20 years ago, the crash and death of Ayrton Senna changed Formula One, changed the world and left a big whole in the hearts of all who knew the legendary Brazilian, even if only from television.
Ayrton Senna gripped everyone with an impressive racing skill, an amazing charisma and disarming charm when it mattered. In fact, Senna is the only man of whom Frank Williams said "he is probably an even greater man out of the car than in it", expressing what kind of a person the Brazilian used to be.
1 May 1994 became a tragedy for the whole world, but also one that opened a lot of eyes. In response to Senna's fatal crash at Tamburello corner at Imola in Italy, rule makers implemented a raft of regulation changes that made sure up until today we have not seen a fatal crash in F1 again. Out of Formula One, great strides in road safety were also made with the introduction of the N-cap crash test, a safety rating scheme for road cars.
Sadly, the San Marino Grand Prix weekend by race day was already ruined as Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger already lost his life during qualifying one day earlier. As the front wing of his Simtek broke, he veered off track just a few 100m further than where Senna lost control. The result was a massive impact which saw Roland die on the spot.
Fortunately we can all cherish the positive memories we have from Ayrton Senna, and hence, on the 20th anniversary of his death, many have put the event into perspective. One of those is David Coulthard, who believes he owes his career to Ayrton.
McLaren, the racing team where Senna recorded the majority of his successes, today releases a specially commissioned short film that commemorates Formula 1’s most enduring icon. Filmed on location in Monte-Carlo and at the McLaren Technology Centre using the actual racecar and overalls once used by Ayrton, the film vividly recreates the great Brazilian’s most famous performance – his pole position lap at the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix.
Driving the dominant McLaren MP4/4, Ayrton qualified an astonishing 1.427 seconds clear of the rest of the field. It was a superhuman effort, a performance he later discussed with great emotion: “I was driving by instinct,” he said. “I was in a different dimension – like I was in a tunnel; well beyond my conscious understanding.”
It was just one of the astonishing achievements Senna printed in the hearts of so many people around the world. Senna was born on 21 March 1960 and was 34 when he died. He achieved 3 World Championship titles and is considered the best qualifier of all time, possibly even the fastest driver the sport has ever seen.