As the racing community prepares to commemorate two great drivers in Imola, their contribution to motor sport safety should not be forgotten.
Wed 30.04.14, 7:07PM
It is a testament to Ayrton Senna's lasting impact on motor sport and Formula One in particular that this weekend F1 drivers and team personnel from all eras of the sport, as well as racing fans from the world over will gather in Imola, on the 20th anniversary of his death at the circuit, to commemorate the three-time champion and also to pay tribute to Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger, killed during qualifying at the same track the day before Senna.
Through a potent combination of exceptional skill, fierce commitment and an unquenchable desire to win Senna was an F1 legend long before the weekend of May 1 1994. His three championship titles, 41 victories and 65 pole positions from, until then, just 160 grand starts allied to the heroic nature of his approach to racing endeared him to millions around the world.
His racing legacy still resonates, too, with a number of current F1 drivers recently recalling how Senna had influenced their own careers.
“When I was a kid I had all the books, all the videos, (Senna) was the driver I looked up to, way before I even started racing. He kind of inspired me to even be a driver,” said 2008 champion and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, whose helmets in his early F1 career owed much to design of Senna.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso also admitted to being a fan. “He was an inspiration,” said the Ferrari driver. “When I was a kid I had a big poster of Ayrton [in my room] and even my first go-karts were in the colours of Ayrton’s McLaren because my father also liked him.
“[His death] was a very sad moment,” added Alonso. “I intend to be [in Imola], just to be close on this unfortunately important day.”
While this weekend will celebrate the racing achievements of Senna and of Ratzenberger, whose untimely death came just three races into a promising F1 career, it will also serve as a reminder that the tragic events of that weekend sparked a surge in safety improvements in Formula One.