But those days are over. These days, the Grand Prix safer, though no less exciting, thanks to new, stringent regulations developed by teams, event organisers and the governing body Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).
Inaugurated in 1950, Formula One - aka Formula 1 or F1 - is the highest class of single-seater auto racing sanctioned by the FIA. The F1 season consists of a series of races, known as Grands Prix, held on purpose-built circuits and public roads.
Today, the FIA manages the risks of the race with the help of 130 medical professionals, 150 security officials and some cutting-edge technology.
F1 security on course
Among that technology is digital radio communication. Several Formula 1 tracks are within coverage of a digital radio network from Airbus Defence and Space. For example:
- Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City, Mexican Grand Prix
- Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo, Brazilian Grand Prix
- Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Bahrain Grand Prix
- Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmeló, Spain, Spanish Grand Prix
- Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Spa, Belgium, Belgian Grand Prix
- Hockenheimring in Hockenheim, Germany, German Grand Prix
- Hungaroring in Budapest, Hungary, Hungarian Grand Prix
- Sochi Autodrom in Sochi, Russia, Russian Grand Prix
- Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
A full-coverage TETRA system from Airbus has secured the Bahrain Grand Prix since the country hosted its first race in 2004. The system serves security personnel and race management. Stringent encryption provides absolute security from eavesdropping.
ASTRID, the operator of Belgium's nationwide TETRA network, has supplied the communication services for the Spa-Francorchamps circuit since 2005. Rescue services and event organisers can keep in close communication around the track - the longest circuit on the F1 calendar.