Today is the 15 anniversary of the death of Ayrton Senna. The day before we lost Roland Ratzenberger. Thankfully these were the last fatalities in the sport.
I was at Imola that weekend. I had been working hard on research interviews for the autobiography of Nigel Mansell I was ghostwriting at the time. I’ll never forget the chill that weekend, it seemed that the weekend was cursed, with Rubens Barrichello being hospitalised by a huge shunt on Friday, then Ratzenberger on Saturday and Senna on Sunday. Also there was a big shunt at the start and a wheel went into the crowd, then another in the pit lane.
I spoke to Senna on the Sunday morning, with Allard Kalff, who was then commentating for Eurosport. Senna seemed very pre-occupied. I knew him reasonably well, having regular contact with him as a reporter for ESPN television and for Autosport. He was always generous with his time and willing to share insights into racing and the experience of driving. He was intense and fascinating, utterly ruthless and had a God given talent. I’d followed him all the way through the ranks, from Formula Ford and he was the best. Simple as that.
I’ve been lucky enough to work closely with all the great champions of the last 20 years, but Senna was something very special.