F1 Winter Break
Imola gets set to commemorate Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger
Posted By: Justin Hynes  |  30 Apr 2014   |  4:42 pm GMT  |  116 comments

Marking the 20th anniversary of his death at the circuit’s Tamburello corner, Imola will this weekend play host to a commemoration of the life and achievements of Ayrton Senna. Fittingly, tributes will also be paid to Austrian racer Roland Ratzenberger who was killed the day before Senna, in qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix.

It is expected to be a major event, with F1 racers past and present, including Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, in attendance, as well as team personnel from all eras and many thousands of fans.

Senna’s status as a legend of the sport is, of course, assured. Indeed, even before that fateful weekend in 1994, his three titles, 41 wins and a staggering 65 pole from, until then, 160 starts had already confirmed him as one of the sport’s greats.

It wasn’t just the Brazilian’s sublime abilities behind the wheel that made him and idol for millions, however. Senna’s lasting appeal is more complex than a simple list of record book statistics.

First there was his ferociously competitive nature, defined by what he called “an incredible desire to win”. Allied to this was a willingness to indulge that desire by frequently pushing himself right to the limit of his capability, and sometimes beyond it, attributes that often didn’t endear him to the sport’s authorities or his fellow competitors.

An insatiable will to win should be part and parcel of a champion’s make-up, however. What perhaps set Senna apart from other champions and certainly from his contemporaries was that behind the driven sportsman was a thoughtful and emotive individual deeply affected by his career, his racing, stardom and the riches that came with them. “We are made of emotions, we are all looking for emotions, basically,” he once admitted. “It’s only a question of finding the way to experience them.”

It was perhaps that duality, the contrast between hard-nosed, win-or-bust competitiveness and his fragile emotions, plus his ability to make his rarefied experiences intelligible to the outside world that made Senna more than just a champion or even a globally-recognised sports star and turned him into a legend.

The next four days at Imola are likely to bring back vivid memories of all those facets of the Brazilian’s personality and racing.

They will too allow Formula One to reflect on the legacy both Senna and Ratzenberger, who was killed at just the third race of his grand prix career, left behind.

The untimely deaths of both drivers gave rise to a concerted drive for better safety in Formula One, a movement that continues to this day. Indeed there is great merit to the argument that says that had it not been for the events of that terrible weekend in May 20 years ago, huge accidents like those suffered by Robert Kubica in Canada in 2007 and Felipe Massa in Hungary in 2009 might have altogether more tragic outcomes.

Meanwhile, as Imola prepares to open its gates to fans and Formula One stars alike for this weekend’s commemoration, we’d love to hear your favourite memories of Ayrton Senna or Roland Ratzenberger.

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What I really miss is the last 5 minutes of Saturday's Q watching him exiting the pits knowing that I was about to see the fastest driver ever doing something amazing.

It seems like yesterday when he passed away,I still can not believe it.

RIP to Ronald,I read that there is not even a plaque at the circuit honoring him.



So many people forget that Roland died that weekend, too, which is very sad. He did not have the opportunities that fell to better financed drivers, but he had made it to the top flight, albeit with a minnow team, and he lost his life because of F1

When they pulled Ayrton from the wreckage of his car that day, they found an Austrian flag in the car that Ayrton was planning to wave at the finish in his honour.

People also forget that Rubens came very close to making it a triple that weekend with his terrifying crash as his Jordan launched of the kerb and almost cleared the crash barrier.

Formula One is much safer now than it was in those days, but the low noses of this year's cars have probably made the sport more risky in 2014. Here's hoping that Roland and Ayrton will remain the last Formula One race driver fatalities for a very long time.


Aside from the enormous gulf in their achievements/skill, Part of that is because Rolands crash is easily explained (he damaged his car on the previous lap & the wing fell off at max load). Senna's accident has never been explained for certain.


Not sure I would saw the low noses have made this year more risky, as the high noses of the past few years have had their own risks. So we have just changed the risk profile. It remains to be seen which is worse. Can't really compare Kamui Kobayashi submarine crash with say Mark Webber's launch.


You are right - the high noses are far, far more dangerous - that we never had a driver killed or even decapitated in an incident was purely by chance. Alonso @ Spa 2012 springs to my mind.


Webber's fly had little to do with the high nose.


If anything, Roland will be remembered more because of his death the same weekend as Ayrton. How many people can name 3 previous drivers who had died in F1? I'm ashamed to say that I can't.

I whole hearted agree with your sentiment that we can only hope that F1 strives to ensure these are the last deaths anyone ever sees on the track as a result of racing (the trackside marshall at the Canadian GP notwithstanding).

Robert in San Diego

No one has mentioned Jim Clark, who was as big as them all,,,,,,, and I am a Senna fan.


Hey nenslo!

Just answering your inquiry, here's a few other men who died tragically doing what they loved best--driving F1 cars:

Riccardo Paletti

Gilles Villeneuve

Elio de Angellis

Ronnie Peterson

Helmut Koenig

Tom Pryce

Peter Revson

Francois Cevert

Roger Williamson

Piers Courage

Pedro Rodriguez

Jo Siffert

Mike Spence

Lorenzo Bandini (the only driver to die at Monaco)

Unfortunately, there were many more drivers who died in the sport. I've followed F1 long enough to remember all of these tragic accidents, and for myself, they were all equally as sad as the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna. It's absolutely fantastic that the sport is so much safer these days....


fastest after 3 races?


I was talking about Senna in the first sentence.


thanks for clarifying that.

Martin (England)

It's Roland mate.


With Senna, he built up a huge lead during a Monaco Grand Prix and it appeared that he "fell asleep" because he inexplicably crashed. I think Prost was the main beneficiary of that.


Actually the team asked him to slow down and then he lost concentration because of that....


Monaco 88.


I remember that - after the crash Senna walked to his Hotel and left Monaco without notifying McLaren


1st May 1994 is a weekend none of us all will ever forget.

I remember it vividly, partly because it was a May Day bank holiday weekend here in the UK. I missed the Saturday qualifying for some reason or another, but was shocked to here on Saturday evening Murray Walker announcing Roland had died of massive injuries after his crash.

