Imola 20th Anniversary


A fine chap if ever there was one.
I'm not going to go into detail of all the problems that happened at Imola, we have some wonderful writers here on CTA who can likely tell the story with more panache than I. So much seemed to go wrong that weekend that it was almost beyond belief. What I wanted to say, though, was my main takeaway from the weekend was a simple safety issue. A lot of people remember either Roland's crash, or Ayrton's, or - like me - both crashes, but many forget in the mists of time that Reubens Barrichello also had a huge crash. My takeaway from the 3 incidents was that Barrichello hit tyres and survived relatively unscathed if a little shaken, Ratzenberger and Senna both hit concrete and, tragically, didn't. Subsequently drivers were positioned a lot lower in the car with more protection around the head area to protect the driver against wheels, but how much safer would things have been if the practice of tyre walls around circuits had been far more common at that time? Would Senna have survived? Would Ratzenberger? Who knows. I just remember my wife asking me why tears were streaming down my face as Moira Stewart gave the definitive bad news...
I so much want to contribute to this thread but I do not know how to react it is an anniversary but isn't one for celebration those of us who were watching the race didn't know if Senna was alive or dead but it was fairly obvious without being told as Murray kept saying over and over again that the race should be stopped..
Terrible weekend. F1 had been getting safer but it all just seemed to go wrong again that weekend.
It's easy to take for granted, but thank science and the drive of those involved for ensuring that our weekend entertainment isn't suddenly cut short by viewing one of our heroes lose their life.
I remember vividly being pretty sure he'd been killed with a couple of mins of seeing the crash and being distraught.

I must have watched the re-started race because I remember Berger pulling out because he just couldn't carry on and a wheel bouncing down the pit lane after a bodged pitstop. I have no other memory of it though.

Lets not forget the spectators hurt from the flying wheel off JJ Lehto's Benneton after the start crash. I've never been really sure how bad they were hurt.
Several spectators were injured and there was a pit stop incident which saw some mechanics being injured basically the entire race weekend was totally ****ed up,it is also the year when I discovered that as far as Italian law is concerned there is no such thing as an accident which lead to the prosecution of Frank and some other members of the Williams team and it put a hell of a lot of pressure on Damon's shoulders to lead the team as a driver in the wake of such tragedy, which he did superbly..
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I'm still angry thinking back on that weekend. After Rubens near death crash on the Friday followed by Rolands death on the Saturday, I was of the opinion at the time that the race should not go ahead as the track was obviously too dangerous for modern F1. But it did and we lost Senna as well. I still find it mind numbing to think there were unprotected concrete walls on areas where cars could hit them. The whole thing was stupid beyond belief. The blackest weekend in the sport since the 1960 Belgian GP.

Sky have a Ratzenberger special program on Tomorrow and several programs on Senna this week as well.
It is a shame that some people only focus on Senna and hardly ever think of Roland, he is like the man that F1 forgot and I know that JV is most upset by this and also Senna was saddened by his death going into the race..
Under Italian law, the race should have been cancelled due to Ratzenburger's fatality. I believe it was allowed to continue since he was declared dead outside the circuit limits.

Ayrton Senna's car had an Austrian flag in the cockpit; he planned to dedicate his win (of which he was ALWAYS sure) to Ratzenburger.

That detail always gets me.
Sid Watkins recounted how dark Senna's mood was leading up to the race. He tried to talk Senna out of racing that day saying that they should go off fishing. Senna refused, it was almost as though he had a premonition but could not shake loose from it.
Throughout my life, I have kept newspapers and magazines recording momentous occasions in my life. Senna's death was the first of these, but others include the attack on the twin towers on 9/11 and England beating Germany 5-1.

I still remember Senna's death very clearly. I was watching the race in the kitchen of my student flat in Leeds. My cousin came round for lunch and I cooked roast beef for us both. The plan was to eat, watch the race and then go to the Moors for an afternoon out of the city. We never made it out of the kitchen.

The world stopped when Senna's Williams hit the barriers. It was awful. I was dumbstruck. For a fleeting moment when his head twitched, I had hope but I must have known that there was no way that anyone could survive such an impact. I stared at the screen hoping that the news from the hospital would be something other than what it was. I probably watched the race, but only so that I would be tuned in when I heard how he was.

I was not a Senna fan. In fact, I was an anti-fan. I hated to see him win because he always seemed to win. I hated the way that he had so callously taken Prost out in the Suzuka decider, not because I was a Prost fan - he was just as bad - but because it was so unsporting, so calculated and so predictable.

But I respected Senna. His speed, especially in qualifying was awesome. People who didn't witness that era maybe don't appreciate qualifying speed like I do. It was different: the engines were more suited to rocket-ships than cars and the tyres were good for one lap. Senna's 65 poles was an incredible record. That was a record that he did not deserve to lose, especially to Schumacher who only achieved it because he had the best car and a slow team mate for so many years.

The record states the following: Schumacher 68 poles from 308 entries. Ayrton 65 poles from 162. Yes, he was fastest in qualifying in 40% of the races he entered. He was the fastest and for me that makes him the best.

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A friend who also hated Senna was going to be out during the race so he set his VHS recorder up intending to watch the race after he got back home. He heard the news on his way home, when he got there he just wiped the tape and to this day has never watched a recording of the accident.
The Prost Vs Senna was a tangible thing it actually existed between the two drivers and overflowed into the fans of each Prost once said "Don't hate me just because you are a fan of Senna." Good words and something that people should take heed of in the false belief that Hamilton and Button have a similar rivalry because they don't, the last true rivalry between drivers I can recall is that of Schumacher Vs Hill, no driver since then has tried purposely taken out his rival rival on track, except for Schumacher on JV but I guess he just thought it was worth a try as he had already gotten away with it once, they weren't bitter rivals in the true sense of the word..

Remember, Jim Clark had 33 poles in only 73 races. And he won 25 of those 73 (only 72 starts). Yet he died in a meaningless F2(!!!) race.

I never understood how Imola was ever approved as an F1 circuit. It had a reputation as a killer long before it hosted F1. Unprotected concrete barriers always seem to act as car magnets. Bruce McLaren died when when his car, during testing at Goodwood, hit the only concrete barrier(a flag marshall's position) for hundreds of yards.

Thanks to efforts of people like Sir Jackie Stewart, threats like that have been expunged from modern circuits.
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I went to see it at the cinema and my god it was hard to watch that again. I actually got the DVD as gift which to this day remains unopened. Watching your childhood hero die is not entertainment.
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