Kubica’s 2007 Canadian GP crash continues to drive safety standards
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Jun 2013   |  9:53 pm GMT  |  74 comments

Six years ago, Robert Kubica had a huge accident at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, crashing into a wall at 180mph while trying to overtake Jarno Trulli in the Canadian Grand Prix. Incredibly, the Pole escaped serious injury, emerging with only a slight concussion and a sprained ankle, thanks to the work of the FIA to improve safety standards in Formula 1.

The sport’s approach to safety has changed dramatically since the death of Ayrton Senna in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix with the FIA’s crash tests for Formula 1 cars becoming more and more stringent. The FIA’s technical delegate Jo Bauer, who is an observer at crash tests, believes Kubica’s accident at the hairpin remains the benchmark for why the FIA’s crash-testing continues to be an important process.

“Kubica’s crash really showed that it is absolutely worth going through this whole process, doing all this testing,” he told the FIA’s AUTO Magazine. “It was a massive accident and for sure I believe the changes to crash testing over the past two decades absolutely saved his life that day.”

FIA race director Charlie Whiting added: “The developments we’ve seen over the last 15 years have without doubt prevented quite a lot of injury. Certainly when you look at the roll-hoop tests, in Robert Kubica’s accident that element was subject to a huge impact and yet retained its integrity.

“Yes, the tests are quite stringent and I’m sure quite a lot of engineers at teams have sleepless nights. But the bottom line is that these tests are not done to frustrate them. If we didn’t do them we’d undoubtedly see more injuries and more compromised racing cars.”

The latest accidents to be analysed are ones where the cars are impacted at oblique angles beyond the 90 degrees the tests currently conflict. “That test will be introduced for 2014,” said Whiting. “In Montreal, Robert hit the wall at something approaching a 30-degree angle, and while there isn’t much evidence that there was any great compromise, if we can make everything function that little bit better then it will be a step forward. Sometimes all it takes is being aware that a particular outcome is possible, which was the case there, and that provokes a response.”

The first crash test was introduced in 1985 and was described by Whiting as a “pretty simple frontal impact test”. Initially, teams just had to provide a nose and part of the chassis for testing, but in 1998, a complete chassis was required. At the same time, the first static load test was introduced, followed by roll-hoop and then side and rear impact structure tests.

Bauer added: “Currently we have eight static tests on the chassis and three push-off tests on the impact structure: front, side and rear. We also have two front impact tests, one side and one rear, and a steering column impact test. There are also side penetration tests, so the teams supply a test panel and the chassis must be built with this construction. The tests have become much tougher over the past 15 years.”

Each time an accident occurs, the FIA conducts a detailed analysis to learn from it. For example, in the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, Takuma Sato was involved in huge accident when Nick Heidfeld’s Sauber hit the side of his Jordan.

Whiting said: “As a result [of that crash] we did a lot of research into penetration resistance. So-called ‘T-bone’ accidents are a very real possibility, so you have to make sure that the side of the chassis is compatible with the thing that’s likely to hit it. We did a lot of testing on that and came up with different tests to cover that and different chassis constructions to make sure they were compatible with that.”

And after Timo Glock crashed in the 2009 Japanese Grand Prix, when the front wing was pushed back through the chassis, injuring the German’s leg, the FIA introduced another floor deflection test while cockpit rim heights were raised after a 2007 accident when David Coulthard’s Red Bull became airborne and flew across the front of Alex Wurz’s cockpit.

Whiting said: “It is the job of Formula 1 teams to make their cars go as fast as possible, and it is our job to make sure that at the speeds they go the cars and the drivers are as safe as we can possibly make them.”

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Anybody know if the wreck tub still exist? Thanks!

Graham Passmore

Barely mentioned in this thread is the huge improvement in the tracks as well. One wonders how a 2013 spec F1 car would survive a major shunt into the sharp end of a 1960s era Armco barrier, a house somewhere around the old Reims circuit, or into the trees off the top of Parabolica at Monza.

