Beyond the call of duty – good deeds between F1 drivers
In Formula Ones, competition between drivers can get nasty and even brutal. Therefore it’s always relieving to see F1 drivers put their competitive instincts aside when they see a fellow driver in trouble. Here are three examples where drivers extended a helping hand to those who were in trouble.
Feel free to mention others in the comments…
Keke Rosberg (Nelson Piquet faints)
Let’s start with probably the least impressive good deed but one that at least was fortunate in the sense that it didn’t result in anyone’s death or serious injury. Keke Rosberg won the championship title in 1982 despite only winning one Grand Prix that season. One of the drivers vying for the championship in the historically close race was of course the legendary Nelson Piquet (Senior, to avoid any confusion).
Piquet won the 1982 Brazilian round where his Parmalat-Brabham took the victory thanks to the revolutionary ground-effect that gave him a huge competitive edge. Piquet sadly had his victory disqualified after the fact due to the FIA ruling the ground effect illegal. Immediately after the race however, it was immediately apparent that the immense strain the ground-effect had on the driver combined with the blazing Brazilian heat had an adverse effect on Nelson who collapsed on the podium.
Rosberg (who finished second and was also disqualified after the race) and Alain Prost were the first to catch Nelson as he was about to fall off and Keke stayed by him as staff rushed in to see if Piquet was okay. Keep in mind, these two were not team-mates and both were fighting for the championship title. You can watch a video of the heart-warming camaraderie between these two below…
David Purley (The Death of Roger Williamson)
Probably none of us would want to have won the George Medal of bravery if it was done the way Purley did. David Purley was a first season rookie in F1s during 1973 alongside one Roger Williamson. In the Dutch Grand Prix, which was only Williamson’s second outing, he crashed with his car flipped upside-down and caught fire. Purley immediately stopped his own race to try and get Roger out of the blaze.
The tragedy of Williamson’s death is truly notable since the track marshalls did nothing to put out Williamson’s blaze, thinking that the car was Purley’s and that he was simply trying to put out the fire. Purley could hear his friend’s cries and eventually Williamson died of smoke asphyxiation.
Though awarded for his bravery, Purley only drove in F1s periodically after that and accomplished most of his racing accolades in the lesser Formula Two series. Purley himself died in 1985 in a plane crash.
James Hunt, Clay Regazzoni & Patrick Depailler (The death of Ronnie Peterson)
And lastly, we return to the tragic death of Sweden’s most successful F1 driver. Ronnie Peterson’s death, as a result of the massive pile-up in the 1978 Italian Grand Prix, was unfortunate for a number of reasons and one that many may not necessarily come to think of is the fact that it was three of his fellow racers who dragged Peterson out of his car. James Hunt the crazy party animal who was everyone’s friend, Regazzoni the “bad boy” of the tracks and Depailler, a contender as far as his talent was concerned (Depailler sadly died himself in a test-session crash in 1980).
Unfortunately, since Peterson remained conscious (though badly burned) he was not seen as being in immediate life-threatening danger. As a result, Peterson’s broken legs were not attended to by the doctors at the Italian hospital he was sent to, a fat embolism was allowed to form and Peterson died overnight. He landed second in the championship posthumously, the season being won by Mario Andretti.
It’s truly depressing to think that the bravery of these three drivers eventually amounted to nothing. But it’s also admirable how these three, all contenders from different teams came to the aid of their fellow racer.