We are approaching the 25th Anniversary of the loss of the great Ayrton Senna on May 1. Imola that weekend was nothing short of disastrous. Friday we saw Barrichello leave the circuit full height off the floor flying into the track fence barrier saving lives that day was pure luck.
The late Professor Sid Watkins was first on the scene as he would be again and again as this tragic weekend unfolded. On Saturday Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger lost his life immediately on impact when his MTV Simtek went straight off into the steel armco barriers. Crew members back in his team pit box looked on in shock of what looked terminal. Their worst fears were realised.
Senna was disturbed of the accident as his friend had just died on track. This was like a black carpet unrolling slowly over an F1 race Grand Prix. Friday fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello then Saturday friend Roland Ratzenberger dies.
I had a talk with Professor Sid later in 1996 in Estoril where we discussed the Imola weekend. He did say Ayrton was ‘rocked’ of the weekend’s activities so far. Sid said to me “he asked Ayrton to not race, let’s go fishing” he suggested. Ayrton denied Sid of that fun activity, he replied ” I cannot Sid, I’m a racer and tomorrow I have to race”.
As Sunday approached the VIP jets arrived nearby, crowds gathered to witness the great Senna try to get his first win in his Williams for 1994, points to date, zero. That does not compute in Senna’s mind, he needs to win Imola.
Racing commenced only to see Pedro Lamy crash his Lotus into the back of the JJ Lehto Benetton with a wheel and tyre flying off and up into the main spectator grandstand hence injuring nine spectators. Four laps of the safety car where Ayrton was asking them to increase their speed as he had tyre warmth leaving as his ride height decreasing the same way. Lap seven we saw the worst outcome ever that would change our sport forever.
The three quarter right front of Senna’s FW16′ 300kmh direct impact onto the concrete track wall would see carbon fibre debris flying throughout the air like a flock of birds being scared by gunfire. As the right front wheel and tyre with it’s tethers came hurtling back at Senna a small piece of carbon fibre strut found it’s way behind the top left of his visor. That was the fatal blow. A severed carotory artery leaving five kilos of concealed blood inside his Bell helmet was the writing on the wall. He passed in hospital with Gerhard Berger by his side approximately four hours after his accident on track.
In Sintra was his girlfriend and most definite future wife Adriane Galisteu who never saw her gorgeous boyfriend return to her. So sad for her, ever so sad for her family both at Imola and back in Brazil.
His legacy lives on, his supporters continue to visit Tamburello Imola, Morumbi Sao Paulo, Mosca Studio and Interlagos.