Alas, one of my first F1 memories is watching the footage of Lorenzo Bandini burning to death in his Ferrari tub at Monte Carlo; was it just after coming out of the tunnel?


Its great that these tests are carried out to ensure the safety of the drivers, but its no good making the car able to withstand these crashes when you consider that the drivers head is sticking out of the cock pit. Look at the Alonso/Grosjean incident at Spa last season how a relatively low energy colision nearly resulted in a serious or quite likely fatal circumstance. Years ago in Austria I remember Takuma Sato very nearly doing the same thing into turn 2 up the hill and very nearly sliced across someone. It would seem a smart move to develope some kind of bars at the side of the drivers head. This wouldnt encroach on drivers visibility because with the HANS systems the driver is very limited at turning the head anyway and mirrors can always be adjusted to suit. I just hate to think that it will take another life to make something happen about it.


I would hope that it was not just Senna’s death that has led to improved safety standards, as Roland Ratzenburger’s crash on the preceding day was just as horrific. It is such a shame that his death is often overlooked.

Seán Craddock

What shocks me is how overlooked the deaths of Paolo Ghislimberti and Graham Beveridge are! I’m sick of commentators and reporters saying “There hasn’t been a death in Formula One since Senna”. Even at the end of the documentary Senna it says, and I quote “There has not been a fatality in Formula One since”.

Lets respect the work that marshals (many of whom are volunteers) do every day at race tracks all over the world. Such a shame to the families of Ghislimberti and Beveridge that people neglect to mention they’re deaths. R.I.P.


Honestly, I only knew about Ratzenberger because I’d seen the Senna documentary.

It is unfair that he is sometimes overlooked, and over the years there have been many before him that have also been forgotten.

In an ideal world they’d all be remembered equally (scratch that – in an ideal world they wouldn’t have died at all) but unfortunately in the real world it often takes a big name incident before people are jolted into action, and it’s still a mistake that’s made again and again – not just in F1.


Sorry meant “Ratzenberger”

Michael Maddox

I’m disgusted with the FIA’s ban of “electronic driver aids”. Systems such as ABS or stability control will PREVENT accidents from occurring in the first place. To me, the focus on “survivability” after the incident has occurred, while very important, is misguided. The old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” seems appropriate here.

Seán Craddock

I disagree! First of all Kubica’s crash in ’07 happened when driver aids were legal. If you were to have a car with electronic driver aids and neglect crash structures you would have just as many accidents and more injuries.

How could Timo’s accident in 2009 have been prevented with ABS or stability control? Once his wheels were on the grass there was no stopping the accident, but what may have saved him from a broken leg or similar injury? Front impact testing

Michael Maddox

Hmmm. Thought ABS was banned in 1994 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Formula_One_regulations)

Also, traction controlled was re-banned in 2008 (same reference).

I guess that my point is that by using technologies available in most road cars being produced today, these systems provide an additional, “first defense” from having a shunt in the first place.

Seán Craddock

I didn’t say Kubica had ABS, I said he had electronic driver aids. I know traction control was re-banned in 2008 which is why I said he had driver aids when he had his accident which was in 2007.

Kieran Mathers

I love all the safety elements at work in F1. I don’t know if what is learnt from this trickles down to road cars, but I hope so. It’s astonishing what these drivers survive these days, and such a shame so many had to die before such measures were adopted.

Tom Haythornthwaite

On this topic I don’t properly understand the rules that led to last year’s ugly stepped noses – but I believe they involved nose heights and safety. Would somebody chip in with an answer for me?


Lower noses allegedly prevent the car from driving up the rear of another car and flying off like Webber did.

Not that it works, see Grosjean Monaco 2013 and Spa 2012.

But the nose has to be low to a certain point, which is where the step cam in.


To prevent accident’s such as Alex Zanardi’s accident where he was amputated at the legs after a T-Bone crash.