My memory of the Sunday is slightly hazy, but I do remember Steve Rider and BBC Grandstand were coming live from Imola, and had a bit more coverage build up than normal. I vaguely remember Steve saying the GPDA had been reformed and that the pressure was on Senna because of Michael's wins.

After Ayrton's crash, I think the BBC "switched off" and went to another event. (As a matter of policy the BBC does not show fatalities, but obviously with Imola happening live, it had allowed little time for editing or judgement). I remember briefly watching the start.............but I didn't have the heart to watch after a few laps - I think everyone knew the severity of what had happened earlier.

And then Steve Rider dropped the bombshell during the BBC highlights programme on Sunday evening..............you have to remember this was pre-internet, pre-texting and so on, so when it was announced it was still a hell of a shock, and an incredibly raw emotional response, as to be expected.

Normally, Bank Holiday Monday's in the UK are joyous, celebratory affairs, what usually with fine weather, sunshine, a day down the beach or out in the countryside, make the most of your day off (for both children and adults) but May Day Bank Holiday Monday 1994 was possibly the most solemn in the history of the May Day......I don't want it to sound melodramatic but the sense of shock, bewilderment and loss was just unexplainable.

Still, I know its a cliche, but time does heal some of the wounds, if not all of them. We lost a lovely man in Roland a giant in Senna, but their collective memory will never fade. They died too young, and in the most brutal way, but if any good came out of Imola 1994, it was that F1 learned the hard way that safety must always be the top priority. We don't want anyone to seriously hurt themselves in the pursuit of our enjoyment.

RIP Ayrton and Roland, you are missed, and never forgotten.

Martin (England)

Unless you had a satelite dish and Eurosport you would have missed the Saturday qualifying because the BBC didnt cover qualifying in those days, my mate bought a dish for this reason and we were both stunned seeing Rolands crash, if I remember correctly they stayed with it throughout as Roland was taken away to the medical centre, John Watson and is Allard Kalff were commentating, I would imagine nowadays if F1 had a fatal accident on the Saturday then the race would not go ahead on the Sunday, if only that was the case back then.


The Ratzenberger crash is more vivid in my memory. As you said, Eurosport stayed with it. They had a guest in the Comm Box who was something to do the company that made some of the tubs. He clearly wasn't watching the monitors as he spoke because the medics were giving Ratzenberger CPR as he wittered on about the strength etc of the tubs, despite what looked like a large hole having been punched in one side.

On Sunday the BBC cut away from the accident to the Pit Lane, but Eurosport stayed with it.

After working on Senna for a while, they moved him over a few feet if I remember correctly. The place where he had lay said it was serious.

Around this time, perhaps before, a spectator was killed by the engine/gearbox from a crash by McNish. It's probably the worst motor racing incident I have seen I think.


My memories of this weekend are very similar to yours. I was watching on Eurosport on both the Saturday and Sunday. My then girlfriend (now wife) and I were stunned when the commentary team kept yapping away, and all the time poor Ratzenberger was laying on the ground with the medical team giving him CPR! I couldn't believe no one contacted them in the commentary box and told them what was happening.

On Sunday they weren't much better. Just moments after Senna's crash a marshal ran up to his car and when he was a few feet away he stopped. From the marshals body language I guessed it was not good, yet Allard Kalff told us all not to worry - he said something like "Senna was probably just waiting for the 'Prof' to check him out [as a precaution]".

After the race we went for dinner at my parents and we kept checking the teletext service for updates. I can still remember what I was wearing when I read the news that Senna had died.


Its all in youtube if people want to see how it panned out on live broadcast


Condolences go out to Roland and Senna's families and friends on this 20th anniversary.

For sure, this period 20 years ago was a dark day for the sport which brought home the fact motorsport is a very dangerous sport and because of that day, we saw improved safety standards and penalties get drafted in.

Definitely Senna was a unique individual because of the fact he wore his heart on the sleeve. Yes, when Senna was happy or upset over something, you wouldn't get no PR talk and this is the main reason he had a special connection with the fans for his passion showed in everything he did.

And that's why it's really depressing that fate decided a different course for his life because he still had a lot to give the sport and his home country of Brazil >>> According to teammate Damon Hill, Senna had political ambitions and he would have most certainly walked the presidental elections if he ran.

Anyway, I applaud the sport for this 4 day tribute at Imola, just goes to show legends live on forever.


My favourite Senna memory is the first lap of Donington 1993.


Excellent post.

Goferet, in my opinion Senna's greatest moment was his first win at a sopping wet Estoril 1985 - he started from pole, led every lap, set fastest and won by over a minute. And look at the quality of his opposition - Our Nige, Professor Prost (who crashed), Lord Nelson (who stopped because he couldn't find any grip with his car/tyres), Lauda the Rat, Keke the Flying Finn (who also crashed), Gerhard Beef Berger (who spun off)................Ayrton lapped everyone upto third placed Tambay.

Kind of puts his magic into perspective.


@ Gaz Boy

To be fair, Senna had many memorable moments that are just as good as the other.

Yes I had forgotten his first win with Lotus likewise I had forgotten Monaco 1992/1984 etc.


Senna's last 96 hours



Excellent. Thanks for sharing.


@ Andrew c



I still can't believe 20 years have gone by when motorsport was thrown into despair.

My favourite memory was when Senna somehow managed to keep ahead of Mansell at the Monaco gp back in 1992


This is also my favourite memory of Senna. I remember thinking how difficult it was to call: if anyone could hold Mansell back, it would be Senna, a master of Monaco - yet if anyone was going to get past Senna, it would be Mansell going for his first Monaco victory (which looked to be in the bag until near the end), on fresh tyres and in the mighty '92 Williams.


Watching Senna on track at the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix. Thanks to the lack of track security I was able to climb a short hill and sit on the armco barrier just before the Blanchimont corner and watch the drivers go by at amazingly close proximity, this would of been Friday practice. As Ayrton came past I could not help waving a clenched fist of encouragement.

Thinking back I find it hard to believe I was able to sit on the armco so near the track.

