I've got some old editions of Autosport next to the loo and I've been poring over them recently. There are some grotesquely ironic headlines in the 30 April 1994 edition, previewing the San Marino GP: "Crunch time in San Marino" and the like. There was also letter on the correspondence page that week extolling the virtues of F1 safety measures...
I remember watching that race, and the disbelief of what we were seeing, it was so awful. I also recall Roland Ratzenberger losing his life that same weekend, along with a huge crash for Rubens Barrichello, it was a dark weekend for F1 that one.
That is the thing with motorsport, we all know it's dangerous but we choose to push it to the back of our minds most of time. Suddenly it's brought into sharp focus at times and you just don't forget things like that.
I seem to remember at the time that the deaths which seemed to be so commonplace up to the 70s and tailing off in the 80s had been virtually eliminated by 1994 and it just seemed that at last the safety measure had finally worked. So for that weekend to happen almost came as more of a shock in light of this.
Senna though no doubt extremely talented and very charismatic has become a legend more because of the way he died, were there other drivers as good as him? He was the man all the crash to win drivers consider him their idol, he lasted longer because F1 became safer, had he entered the sport 10 years earlier he wouldn't have achieved legend status, he would have been dead in his first 2 years, he died because on that day he was unlucky similar to many top drivers previous to him that died.
To me the legend was Jim Clark, a driver who relied on his skill to win, no crashing into the opposition to win, no tantrums because he considered to good to be overtaken and drove anything for the fun. there aren't any like him today and haven't been for years, just a load of one car type drivers who live on their own isolated castles.
That whole weekend was an absolute knightmare for not only for the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna but also there was the Barrichello crash in Friday qualifying.The 9 people who were injured in the crowd from the Pedro Lamy, JJ Lehto Start line crash.The Ferrari and Lotus Mechanics who were hospitalised because of the flying wheel from Michele Albereto’s Minardi. There was also a lucky escape for Eric Comas in the Larrousse.He was let out of the pit lane at full speed and it was lucky that he didn’t run over anyone who were trying to save Senna’s life at the time.
It was aTerrible weekend. We didn’t see the Ratzenburger crash thank goodness, but we were watching the race and saw Senna crash. I was horrified. I saw his head drop to one side and I just new he was dead, an image I will never get out of my head.
Yes, the legend has been romanticised more perhaps because of his death (and the film of his life) would warrant but to say that he lasted longer because F1 became safer isn't true.
Elio De Angelis was killed in testing in 86. Martin Donnelly was lucky to survive his horrific crash in 1990. Jacques Laffite suffered a career ending crash at the 86 British GP. Gehard Berger suffered broken rubs and second degree burns at San Marino in 89. That's just a few examples.
Senna was an aggressive driver but despite what Prost once said, he wasn't suicidal. He was no more aggressive than Mansell or Piquet. He was simply quicker.
1994 was a terrible season all round but the FIA must take a huge slice of the blame for the way it turned out.
Those cars had reached the point at which they were at, or near the top of the technical tree by the end of 1993. Fitted with every driver aid imaginable at the time they were able to maximise their speed in ways not achievable in the turbo era and on different, previously slower parts of the circuit.
In stripping all of those driver aids off they achieved exactly the same effect as stripping the flight computers from modern jet fighters. Those cars no longer had the extra percentage of control that the driver was able to call upon. The driver could still reach the edge of the speed envelope but the dynamic stability of the car had already been exceeded. Add to the mix that these cars were now far lighter at the start of the race thanks to refuelling and they would be even faster and more unstable from the off.
Nothing was done until after the San Marino weekend to reduce the speed of the cars.
This all came about because the FIA were worried about spiralling costs and the effects of driver aids on the show. Sound familiar ??
I was bought the Senna dvd as a gift and I watched it once, I couldn't bring myself to watch it more than that but I still have it. I learned a lot from watching it that I hadn't already known about him as I came into F1 very late in his career.
cider_and_toast, ok I got my years wrong perhaps 20 years would have been more accurate, I still think he was over rated, he may not have been suicidal but he definitely put too much faith in his god to keep him safe and said so