Yes the rules were implemented so that the middle to front of the nose had to be of a certain height and that height was lower than most cars on the grid, but they didn’t change the rules so that the back of the nose had to be lowered too so in hence we had the stepped nose, changing the back of the nose would of made considerable change to the chassis as a whole and it was too much, and yes it was designed so the cars were less likely to fly in the air if the font of the nose hits another car’s rear.


Luciano Burti also survived some massive accidents in his Prost at the German & Belgium gp’s, he has these guys to thank, Mark Webber at Valencia too


After watching his feet dangle free at the nose of the chassis, i couldnt believe he got away with it.


As much as Max Mosley has been criticised, he deserves an FIA gold medal for his leadership in bringing real safety to F1. It really is night and day between the pre-Mosley era and now in terms of driver safety.

I’d extend that to the leaders of the reformed GPDA back in 1994 and the leader of the various safety working groups of that era. it really cannot be stressed enough just how important the work of that era was.

The challenge of this era is to clean up driver behaviour on track. It still baffles me how blocking moves like Rosberg did in Bahrain last year can be deemed legal due to the one move rule as it leads to ridiculous attempts to block that swerve (excuse the pun) way over the line of acceptable defence. There seems to be a lot of flak on drivers that produce failed overtakes, but nothing on the drivers being overtaken who quite honestly seem happy to crash rather race with an ounce of defensive common sense.

It is also worrying to see that Indycar now seems to be taking more of a lead in innovative safety with their rear wheel protectors which really should be introduced to F1 and the other European feeder series. I don’t think you can ever be too complacent in this sport when it comes to safety.


Maybe rally cars ought to go through the same tests?

It’s quite ironic isn’t it? A huge crash like that in the Canadian GP a few years ago hardly harmed Kubica other than a small scratch here and there. Yet a crash with a barrier in a rally car seriously injured to the point where he couldn’t drive for quite a long while!

Seems like LMP and F1s are doing a pretty good job in terms of safety, but other categories ought to up their safety game for protection of the drivers.

Seán Craddock

Couldn’t agree more. Don’t forget the late Gareth Roberts who was killed last year in a very similar rally accident to Kubica’s. Great young co-driver who won the WRC Academy the year before, and was leading the SWRC at the time of his death. Same type of barrier, similar impact.

These are barriers that are on regular roads! These are cars that you can buy and drive on the regular roads. The FIA aren’t concentrating enough on rally imo.

Also very good mentioning LMP! The accidents that McNish and Rockenfeller had at LeMans in 2011 were insane yet they both walked away!


Kubica for Ferrari or Lotus 2014!@$


I see that clip and I’m still amazed he survived. I only with his rally car had similar safety features.


Next, they will dress the drivers all in skirts and they’ll drive the cars remotely from the safety of a big control van.


So, Rich, you disapprove of increased safety because it makes the drivers into girly men? Would you like to get rid of fuel bladders and seat belts also so we could have flaming drivers flung from cars? I guess then only REAL men would race. What a BS comment.


I somehow doubt you’ve ever taken a serious risk in your life…


It’s great that the FIA looks into these things – in a sport with this much risk, it’s important to cover every angle possible with safety. The part I don’t get about the Kubica accident in Canada: it was caused by a loss of control when his front wing was wedged under the chassis, and prevented him from steering. In 2009, the regs changed to the snow-plough front wings, thereby making them bigger and more likely to get caught by the tea-tray under the chassis?


Amazing to think six years have passed already. I also applaud the FIA for continuously pushing safety forwards.

Can a F1 car ever be completely safe though?

Each accident is different and yet the dangers, whilst minismised, are still there.

For the accident that killed Ratzenberger, you had Villeneuve having a copybook accident in 1980. He stepped out of the car.

Senna’s fatal accident was at the same point on the circuit that Piquet in 1987 and Berger in 1989 went off. I believe Alboreto had a testing accident there too.

