HomeMotorsportsF1On This Day: 1994 San Marino GP and Death of Ayrton Senna

On This Day: 1994 San Marino GP and Death of Ayrton Senna

May 1, 1994. Ayrton Senna, the laser focused Brazilian driver and three time World Champion said goodbye to his life on earth. At the best on his game, Senna was no more after the 1994 San Marino GP.

The 1994 FIA World Championship was marked with fatalities, injuries and crashes. The San Marino Grand Prix was the third race of the season. The race came back to Ferrari’s home circuit Autodromo Enzo e Dino ferrari located at Imola in Italy. The circuit which lies 40 kilometer off the city of Bologna, runs in an anti-clockwise direction. The circuit then had 22 turns with a total distance of 4959 kilometers.

Ayrton Senna in his McLaren Honda before the Hungarian Grand Prix
Ayrton Senna in his McLaren Honda at the Hungoring Circuit. Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images

Rubens Barrichello crashed a kerb at the Variante Bassa circuit at 225 km/h (140 mph) on Friday, April 29th, during the first qualifying session, throwing him into the air. He collided with the top of the tyre barrier. He was knocked out on the spot by a 95 g collision. After landing, Barrichello’s automobile spun several times before coming to a halt upside down. Barrichello was treated at the incident site and sent to the circuit’s medical centre before being flown to Maggiore Hospital in Bologna for regular testing and observation. Barrichello suffered a sprained wrist and a broken nose. Sid Watkins’ timely intervention saved his life.

Saturday Qualification and Death of Rolf Ratzenberger

On Saturday, the very next day. Another unfortunate event happened. Eighteen minutes into the last qualifying session, Rolf Ratzenberger, an Austrian driver for Simtek failed to negotiate the Villenueve Curve at Imola. He was badly hurt after nearly colliding with the opposite concrete retaining barrier wall. The power of the blow fractured the basal skull, despite the survival cell being essentially intact. Subsequently, they stopped the session. He was given medical attention including an airlift to Maggiore Hospital where he succumbed to injuries at 2:18 pm. Rolf thus became the first fatality of the 1994 San Marino GP.

Sid Watkins, the head of F1 on track medical team then recalled in his memoirs that Senna broke down and cried on his shoulders. He also mentions that he tried to persuade him not to race on Sunday. Watkins says that Senna responded by saying that there are some things in life that he cant control, he cannot quit and he has to go on.

The devastating Sunday Race of 1994 San Marino GP

The race started at 2:00 p.m local time and on a negative note. In the first lap, Pedro Lamy crashed his Lotus107C in the back of JJ Lehto’s Benetton B194. A safety car was hence introduced. This led to drivers reducing their driving speeds.

Senna was leading Michael Schumacher on the seventh lap, the second at racing speeds after the interruption. Senna’s car could not make the bend at the Tamburello left corner at a speed of 305 km/h (190 mph), and continued in a straight line, striking the unprotected concrete barrier at a speed of 211 km/h (131 mph), decreased by the driver’s effort to brake. Senna died instantly, as later reports discovered. Track officials discovered a furled Austrian flag among the wreckage of Senna’s racing car. After the race, Senna intended to erect it in honour of Ratzenberger.

Watkins rushed to the spot and gave him and all the medical attention required to the late driver. He was finally pulled off his wreckage and airlifted to Maggiore for better treatment. He was treated in the flight too. Comas, not knowing about Senna’s crash started on the pit lane. The commentator described it as the gob-smacking thing he has ever seen. Comas, on the other hand saw Senna’s crash and pulled out off the race completely. He never spoke of the incident again for ten years.

Race Restart and Aftermath

The race restarted after thirty seven minutes. The race from there went in a safe and concerned manner. 8 more drivers pulled out of the race. Micheal Schumacher won the 1994 S.an Marino GP. Nicholas Larini of Ferrari trailed him at second. Mika Hakkinenn after a tight competition with Karl Wendiinger finished third. On podium, The winners avoided the Champagne sprayed out of respect for Rolf

Schumacher on winning said that he does not feel satisfied with the win and how can he be happy. The hospital, two hours and twenty minutes later announced that Ayrton Senna is no more. May 1 thus became the blackest day in F1 History.

On May 5, 1994, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Senna was granted a state funeral. A crowd of almost 500,000 people gathered to witness the casket pass through the streets. The pallbearers included Senna’s arch-rival Alain Prost.

The race provoked many changes in the circuit, They avoided the usage of the layout from then.The Imola Circuit went through heavy modifications. Subsequently, They changed the Tamburello. A place where many drivers met with accidents including Nelson Piquet.

Remembering Ayrton Senna and Rolf Ratzenberger

Mohammed Bazim
Mohammed Bazimhttp://thesportslite.com
Mohammed Bazim S is a final-year Journalism student with a deep passion for sports reporting. At the age of 19, he is already making strides towards his dream of becoming a paddock reporter and rinkside correspondent. With a particular love for ice hockey and Formula 1, Mohammed aspires to capture the excitement of these sports through immersive reporting. His enthusiasm, coupled with his dedication to honing his skills, sets him on a path towards bringing the thrilling world of sports to life for fans worldwide.

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