How F1 has changed since 1950 as sport gears up for its 1,000th race in China

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FORMULA ONE was given a chilling reminder of the dangers of yesteryear as the sport prepared for its 1,000th world championship race.

Lewis Hamilton watched on as British-born racer Alex Albon suffered a terrifying 140mph smash in final practice for the Chinese Grand Prix.

How F1 has changed since 1950 as sport gears up for its 1,000th race in China3 How F1 safety has improved during its 1,000-race history

Albon walked away unscathed from the crash which totalled his Toro Rosso in a testament to the improvement in driver safety compared to first race in 1950 at Silverstone.

World champ Hamilton got behind the wheel of the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R last weekend at Silverstone and was shocked by the lack of safety features, such as no seat-belt.

Hamilton, who started this morning's Chinese GP in second place behind teammate Valtteri Bottas, said: "What they did back then was just incredible.

"That's all they knew at the time, so they didn't have anything that was safer but racers are racers and I think if I was born at that time then I would still want to be a racing driver.

"For those guys, they wanted to fall out of the cars whenever they crashed, whereas today there is all the safety all around you.

"When you look at the grandstands now they are quite away from the circuit, but it is all to do with safety.

When I looked at these guys, I used to think they were crazy when I got to drive one of those cars, and it doesn't have no seat-belts.

Lewis Hamilton on 1950s racers

"Of course when you have extra run-off areas then you approach things differently.

"For these guys it was just grass and then trees! There were no barriers and when you looked at Monaco it was just the harbour.

"When I looked at these guys, I used to think they were crazy when I got to drive one of those cars, and it doesn't have no seat-belts.

"I got to drive the W196 and you are moving about in it but the truth is I am a racing driver and I still pushed it."

F1's safety measures have since been substantially improved and this year's rules have seen the introduction of tougher helmets and biometric gloves to assist the medical team, should the driver be involved in an accident.

Cockpit safety has also been substantially improved with the introduction of the Halo canopy, introduced following the death of Jules Bianchi in 2015 following his smash at Suzuka nine months earlier.

Back in the 1950s, F1 was not only about winning races, it was also about survival – according to former Mercedes driver, Hans Herrmann.

A MATTER OF SURVIVAL
How F1 has changed since 1950 as sport gears up for its 1,000th race in ChinaGetty3 F1 cars in the 1950s didn't even come fitted with seat-belts

The German, 91, is one of the oldest former F1 driver in the world and made his Formula One debut in 1953 as a private entrant.

He then joined the Mercedes-Benz the following season for the team's F1 debut at the 1954 French GP alongside Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling.

Herrmann, who also drove alongside Sir Stirling Moss for the Silver Arrows, said motor racing was incredibly dangerous in the 1950s, with the death-troll from F1 alone currently at 32 drivers over 69 years.

Speaking at an event to mark Mercedes-Benz's 125 years in motorsport, Herrmann said: "During these times it was really dangerous sport.

"I saw 65 F1 drivers lose their lives and when he saw the list, I had tears in my eyes.

"It was just terrible because every race you thought, maybe the one in front of you, or the one behind – but not me.

"I would not die, that was the attitude and the only way how you could do this racing."

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Meanwhile, Albon, who was given the all clear from medics in China, took full responsibility for the accident that ruled him out of qualifying for this morning's race.

He said: "I'm OK. I'm more angry and disappointed than anything else. It was a big crash. It was a bit of a silly one as well.

"There was just a bit too much AstroTurf, a bit too much throttle and a bit greedy."

How F1 has changed since 1950 as sport gears up for its 1,000th race in ChinaReuters3 Alex Albon suffered a horrendous 140mph crash in China

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