Ayrton Senna

23 Years Ago Today, We Lost Ayrton Senna: A Sad Day For F1 – May 1st, 1994

23 years since Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna da Silva unfortunate passing, ThisisF1 pays tribute to the Brazilian F1 legend, arguably the greatest F1 driver of all time. Senna has often been voted as the best and most influential F1 driver of all time in various motorsport polls.

162 Grand Prix, 41 wins, 65 pole positions, 80 podiums and three world championships. Amazing statistics for any F1 driver, but these extraordinary numbers aren’t even half the Ayrton Senna story.

The Hotel Castello, where Ayrton Senna stayed the night before the Grand Prix

The Brazilian legend tragically passed away following an accident at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994.

“If I ever happen to have an accident that eventually costs me my life, I hope it is in one go. I would not like to be in a wheelchair. I would not like to be in a hospital suffering from whatever injury it was. If I’m going to live, I want to live fully, very intensely, because I am an intense person. It would ruin my life if I had to live partially.” —Ayrton Senna

Death – a Black race weekend of Formula 1

(Source – Wikipedia) The 1994 San Marino Grand Prix was held on the “Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari” circuit located in Imola, Italy, between 28 April, and 1 May 1994. Senna stayed in room no. 200 at the Hotel Castello in Castel San Pietro Terme.

The European leg of the F1 season, starting at Imola, was traditionally considered the beginning of the yearly competition. Senna, who did not finish the two opening races of the season, declared that this was where his season would start, with 14 races, as opposed to 16, in which to win the title. Williams brought modified FW16s to Imola in an attempt to improve the car’s handling.

Room 200, which is still decorated the same as when Senna stayed there

On Friday, Senna placed the car on the pole for a then-record 65th and final time, but he was upset by events unfolding that race weekend. Senna complained about the FW16’s handling and reported that the car’s performance was generally worse after the engineers’ latest adjustments. During the afternoon qualifying session, Senna’s compatriot and protégé Rubens Barrichello was involved in a serious accident when his Jordan became airborne at the Variante Bassa chicane and hit the tyre-wall and fence. Barrichello suffered a broken nose and arm, and withdrew from the event. Barrichello reported that Senna was the first person he saw upon regaining consciousness.

During Saturday qualifying, Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger was killed after the front wing of his Simtek-Ford broke entering the 310 km/h (190 mph) Villeneuve corner, sending the car into a concrete wall. Senna immediately visited the accident scene and medical centre. There he was met by FIA Medical Chief Professor Sid Watkins, who suggested to a tearful Senna to retire from racing and go fishing (a hobby they both shared), to which Senna replied that he could not stop racing. Senna was later called in front of the stewards for commandeering an official car and climbing the medical centre fence, and a row ensued, although Senna was not punished.

Senna spent his final morning on the Sunday talking to former teammate and rival Alain Prost to discuss the re-establishment of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, with the aim of improving safety in Formula One. Prost had retired from the sport at the end of the 1993 season, and was now a media presenter. As the most senior driver in competition, Senna offered to take the role of leader, starting from the next race in Monaco. During the drivers’ briefing, concerns had been raised about the mainly promotional use of a Porsche 911 lead car for the warm-up lap, with organizers agreeing to abandon the practice. It is said that Williams Chief Engineer Patrick Head had pranked Senna on the grid by advising him that the lead car would not be excluded from the warm-up lap after all.

At the start of the Grand Prix, Senna retained the lead from Schumacher, but proceedings soon became interrupted by a startline accident. JJ Lehto’s Benetton-Ford had stalled and was hit by the Lotus-Mugen Honda of Pedro Lamy. A wheel and debris landed in the main grandstand, injuring eight fans and a police officer. The safety car, a sporty version of the Opel Vectra medium family saloon, was deployed for several laps. The Vectra’s slow pace was later questioned because of the consequential drop in tyre pressures on the Formula One cars. Senna had pulled alongside the Vectra and gestured to the driver, Max Angelelli, to increase his speed. On lap 6, the race resumed and Senna immediately set a quick pace with the third-quickest lap of the race, followed by Schumacher.

As Senna rounded the high-speed Tamburello corner on lap 7, his car left the racing line at around 307 km/h (191 mph), ran in a straight line off the track, and hit the concrete retaining wall at around 233 km/h (145 mph), after what telemetry showed to be an application of the brakes for around two seconds. The red flag was shown as a consequence of the accident.

Within two minutes of crashing, Senna was extracted from his race car by Professor Watkins and his medical team, including intensive care anaesthetist Giovanni Gordini. Initial treatment took place by the side of the car, with Senna having a weak heartbeat and significant blood loss (around 4.5 liters). Because of Senna’s poor neurological condition, Professor Watkins performed an on-site tracheotomy and requested the immediate airlifting of Senna to Bologna’s Maggiore Hospital under the supervision of Dr Gordini.

At 18:40, the head of the hospital’s emergency department, Dr Fiandri[126] made the announcement that Senna had died, but said the official time of death under Italian law was 14:17, which is when he impacted the wall and his brain stopped working.[124] Professor Watkins later said that as soon as he saw Senna’s fully dilated pupils, he knew that his brainstem was inactive and that he would not survive.

Ayrton Senna Career in numbers
Races 162
Pole positions 65
Wins 41
Podiums 80
Fastest laps 19
Career points 610
Championships 3 (1988, 1990, 1991)

ThisisF1 is honoring the passing of Ayrton Senna and celebrating the great man himself, all day today.


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