I also remember a Roland Rat annual from the mid 1980s I saw in a charity shop, in it was a feature with Roland Ratzenberger in a racing car about to race Roland Rat in the Rat Mobile!! something about that makes me think of what a good guy Roland Ratzenberger was to go along with that.

Thinking of both drivers twenty years on.


Beautiful picture!

A special person:

-to watch behind the steering wheel, riding the edge of physical possibility/impossibility

-to hear explaining his view on racing and life

-to watch as a person... constant radiance of something humble, special.. something special.. hard to describe.

And when he went like he did, it was so incredibly hard to come to terms with. Remembering him stirs many emotions.


A thorough gent probably the greatest along with Jim clark and Fangio and definitely the fastest.

Below is an article from pitpass 2007 which summarises the type of man that he was....


A few years back, Pitpass editor Chris Balfe visited the Jim Clark museum in the legendary Scottish racer's home town of Duns.

It was a quiet afternoon, and other than Editor Balfe and his partner, there were a couple of other people looking at the assembled trophies and memorabilia.

In time, the other people left and only Balfe and his partner remained, consequently, the curator engaged them in conversation.

They talked about Clark's life, his racing career, his farm, and, naturally, the accident that killed him at Hockenheim in April 1968.

Out of the blue, the curator said, "come and look at this". He opened the visitor book, and turned back a few pages to reveal the name, private address and signature of Ayrton Senna.

The curator revealed that a few weeks earlier, the Brazilian had made a private visit to the museum, claiming that he wanted to pay his respects to one of his motor racing idols. The museum had been warned in advance, but only to say that he was arriving and that he didn't want any intrusion from the media.

He arrived, accompanied by his good friend, FIA medical delegate Professor Sid Watkins. The Brazilian legend looked at the many items on show, watched a video, asked questions and even, having spent some time in silent reflection, bought a number of souvenirs, including a couple of pens. At the request of the curator he posed for a couple of pictures for the local newspaper, the only media present.

On leaving, he thanked the curator for his time, and signed the visitors' book. He then made his way to Clark's old school, the Loretto School in Musselburgh, just outside Edinburgh, where he gave a speech to pupils.

The curator's tale gave Editor Balfe a new perspective regarding Senna, who was to perish shortly afterwards. Asked if the reigning World Champion Nigel Mansell had ever visited the museum, bearing in mind his claim that Clark was one of his heroes, the curator winked and replied, "we couldn't afford him".

Lo and behold, one week before the Brazilian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton has now revealed that he might pay a visit to the grave of the Brazilian, whose legendary helmet colours are reflected in the Englishman's own 'crash hat'.

"That's definitely something I'd like to do," he has told reporters. "I'll find it emotional and moving to go there.

"I will think about visiting after the race," he added. "It's important I have a clear mind going into the race weekend and that would be too emotional to do before the race."

Without being too harsh on the championship leader, one cannot help but feel that it would have been more appropriate to make an unannounced low-key visit to the grave of his idol, as opposed to turning it into the distasteful media scrum it is sure to be.

Which, again, says so very much about Senna.


Senna clearly got it.

Beautiful stories pop up like this every so often that let us see how he had put the pieces together trying to understand the "why" racing drivers do what they do. What is it worth in the end and why bother?

If Damon Hill's recent comments about his intention to run for president are true it sounds as if he had finally worked out and wanted to really use what he had to make change better for the people of Brazil.

It's such a shame he never got that chance.


can hamilton not do what he wants?

this is about senna's life........it must be that genetic disorder.


I fully agree aveli!

This write-in is about the great memories and tragic deaths of two inspiring human beings, Roland Ratzenberg and Ayrton Senna. [mod]


@ aveli I think you know where to stuff your trolley


thanks wheels, Clyde is completely off the trolley! i don't know when he will give it a rest. dini ken!


@ aveli

As I have already stated this is a reproduction of an old article and the author only meant to illustriate what a private and unassuming person Senna was compared to other drivers .

However I sympathise that due to your self admitted genetic disorder you seem unable to comprend the gist of the article 🙂


Uh, but it's obvious that Hamilton was prompted by a reporter, about going to Senna's gravesite. So he didn't bring it up, he was answering a question.

A cynic could easily say "why did it take so long (1993) for Senna to visit the museum of a self-stated hero?"

Senna seemed like a genuinely nice person, but I have no way of knowing that for certain. What I'm certain of is that he wasn't a saint, or w/o fault. Attempts to make him seem as such are just more examples of the human tendency to deify those that die young. The same with Kurt Cobain, who died a month before Senna, in April 1994.


like this?


at clyde,

I am able to detect genetic disorders from over a mile away. i have seen all what you have stated and can see right through your nonsense. if you wanted to deliver a message about senna and only senna, why did you not delete the nonsense about hamilton?

is there a cure for genetic disorders yet?


I was 16 years old when I watched (live broadcast here in Greece) my icon die....It completely changed my attitude and I dare to say, my life altogether. Can't believe 20 years have passed. I can still see it as if it happened yesterday...I am not a lover of the past, but this is the only time I keep asking myself "what if?".....


Since 1994 has any other racing driver (in any series) displayed a similar kind of mysticism to that of Senna?


In 2012 Alonso came quite close. They way he was making the car perform beyond its capability to take the title race to the last race.


I'd agree with that, but only that 1 year


I'm often mystified by Pastor Maldonado!

In all seriousness, Senna will always be the benchmark by which others are judged, his career stats not doing justice to a career cut short. He was spectacular to watch and left you wondering how only he can be seemingly so much quicker than the others.

Watching him drive Monaco, it often seemed like he had an extra meter of race track to everyone else, like he ignored the barriers completely and just drove through them when everyone else drove round! Prost made the difficult task of driving an F1 car look easy. Senna made it look Impossible, that is why he will always be the best!


Some say good ol Pastor, others tell the truth!

Love the Prost Senna comparison, spot on...


