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On this day 20 years ago: Ayrton Senna dies at Imola.


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I still recall the day it happened like it were yesterday.

 

The 1994 San Marino GP had already been overshadowed by two major accidents: First Rubens Barichello had a major shunt on Friday, then on Saturday Roland Ratzenberger died after the front wing on his Simtek had failed.

 

Nevertheless, the show must go on, so the race was to go ahead.

 

Right at the start JJ Lehto stalled his Benetton. Pedro Lamy, starting from further back, didn't see the stationary car in time and plunged into the back of the Benetton, sending bodywork and tyres all over the air, with some parts hitting spectators in the grandstand. Following this accident the safety car had to be deployed. At the time the safety car was a novelty in F1, having only been introduced in 1993.

 

It was likely due to the combination of tyre temperatures having cooled down too far and the Williams being a difficult to handle car which made Ayrton Senna go off in the high-speed Tamburello corner and hit a concrete wall.

 

At first it looked like he was moving in the car. I remember thinking 'ok, he's probably injured, but certainly Senna is still alive.'

 

Sadly that wasn't the case. Not that the powers that be made the news public early on. Oh no. It wasn't until after the race had been finished that the news broke: Ayrton Senna, the greatest racing driver F1 had ever seen, had died from his head injuries. 

 

We lost a charismatic person, an incredibly fast driver, and we never got to see how the rivalry between Senna and Schumacher would have panned out in the following years.

 

I'll leave you with a tribute video published by McLaren which shows why Ayrton Senna was so special as a driver.

 

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