the FIA and Professor Sid Watkins put in to make Formula one safer and it certainly paid off.

Since the tragedy of Imola 1994 there had only been one fatality in Formula One, Jules Bianchi succumbing to his injuries from crashing with a safety vehicle at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

With there just being one fatality in the last twenty years shows that Formula One has come a long way, it is a much safer sport than what it was and March 10th 1996 was the day Formula One became survivable.


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