I often wonder how the Schumi era may have been so different had Senna lived? History would have been very different for Michael. IMHO Senna would have won all the early WDC that Michael & Hill won from 1994. That would have changed many a thing in the sport. Michael may never have been recruited by Ferrari because he would not have been a WDC at all. Senna would have had 6+ titles and the lack of early success for Michael may have meant things panned out very differently in the proceeding years.


I agree that Senna likely would've won 1994-97 if he'd stayed with Williams all those years.

But we'll never know.


We can never truly know how different F1 would be had Senna lived. It's unfair on Schumi to suggest that he wouldn't have been as successful had Senna lived. Just as it would be unfair on Senna to question whether he would have made such an early impression in a world that hadn't lost Villeneuve.

Personally I am of the opinion that Ayrton would have retired at the end of '95, After being beaten by Schumi in both years. Perhaps this would have affected the careers of Damon Hill and David Coulthard the most.


I've often thought that one of the reasons for the success early in schumachers career coincided with the loss of 3 of its greatest drivers in close proximity, not just Senna, but Prost retiring and Mansell leaving the sport aswell all in the course of about 18 months. His first championship was won without another world champion on the grid, which is a rare circumstance


Twenty years... Time goes so fast...

I, like most (all?) of us remember too the shock of hearing of Ayrton's death, the bitter irony that he had an Austrian flag in his car, ready to dedicate a win to Roland Ratzenburger. The awful climax to a weekend that had seen Barrichello lucky to survive a crash at the start of the weekend, then Ratzenburger's death, then injuries in the pits due to a flying wheel during the race...

After all those dreadful incidents, the Nuvolari of his day died in an accident that nobody has ever been properly able to explain. As it had once been with Jim Clark not much more than twenty years earlier, "if it could happen to him...".

As the Senna era ended, so the Schumacher era began. The similarities were there. The determination to win, no matter the cost, no matter the repercussions. The same cast iron belief that others would simply dive out of their way. As so often happens in F1, the two eras overlapped so briefly that we will never know what we might have witnessed had we had just one more year with them racing eachother.

So, here we are, twenty years on. Again we think of Roland, and Ayrton, only now we also think of Schumacher - not now as the rising star he then was, but as a very ill man who we all hope will one day awake from his coma.

Twenty years passes very quickly.


Well I can't remember, didn't have a tv in mums belly. 7th of May will be my 20th birthday. So I was six days late.


The first glimpse of Ayrton Senna and F1 was on TV over 25 years ago. I caught the race just as when rain started to come down quite heavily. All the cars were crawling back to the pits except one. There he was driving on slicks, passing people left and right, just magic!

Thinking of Roland and Ayrton.


A sunny weekend in Ireland, but with the longest, bleakest, black shadow.

I remember watching Barichellos accident on Friday evenings tv news and thinking that was a pretty close call. Then on Saturday when qualifying was stopped, I remember telling my brother that qualifying was red flagged. He came in to see what happened and together we must have seen a replay only then realising the enormity of the impact. A driver we knew little of, Roland Ratzenberger, whose F1 career was just starting was wiped out in a few seconds. Watching images of Senna arrive on the scene in a track car was a bit surreal and suddenly for the first time since Gilles Villenueves horrific accident on another May Day, 12 years earlier an F1 driver had died, literally before our eyes.

However the scene in our house the following afternoon when my brothers beloved hero Ayrton died, was truly desperate. Our parents were on holiday and to say we took it badly was an understatement. My brother was and is a huge Senna fan and having met him at the back of the paddock on his own at Mondello Park in 1981, I also felt a special connection.

I am fortunate enough to have witnessed Ayrton Senna drive and though I've never been to Monaco for the GP, I did watch that famous 1988 qualifying lap live on Eurosport. Perhaps the greatest ever F1 lap captured on film.

However for me the opening laps of the 1993 European GP at Donnington are my Senna 'top trump' moment. At the time I didn't realise how special it was, it was really cold and wet that Easter Sunday and that probably had an effect. Nonetheless Senna's performance in the opening laps was incredible, he literally was in another class and just drove around the others. It was a devastating master class performance.

Ayrton was very special and his death had a huge impact on so many people. I still have unopened in my attic, all the Dublin and London broadsheets from May 2 1994, each with images of a broken Williams on the front page. I truly hope these newspapers are the last of their kind.

My brother and I finally went to visit Ayrtons resting place in 2006. That too is a special memory and going there to pay respect to someone who gave us so much joy and excitement felt very right.

There is something very special, almost spiritual about Formula One, I think its a combination of the sound, the rush of air cut by the cars as they go past and the ever present danger. Formula One can be a highly sensory and emotional experience, the passion and committment of Ayrton Senna remains to this day the absolute embodiment of that.


Beautifully put, Leah. I was living in Northern California. I was up at around 5 am .when I saw the accident and then heard of Ayrton's passing, I quit watching F1 for 5+ years. It seemed to me that what was left was a bunch of second and third stringers. Not sure even now if I was wrong.


I remember waking up late and thinking I had missed the race only to see there had been a crash. It was a shock.


I have a connection to Roland, I bought his 1986 FF festival winning Van Diemen.

But I would also like people to remember Pete Rodgers, who came 3rd in that FF festival,

but died in a 1987 FF race at Donington,

right in front of me.

RIP both, and Ayrton



Thanks for sharing.


The passion and love that Aryton felt for racing drew us all to his flame.

We each travel down different roads and it is difficult at times to tell if the path we are following leads us to our best and most productive ooutcome or career, but with Aryton, truely, we could say that he was doing what he was born to do.

Though his fate is so difficult for all of us to contemplate, there is some solace in knowing that he never had to deal with the dimenishing effects of age...he never had to know that his skill was no longer enough to keep him at the top of his profession. He died doing what he loved.


Sleep well my friend, you are still in our hearts and thoughts and always will be.

You were and still are the best of the best, I miss your skill, focus and humanity.

No longer here but never ever to be forgotten.

Smile down on us my friend.


For me Senna possessed a complexity of character that other drivers didn't seem to have. He was awe inspiring to watch, his quotes and comments were so thoughtful and carefully chosen and he had a quality that was dynamic.

