Thursday, June 14, 2012

Riccardo Paletti - Fatale crash

When he qualified for the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday June 13, 1982, it was the first time Paletti would start successfully in a full line-up. At the start, the lights took an unusually long time to turn to green. During this time, Didier Pironi, who had the pole position, stalled the engine of his Ferrari. Pironi lifted his hand to signal the problem, but there was no action for signalling the yellow to abort the start. The lights switched to green and the other cars swerved across the track, trying to squeeze past Pironi's stationary car. Raul Boesel just clipped the back left of the Ferrari, spinning his March into the path of Eliseo Salazar and Jochen Mass. Salazar, Boesel and Mass suffered minor impacts but it looked as if everyone had passed the Ferrari without serious consequences. However, Paletti could not react in time and slammed into the rear of the stranded Ferrari at 180 km/h (around 110 mph), catapulting it into the path of Geoff Lees. The Osella's nose was crushed in severely.

Due to the force of the severe impact, Paletti sustained heavy chest injuries and was lying unconscious in his car, wedged against the steering wheel. Didier Pironi and Sid Watkins, the FIA's head doctor, were on the scene to stabilise and assist Paletti. As Watkins climbed over the wreckage of the Osella, the petrol from the fuel tank ignited, enveloping the car in a wall of fire. When the fire was finally put out, the injured Paletti was without a pulse. It took the rescue workers 25 minutes to cut him out safely from his wrecked car, as the sparks caused by the cutting equipment threatened to re-ignite the petrol on the track. He was flown by a medical helicopter to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he died soon after arriving. His mother was watching from the stands, where they were to celebrate his 24th birthday later that week. It is said that Paletti was heavily intoxicated from breathing in the exhausting foam used to contain the car fire, and that this could have been fatal given the chest injuries that made the respiration difficult.

Paletti was the second fatality in Formula One that year. Just five weeks before, Gilles Villeneuve had a fatal crash during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. Paletti would be the last driver to die at a Grand Prix meeting for the next 12 years until the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, which took the lives of Roland Ratzenberger during qualifying and triple world champion Ayrton Senna during the Grand Prix itself.

As a tribute to the young Italian, the racetrack at Varano de' Melegari, in the province of Parma (northern Italy) is now called the Autodromo Riccardo Paletti.

His body is buried in the Cimitero Maggiore di Milano.

Riccardo Paletti

Riccardo Paletti - Fatale crash по schumitalia