Formula 1 drivers are usually known for their records, rivalries and racing techniques. But here are some non-racing achievements that made the likes of David Purley, Ayrton Senna, Mike Hailwood and James Hunt, more than just racing drivers.
David Purley attempted to save Roger Williamson from his burning car, 1973 Dutch GP
British driver Roger Williamson crashed on lap 8 due to a tyre failure. Williamson’s car flipped and caught fire. David Purley saw it and immediately pulled over and ran across the field to help his fellow driver. Purley heard Williamson screaming, who was stuck underneath the car. As the marshals were not well trained and didn’t have the fireproof suit, Purley tried to roll the car only by himself. The Race Control, other drivers and commentators thought that Purley had crashed and he had left his car safely. The race continued. There was only one fire extinguisher and the fire was too much for it. Purley desperately tried to save Williamson’s life but the resources were not enough. Roger Williamson was killed by the fire.
Later, David Purley received a George Medal, a second civil decoration of the UK for his bravery.
Mike Hailwood successfully managed to save Clay Regazzoni, 1973 South African GP
On lap 3, Dave Charlton lost control and crashed into Mike Hailwood’s car. The arriving BRM of Clay Regazzoni then hit Mike Hailwood’s car. Clay Regazzoni lost consciousness and was trapped in the burning car. Hailwood tried to pull out Regazzoni but his suit caught fire. When the marshals arrived, Hailwood helped them to drag Ragazzoni out of the car. Clay Regazzoni survived while Mike Hailwood was awarded the George Medal.
Ayrton Senna avoided a potential explosion of Erik Comas’ car, 1992 Belgian GP
In qualifying, Erik Comas had a terrible crash on turn 17 at Spa-Francorchamps. Ayrton Senna stopped his McLaren and ran towards Comas’s car. There was a possibility of an explosion as the engine of Comas’ car was on and due to the impact, there were some leaks. Senna cut off the engine and held Comas’ head in a stable position until the medical staff arrived.
“It’s likely Ayrton saved my life at that moment,” said Erik Comas.
James Hunt, Patrick Depailler and Clay Regazzoni managed to free Ronnie Peterson from his burning car, 1978 Italian GP.
Ronnie Peterson had a horrific crash on lap 1 which set his Lotus on fire. There were many cars involved in the accident, including James Hunt’s McLaren. James Hunt, Patrick Depailler and Clay Regazzoni rushed towards the burning Lotus of Peterson and managed to free him. After a delayed arrival of the medical staff, Peterson was taken to hospital. Unfortunately, he died the following day.