His race craft and skill behind the wheel was a magical thing to witness. The way he would pick past slow cars on a flying lap bordered on precognition. His mannerisms as he would watch the timing screens, stand, slip his arms into his driving suit as he prepared to humble everyone on the grid was irreplaceable.

I know there are many who saw him as arrogant and dangerous. I always saw him as thoughtful and merciless. He was a racing driver who refused to be second. This often meant that he over played his hand. His brashness to shut the door at times was excessive. His plunging towards a closing gap was also at times overeager.

If you were witness to him during an incredibly short ten year F1 career, count yourself as one of the lucky ones. You were witness to a true magician. I am ever thankful to have been witness to his greatness and I miss his contributions to the sport.

It is quite ironic for me. I hate the sport that took his life, but the very love of the sport was what gifted to me so many treasurable moments.

You are missed for your craft Ayrton.


May their souls continue to rest in peace. What a driver Senna was.


I was watching the race live in Los Angeles. After his crash all the track people would not go near the car, and the commentator said this is not a good sign as normally they would rush to the car to help. I had a bad feeling from that, and sadly he was probably already dead. I was a Prost fan because of his amazingly smooth driving, never overdriving, just enough to win. And then of course a fan of our Nigel, (I am a Brit) another balls out driver like Senna.

I have been an F1 fan since Stirling Moss in the sixties and watched him come close to dying in his last race live on TV. There have been too many drivers who were killed in this super fast sport, and some like Tom Pryce were killed in bizarre ways. The only consolation is they are forever young in all the photographs of them. I will give my Senna helmet at gentle pat tomorrow. God bless him, and all the others we have lost.


Senna is my personal hero in life as well as in F1. Just think of the millions of Brazilian children helped by Instituto Ayrton Senna, for example.

On the track ... People talk about Donington 93 in the wet but Senna first mesmerized me at Silverstone 88, when Prost in the same McLaren literally gave up as his teammate sped into the mist. I could never respect Prost again, even though I'd be the first to admit Suzuka 90 was wrong.

An irony of my life is that I am married to a Brazilian but I taught her and her family (not racing fans) about Senna. Now she and my in laws pop the Senna documentary DVD in anytime they want good memories and a good cry ...

German Samurai

He was certainly a very charismatic personality. Maybe the most. He's a deity of sorts in F1. Almost mythical. It's incredible the role charisma plays in shaping peoples perceptions in F1. It's unlike any other sport.

Schumacher is widely hounded to this day as a "cheat" or "dirty driver" for what happened in the final races of 94 and 97 despite being low speed incidents (not excusing what happened). People were similarly appalled by his move on Barrichello in Hungary 2010.

Yet Senna is largely celebrated or excused for suicidal moves such as ramming Prost off the track at high speed at Suzuka 1990 or nearly forcing Prost into the pit wall at Estoril 1988. Senna was prepared to risk dying in order to gain a position. I don't think this is something that should be ignored, excused or let alone celebrated in an era where safety was primitive. IMO this was most likely the manifestation of some kind of borderline or narcissistic personality disorder. Funnily enough these traits only added to the Senna mystique.

Schumacher in the final races of 94 and 97 made poor, spur -of-the-moment decisions that his detractors will often point to in order to diminish his accomplishments and ability.

Senna's decision to take out Prost at high speed was premeditated. People excuse it to this day.

You see it today with Vettel vs Alonso. Alonso has made a point of creating a mystique and narrative around himself. Hamilton tries but he has no real charisma.

Vettel can do nothing right. Alonso can do no wrong.

Could you imagine Senna being told on the radio to move over because Prost had caught up to him? I couldn't, and wouldn't have wanted to see it.

kenneth chapman

@ german samurai.... the numerous instances that you have commented on are in total sympathy with what i have been stating for a very long time.

those very deeds are the work of a dangerous head case and no whitewash will alter that fact.

if anyone had been killed as a result would the world still proclaim senna as the 'messiah'? hardly.

the fact that barrachello is still alive amazes me. shumachers move on him in hungary 2010 shows just how he came within a whisker of being sent down the 'road to glory'. recently i reviewed the footage which was posted from a head on view that i hadn't seen before. there is no light between the car and the wall....cms at the most!

moments like these send a chill down the spine and make me question the motives of people like senna/shumacher. why are they so revered when they have committed such despicable acts?


I was curious and made 2 screenshots when they came closest





Prost has a meter to the wall, Rubinho has some 10 centimeters


In 1989 Senna and Prost collided due to Prost turning in on Senna .Amazingly Senna still won the race .The then president of the FIA Jean marie balestre got senna unfairly disqualified on a stupid technicality thus handing the title to Prost.

In 1990 Senna ran prost off the track because despite him getting pole they refused to shift the pole position to the clean side of the track again courtesy Frenchman Jean marie balestre who always favoured Alain prost who was also French.

This coupled with his unjust disqualification the previous year and the drivers briefing the previous day where Senna was picked on provoked him to say that if Prost got ahead he would not back off at the first corner and he made good his words.

Senna did what he did because of his principles unlike Schumacher who only did it for his selfish greed . It is widely known in the F1 world that Schumacher cheated in 1994 with illegal traction control fuelling rigs etc .this cheating has been a recurrent theme throught his chequered career 1994,1997 2006 etc to brush this off as spur of the moment decisions is laughable and simply stupid

German Samurai

Well, there you go. Exactly like I said. Senna is celebrated for premeditatively ramming Prost off the circuit at high speed. It's one of the most appalling acts you will ever see in professional sport, let alone F1.

And like I already said, Senna most likely had some kind of undiagnosed borderline or narcissistic personality disorder. His claims against Schumacher, against Prost, against the FIA are manifestations of this disorder in the form of a persecution complex. Senna was ungracious in defeat. All that mattered was that he won and how that was achieved was irrelevant.

That Prost in 1990 was able to take the championship down to the final races in the inferior Ferrari made Senna reach breaking point.


I dont think Senna is celebrated for the Suzuka move on Prost, far from it, he received a lot of criticism at the time and deservedly so. Senna is celebrated for all the amazing things he did in racing cars, but no one is perfect and has anentirely un blemished career.