In 2001, Burti crashed under the tyre barriers at Blanchimont after a misunderstanding with Irvine’s Jaguar. For minutes, the worse was feared.

Webber and Rosberg have both been airborne in recent seasons. Had their car landed upside down on crash fencing or structures… well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.


Yeah I remember well the terrible Luciano Burti crash at Spa in 2001. I said straight away ‘he’s died’ I was so convinced of that by the violence of the impact.

Without a doubt if the safety tests were not so stringent, if the cars were not so bullet proof drivers like Burti and Kubica could well have died back then.

Its strange to think then that the worst accident in recent years was poor Maria de Villota and she was at cruising speed when it happened.. Formula 1 can never, ever be TOO safe!


So much has fortunately changed. Think that of the 30 drivers that participated in the 1966 German GP, 12 died in racing accidents and 2 on road accidents. That’s 47%


Yes Kubica’s accident in Canada was pretty worrisome for whenever cars connect with concrete walls, the out come usually isn’t too good.

As we have gone on to see, it seems Kubica is pretty accident prone (e.g. sliding on ice at home) and perhaps the Universe conspired to save his life by having him sit of the sidelines rather than risk another big shunt.

Anyway, it’s really ironic beyond belief that Senna, a man who gave so much to the sport in terms of entertainment also gifted the sport and all drivers who would come after him, the ultimate present in the form of improved and strict safety standards by the FIA.

Yes it’s thanks to Senna that the current video game generation of drivers can enter any event without so much as a worry if they would make it home at the end of the day.

For sure safety is paramount for the lack of safety always sours an F1 season no matter how entertaining it was and that’s why whenever 1994 is mentioned, the first thing that pops in the fans’ head is San Marino.

Anyway job well done to the FIA, Tilke and all the teams. Keep up the good work.


Yeah I agree with you, Lee, and it’s sad to think the silly kids got into F1 at the expence of our old mates Schumaker, Barracello, Fisicella, etc.

It’d be interesting to know how many millions of dollars they have cost the teams that own the damaged cars!



I bet Robert never thought after that crash in 2007 that he would of had a worse one again in his career behind the wheel. That was in rallying tho so I guess that’s different. I don’t think we will ever see a guy killed or seriously injured in f1 again when it’s just himself involved in a crash like senna for example. But the way the Perez’s and Grosjeans and other gp2 bandits are racing these days there will be a tragedy sooner or later if its not stamped out soon and the weaving on the straights will cause another crash like webber in Valencia that time if not stamped out either.

Tornillo Amarillo

All that work in safety and you got a delamination…

colin grayson

actually a safety improvement as it is a function of the increased deflation resistance of the tyres


I remember watching both Kubica’s and Coulthard’s accidents and thinking how amazing it was that Kubica survived and how lucky Wurz was that his head wasn’t taken clean off.

If having more stringent tests saves even one life then more power to them.


I feel the same about Alonso at Spa last year. That accident may have cost him the title but it could have been a lot worse.


Agreed, even if he did have the raised rim to protect him that accident was pretty severe by today’s standards, hence the severe penalty for Grojean.


Looks, sounds and *feels* F1 has made massive progress in this area. I played the Kubica incident back on youtube and the energy and sound discharged during that crash is incredible. Just wondering if it’s possible to provide some context for the 8 static tests? Is that a lot? And how does it compare to road cars and other formulas?


“since the death of Ayrton Senna in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix with the FIA’s crash tests for Formula 1 cars becoming more and more stringent”

i like how roland ratzenberger is never mentioned, ever. even though objectively his life was worth every bit as much as senna’s.


Life if never fair!!


Of course Ratzenberger’s life was worth as much as Senna’s. In many ways, his death is more tragic as he never really had much of a chance to prove himself in F1. However, Senna’s death would always grab more attention given that he was the top guy in sport at the time and he died during the actual race.


With JYS campaigning for safety since the 70s, never realised that the first crash test was as late as that!

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