@german samurai … your armchair psychiatry is one-eyed rubbish at best. Will the real narcissist please stand up!?

kenneth chapman

@ german samurai....i fully agree 100%. people just don't wish to face reality when it comes to the manufactured mythology attributed to senna and to a lesser degree, shumacher.


Thanks for this terrific post Clyde as it sums up why he was so different. I will never forget his incident with Prost in 1989 & his determination to win was sensational. Equally his fight against the rotten politics that took it away from him. His leadership on the issues of the grid spot / politics and other track matters really set him apart. You could see in the press conferences that he was forthright and explained the principles that he followed.


How different those times were back then!


I will never forget the day the great Ayrton Senna passed away. My dad being his No1 fan, woke me up from my slumber at around midnight the night of the grand prix (Australian time) with tears streaming down his face. He uttered the words, "buddy, Senna just died". i myself sobed all night knowing what the world had just lost. Our hero, an icon. RIP Senna and Roland

kenneth chapman

am i the only one who is heartily sick of all the hyper 'conspicuous compassion' surrounding senna?

it seems endemic these days to flood the cyber universe with all this rubbish.

yes, senna was a gifted driver but the cult that has grown out of his demise is pathetic and symptomatic. people tend to forget that senna was a flawed character who's actions would not be tolerated on the GP tracks/races of today.

he had very little respect for other drivers and was solely focused on getting a result even at the expense of other drivers races. people say he was 'driven',so that is supposed to make it OK! well not so IMO.


I didn't watch Senna in those years as I was a little child, but I remember the news about him and his death. Recently I watched the documentary Senna and without knowing too much about him I could see a kind of depressing documentary, with the porpoise of elevating the image of Senna against the world and make Prost and French FIA look like the bad guys, but somehow I got the opposite, similar to your commentary, I had a good image of him just because of what I have heard, but I didn't like what I saw in that documentary. The tunnel vision when he crashed in Monaco for example seems to me like an excuse, why not saying jut that he lost concentration?, that is normal and human, tunnel vision is like goddess. Nevertheless, I respect his discipline, effort and passion and the legacy that after him, security increased and we haven't seen those tragic deaths anymore.

kenneth chapman

@ alex...you make some interesting observations there and in the main i concur.


Thankfully somebody thinking the same as me. Thanks kenneth.

kenneth chapman

@ dutch johhny.... and i thought i was the only one swimming against the tide. your comment is appreciated. thank you

kenneth chapman

@ dutch johhny.....help, am being attacked from all sides. hahaha


And yet this same individual donated huge amounts of money to poor children in Brazil without any fanfare.

Pretty easy to paint a very one dimensional picture about a very complicated individual.

kenneth chapman

@ benM.......so what? lots of people do things to help out but subsequently they are not portrayed as being 'god like'.

FYI i have paid and supported the full education of a poor young balinese girl for many many years but i don't shout it out. apart from my family you are the first one [ now plus all the other posters] that i have told. it means absolutely nothing in the totality of things apart from some fleeting personal pleasure.

this happens to be an F1 site and my comments were attributed to senna's F1 involvement. senna was messed up in the head. he could be friendly/ easy going and charming when it suited him and then he could go out and deliberately drive into a team mate forcing him off the track. is this the kind of person you look up to? i am all for hard wheel to wheel racing but these actions are the work of idiots. definitely not sportsmanlike.

however,each to his own opinion but i don't buy the 'halo'.

kenneth chapman

@ littleredkelpie.... my reaction is far from being over the top and ridiculous.

you have missed the point entirely but then again so have so many!!.

i will simply state that by my observation the masses have been out in force eulogising the 20th year since senna died and my point is that senna was just another driver who was fast but flawed. the media use this event to promote a mythology by whipping up fervour amongst devotees to the extent of massive overkill.

i know that it is three weeks between races and that there is very little news of any import floating around. it is in some ways similar to the internet bombing when shumacher had his accident.

you use the term 'ferocious' in the sense that you appear to condone senna's on track behaviour. sorry, but i reject that analysis. anyone can drive like a lunatic and that is the best way to describe some of senna's actions. i take it then that you support maldonado et al and his style of driving then?


by any measure your reaction to the alleged deification of Senna is equally over-the-top and just as ridiculous.

I agree with you that today's overly-sanitised F1 would be no place for such a strong personality as Senna (among others), but unlike you, I believe this is F1's sad loss and one of the reasons it has become such a yawn to watch. Instead of ferocious competitiveness we are left to endure endless interviews with drivers who simply speak in cliches to avoid upsetting the sponsors and ludicrous on track contrivances (fake sparks, really???) as the keepers of the rulebook try to regain what has been lost. If F1 is no place for a ferocious competitor, then, what the hell is it?


Unfortunately I hadn't caught on to F1 at the time (although I do remember hearing about Senna's death), so all I really know about him is what I got from watching the Senna documentary.

Clearly he was a great driver and he was unquestionably one of the best, but there have been many drivers over the years who have had a lot of success in F1.

For me what made him a great person (as opposed to just a great driver) was how he used that success to lift up and help the people back in his home country.

He'll always be remembered in F1, but I believe that the Senna foundation is his real legacy.


That's a very good point Random, Senna has probably done more for poor young infants in Brazil than the Brazilian government.......

Do you know what, I regret that I never visited Silverstone when Ayrton was in his pomp. I would have loved to see him attacking the likes of Copse, Becketts/Maggots, Stowe et al with his usual full commitment. I've seen the likes of Mika, Michael, Kimi, Rubens, Lewis, Fernando, Jenson, Mark, Sebastian, Daniel, the Hulk etc manhandling the awesome mega fast Maggots/Becketts complex with great skill and courage, but I bet Senna flowing his car through arguably (along with Eau Rogue and 130R) the most daunting corners in Formula 1 racing must have been something special.


Here's something you might be interested in:

James posted it quite a while back, but back then I don't think you were gracing us with your presence yet so you might not have seen it 😉

http://jaonf1.wpengine.com/2013/07/honda-evoke-ghost-of-senna-in-haunting-video/" rel="nofollow">Article


Cheers Random.

Mind you, back in the late 80s/early 90s, McLaren used to test at circuits around Southern England and Wales such as Castle Combe, Pembrey, Thruxton and Brands Hatch. Oh to be a spectator even on a test day! I'm not sure if Senna himself tested the Macca at all these venues, although I'm pretty sure Ayrton and Prost were at Pembrey for a high downforce test prior to Monaco 1989 - it was also where Ron Dennis tried to solve their "spat" after Imola 1989.


I was no fan of Senna, indeed in the years before 1994, I was a Prost supporter, but Senna's death was still a significant moment in my life. He was the first person in my life to die, and the significance of him to any F1 fan means that him suddenly being taken was quite shocking, not least because he was the reference point as 'the best'. It is easy to mythologise a personality like Senna, who was deeply spiritual, rather mercurial and certainly very charismatic. I don't really buy into the hype and mythology built up around him since his passing and just as I remember his amazing talent and achievements, I also remember also often questionable behaviour in and out of the car. However there can be no doubt, in retrospect, that his passing marked a turning point in the history of the sport - the odd thing is that I think Senna detected that, if not in having a premonition of his death, then in appreciating the challenge that Schumacher represented and the anticipating the shifting of the balance of power in the sport's commercial, political and competitive make-up.

On a more personal, but irrelevant (and blackly comic) point, in 1994 I took part in what must have been one of the first 'Fantasy F1' games, run by Top Gear magazine. For one of my drivers, I chose Alesi, who was ruled out of three races (including Imola) with an injury after a crash in testing. I chose Jordan as my chassis, and after Rubens' crash on Friday in Imola, I remember saying to my mate "bloody hell, all my team seems to do is crash". How bizarrely prophetic a couple of days later when you appreciate my chosen lead driver was - yes, Senna. And in a final twist, my engine was the Sauber-Mercedes, a team knocked sideways by Wendlinger's awful crash at Monaco two weeks later. Needless to say, I've not done Fantasy F1 since!


My memory of Senna isn't on the track, it's of Adelaide 1987. My wife & I were staying in the same hotel as Senna & the McLaren Team, we got in the lift to go down to breakfast on the Friday morning & Senna was already standing in there.

We wished him Good Morning & despite us wearing Williams clothing he was charm itself, chatting away to us & signing our programmes for us. As we left the lift he bowed to my wife, kissed her hand then shook hands with me & hoped we would have an enjoyable weekend.

That chance encounter was all it took for both of us to become fans of his, although we still supported Williams. I still have that programme, framed & on the wall of my office.

Martin (England)

I dont doubt your story but Senna was driving for Lotus in 87 and he had a high regard for Williams as Frank gave him his first taste of F1 with a test in 83 and Senna had stayed at Franks before, they were friends.


It may have been 1988, it was a long time ago.

My memory is not what it was considering the first Gran Prix I attended was at Aintree in 1955

Craig in Manila

1985 Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide.

The first GP that I ever attended.

I was 17.

Standing on the fenceline on the Saturday and hearing (feeling) the cars coming for the first time.

Seeing the black'n'gold lotus with yellow helmet flash past at a million miles per hour.

Senna stuck the Lotus on pole :

- SEVEN TENTHS ahead of Mansell in the Williams Honda

- TWO SECONDS ahead of Rosberg in the other Williams and Prost in the McLaren

- THREE SECONDS ahead of De Angelis in the other Lotus

He was my hero from that day.

I remember watching Imola '94 on TV late at night (from Oz), seeing the crash and the aftermath, and knowing from the tone of the commentators' voices that it was bad.

To this day, F1 is still my favourite sport but, for me, it was never the same after that night. There would be no other hero.


Sounds like we lived the same experiences. I became a fan of Senna's from the first Adelaide GP for the very same reason. I still remember hearing the news that he'd passed away over the 2 way on night shift in a mine in the Pilbara. I honestly couldn't believe it.

rob in victoria bc

Rest in peace Ayrton and Roland. You were what I wish l was.

And l think of Michael every day.


20 years have gone by and I still struggle to comprehend the events of that weekend.

Roland and Ayrton: always remembered with respect and affection.


Thinking of Ayrton and Roland today. I started watching F1 in 1997 so i missed Senna racing but ive since watched a lot of his races and he was amazing to watch both on and off the track.

Im sure Michael would have been there today to pay his respects to his hero.


Senna, Adelaide, Qualifying, Turn 1 chicane – you had to be there to absorb it. Fantastic.


I was too young to watch Senna live or during that time, I was born in 1992. However, when you look at YouTube videos, and the stopwatch, he was probably one of the greatest drivers you could probably ever see, and definitely the fastest.


I don't care much for celebrity nor do I ever forget that sport is just a game and in the grand scheme of things, doesn't really matter. That said, Senna was something more than just a sportsman, more than just a racing driver. An absolute icon of the 20th century. What a legend!!


Some may vilify Schumacher for the way he conducted himself on the podium in '94 at Imola, but I personally am saddened that he is unable to be a part of the remembrance for Senna and Ratzenberger this weekend, I'm sure it would have meant a lot to him as he idolized Senna to some extent. Can't believe it's been 20 years...


Maestro,you deserve to be praised.After you there is no one else.RIP


May 1st, 20 years back, I took my bicycle to a 12th grade summer tuition class for Maths. I had watched F1 on Star Sports (India) on & off, not very regularly in a friend's house as we couldn't afford cable bills then. There was quite a commotion in the tuition class that Senna just crashed and the accident could be fatal. Unfortunate to say that, this incident had triggered my interest in the sport and for the last 20 years I've enjoyed it as my favourite sport.


For me, taking words from the Italian song “Marmellata#25” by Cesar Cremonini it says, “Ah! Da quando Senna non corre più...Non è più domenica! “Ah, when Senna no longer races, it’s no longer Sunday.”

Thanks for all the great Sunday mornings.



I remember Senna’s death vividly because I was watching it with my father, who had recently been diagnosed as terminally ill. When he crashed, he turned to me and asked: “Was that Senna?” I said yes and I can remember the butterflies in my stomach - it’s like a little movie that still plays now and then. For me that weekend and my father’s last few months are always linked. It was such a beautiful day in England that first Sunday in May and it all seemed somehow so unreal. I guess it’s like when people say they remember where they were when JFK, Lennon etc was announced, things get frozen in time.


All deaths are very hard to take...

The greatest trait of Ayrton was his generosity. Sadly, this is something people are not generally characterized by. He really wanted to change things around him: from grand prix safety issues to helping children. He wanted to make the world a better place to live...


A bit like Hamilton today I had massive respect for his talent but found it hard to warm to him - I was a kid when I started watching F1 in the Eighties and remember an interview with first him and then Prost prior to one of the Monaco GPs and his intensity and slightly paranoid attitude had me rooting for Prost.

Total respect to the guy though especially for his generosity and charity work.


It was 1984 when I started watching F1 regularly. By the time Senna joined F1 I was already a Prost fan. Its incredible how our heros in sport help shape our opinions because when I watched Senna in the wet I always thought - whats this guy doin hes going to wipe some people out- to some extent that still holds true- because we always want people to avoid those sticky situations and being on the very edge meant there was no scope for avoidance.Monaco 88 made me rebalance my view of what was possible because the speed difference to others was quite immense ( similarly several other occasions- particularly in the wet). It did not surprise me at all when I heard him say he "became almost detached from himself", as I had experienced similar things in sport and training even work where I / those around me could not explain what happened. I think positive people with a constant passion to improve themselves can sometimes tap into something great something inexplicable.

What made Senna exceptional was his passion, to deliver the very best of himself not only on the track but also in the delivery of forthright words off track to improve F1. His actions and words in 1989 after being pushed off track- then coming back & beating Prost. to subsequently being disqualified for leaving the track, showed what a remarkable guy he was- I lost much respect for Prost as a man that weekend and that piece of ¥€¥ FIA president for his shameful political intervention on that race. I think the word that is often overlooked is passion because if you dont have this - you cannot reach those dizzy heights- Senna had that in bucket loads and reflected it in other things he did with charity.

I remember watching the race in 1994 .The coverage rightfully left us hoping for the best for the few minutes after. It was about 15 minutes in when hope was lost. It was very surreal after Rolands passing on saturday, and Rubens accident on Friday. It was disbelief that a high level sport could be so tragic all at once. It was a very empty feeling.

I have not read any books or seen the Senna movie & probably never will. Not sure I feel the need to "commercialise" my experience of his actual words and racing when he was here.


My greatest Senna memory is Barcelona 1991 - Senna in the Mclaren side by side with Mansell, with sparks flying as they drag race down the main straight...he didn't win that day, but he didn't give up either...that image stands out as an example of the courage and commitment these drivers, these strangers who entertain us with thier speed and talent, show at every race

In fact, there are so many...

1988 qualifying and he blitzed Prost by 1.4 seconds

1988 Japan, stalling and dropping to 14th before reeling in Prost for the win and title

Monaco 1992 and he holds off the vastly superior Williams to secure the win

Donington 1993 absolutely sublime opening lap...

Estoril 1985 and the 1st win, by over a minute, in the wet, having lapped everyone up to Alborto in 2nd...

and then there are the moments which would be unnacceptable today...

Estoril 1988 and pushing Prost to the wall

Magny Cours 1991 and taking pole going backwards after deliberately spinning his Mclaren (neat trick though, and indicative of his absolute desire to win)

Silverstone 1993 and almost colliding with Prost with a single minded purpose of not having his rival pass...

and yet...and yet...after all was said and done, a quiet, introspective man, who wanted to do his best to uplift the poorest in his native country...who, on the morning of his death welcomed his old foe and greatest rival Alain Prost with the words "Welcome old friend, we miss you" as the Frenchman did commentary on the race...

as enigmatic as he was fast...he will always be a legend


I was 4 years old when Imola 1994 happened and I guess it's played a huge role in shaping the safety of the sport for my generation and those born even later. The growth of the sport had been so huge over the 1980s that one death (let alone two) in front of a mass TV audience not used to it became unacceptable, and led to the next stage of safety developments. This mercifully had made the sport a lot safer even than in 1994 (which was part of an era which in turn a lot safer than in earlier times like the 1960s and 70s), though one must concede that F1 will never be 100% safe, as Felipe Massa's near-miss in 2009 so nearly showed.

I'm glad that, as the event has drawn near, people have remembered Roland Ratzenberger along with Senna. A month ago, I was disappointed to see F1 Racing's Imola 94 tribute contain three articles on Senna but none on Ratzenberger, but more recent coverage has I think been better and reflected on how dark the whole weekend was, not just race day (which was of course very dark in itself). Obviously it was a tremendously sad weekend in the sport's long history.


There were some many great Senna memories from the early 1990's, but I'll stay with the very first race I remember:

1991 Brazilian Grand Prix, his car slowing on the last laps, that late shower, his screams on the radio after the chequered flag...

Then, so exhausted, he couldn't leave the car without help and almost couldn't hold the trophy. Then we learn he was losing all the gears and drove only with the sixth during the last laps.

If it is a moment to remember to any racing fan, of any age, from anywhere, imagine for an eight-year old brazilian kid.

Then you know your superhero doesn't drive the batmobile: he drives a red-and-white McLaren...

German Samurai

A lot of people are bringing up the first lap of Donnington 1993 where Senna enjoyed the advantage of the best electronics package on the grid. The Benetton didn't even have traction control, no semi-automatic gearbox, no active suspension.

Then people are bringing up the fact that Senna out-qualified Prost by 1.4 seconds at Monaco 88, but the McLaren had a massive advantage over the field and Prost was guaranteed 2nd on the grid without taking any risks. Senna on the other hand would pride himself on his one lap speed and take risks trying to get the fastest qualifying lap possible.

Now that's out of the way, let's look at qualifying for Donnington 93 since people keep bringing it up.

Schumacher out-qualifies his veteran teammate Patrese by 1 second, while Senna out-qualifies his teammate Michael Andretti by a mere 0.6 second.

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