Ayrton Senna da Silva was a Brazilian racing driver who won the World Drivers’ Championship in Formula One in 1988, 1990, and 1991. Senna is one of three Brazilian drivers to win the Formula One World Championship, having won 41 Grands Prix and 65 pole positions, the latter of which was a record until 2006. He died in a car accident while driving for the Williams team in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Ayrton Senna death
Senna died aged 34 after succumbing to fatal injuries sustained during the San Marino Grand Prix, on 1 May 1994.
The 1994 San Marino Grand Prix took place between April 28 and May 1 at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit in Imola, Italy.
The European leg of the Formula One season, which begins in Imola, has long been regarded as the commencement of the yearly competition. Senna, having failed to finish the first two races of the season, stated that this was where his season would begin, with 14 races instead of 16 to win the championship.
In a bid to improve the car’s handling, Williams brought modified FW16s to Imola. Rubens Barrichello, Senna’s compatriot and protégé, was involved in a major accident during the afternoon qualifying session when his car flew airborne at the Variante Bassa chicane and collided with the tyre-wall and barrier.
Barrichello had a broken nose and arm and had to withdraw from the competition. Senna was the first person Barrichello saw after regaining consciousness, according to him.
The front wing of Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger’s Simtek-Ford snapped entering the 310 km/h (190 mph) Villeneuve circuit on Saturday, driving the car into the concrete retaining wall at high speed. Senna went to the accident site and the medical center right away.
There, he was approached by FIA Medical Chief Professor Sid Watkins, who urged to a heartbroken Senna that he quit racing and take up fishing (a passion they both enjoyed), to which Senna answered that he couldn’t stop racing.
Senna was then summoned in front of the stewards for stealing an official vehicle and scaling the medical center fence, resulting in a squabble, however Senna was not penalised. Senna spent his final morning in Formula One talking to Alain Prost, a former colleague and adversary, about the re-establishment of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, a driver’s organization, with the goal of increasing safety in the sport.
Prost had left the sport at the end of the 1993 season and was now working as a media host. Senna, as the most experienced driver in the field, offered to take over as leader beginning with the next race in Monaco.
Concerns were raised during the drivers’ briefing over the mostly promotional usage of a Porsche 911 lead car during the warm-up lap, and organizers agreed to stop doing so.
Senna maintained his lead over Michael Schumacher at the start of the Grand Prix, but the race was immediately stopped by a startline collision.
JJ Lehto’s Benetton-Ford stalled and was hit by Pedro Lamy’s Lotus-Mugen Honda. Eight fans and a police officer were injured when a wheel and debris landed in the main grandstand. For numerous laps, the safety car, a sporty version of the Opel Vectra midsize family vehicle, was used.
The Vectra’s lack of speed, on the other hand, was to the racers’ detriment, as the slower speed allowed the Formula One cars’ tyres to cool, lowering their pressure. Senna drew up beside the Vectra and motioned for the driver, Max Angelelli[, to pick up the pace.
The race resumed on lap 6, and Senna immediately set a fast pace, completing the event’s third-fastest lap, followed by Schumacher.
On lap 7, Senna’s car rounded the high-speed Tamburello curve at roughly 307 km/h (191 mph), ran in a straight line off the track, and slammed the concrete retaining wall at around 233 km/h (145 mph), after what telemetry showed to be a two-second application of the brakes.
As a result of the mishap, the red flag was displayed. Senna was taken from his race car by Watkins and his medical team, which included acute care anaesthetist Giovanni Gordini, just two minutes after colliding.
Senna had a weak heartbeat and severe blood loss due to a torn temporal artery, therefore the initial treatment took place by the side of the road. Senna had already lost 4.5 litres of blood, or 90 percent of his total blood volume, at this point.
Watkins performed an on-site tracheotomy and requested that Senna be airlifted to Bologna’s Maggiore Hospital under Gordini’s supervision due to Senna’s serious neurological condition.
Maria Teresa Fiandri, the head of the hospital’s emergency department, announced Senna’s death at 18:40, but noted the official time of death under Italian law was 14:17, when he impacted the wall and his brain stopped functioning.
Watkins later stated that he knew Senna’s brainstem was dormant and that he would not live as soon as he observed his pupils fully dilated.
Senna’s head was forced back against the headrest after the right-front wheel and suspension were propelled back into the cockpit, smacking him on the right side of his helmet.
A piece of wheel upright had partially entered his helmet, leaving a significant indentation on his forehead. Furthermore, a jagged fragment of the upright assembly appears to have pierced the helmet visor directly above his right eye.
Senna died as a result of catastrophic skull fractures, brain damage, and a ruptured temporal artery, which supplies the face and scalp with blood. Any one of these three injuries, according to Fiandri, would have killed him.
When the medical team checked Senna’s vehicle, they discovered a furled Austrian flag, which he had meant to fly in honor of Ratzenberger after the race.
Angelo Orsi, Senna’s buddy and Autosprint’s image editor, took photographs of Senna being treated on the track by emergency medical staff. Those images have never been made publicly available out of respect.
Many of Senna’s Brazilian supporters viewed his death as a national tragedy, and the Brazilian government designated three days of national mourning.
The Italian Air Force volunteered to fly the casket back to Brazil, but the Senna family preferred a Brazilian plane. Senna’s coffin was allowed to be flown back to his home country in the passenger cabin of a VARIG McDonnell-Douglas MD-11 airliner, contrary to airline policy and out of respect.
He was accompanied by his distraught younger brother, Leonardo, and close friends. On 4 May 1994, fighter jets escorted the plane at So Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport, where it was met by Paulo Maluf, the mayor of So Paulo, and Luiz Antônio Fleury, the state’s governor.
Soldiers from the Air Force Police moved the coffin to a fire engine, which was guarded by eight cadets from the Military Police Academy as it traveled 20 miles (32.2 kilometers) into the city. 17 police motorcycles led the convoy, and 2,500 police officers lined the route to keep the masses at bay.
Three million people gathered to the streets of Senna’s hometown of So Paulo to pay their respects to him. This is commonly regarded as the world’s largest documented gathering of mourners.
As his body lay in state at the Legislative Assembly building in Ibirapuera Park, about 200,000 people passed by. As the funeral procession made its way to Morumbi Cemetery after the public viewing, the 2nd Artillery Brigade fired a 21-gun salute and seven Brazilian Air Force jets flew in a diamond configuration.
Many major motor racing executives, including team management Ken Tyrrell, Peter Collins, Ron Dennis, and Frank Williams, as well as driver Jackie Stewart, attended Senna’s state funeral on May 5.
Gerhard Berger, Michele Alboreto, Alain Prost, Thierry Boutsen, Damon Hill, Rubens Barrichello, Roberto Moreno, Derek Warwick, Maurcio Gugelmin, Hans Stuck, Johnny Herbert, Pedro Lamy, Maurizio Sala, Raul Boesel, Emerson Fittipaldi, Wilson Fittipaldi, Christian Fittipaldi were among the pallbearers. Because of their anguish, neither Sid Watkins nor Jo Ramrez, the McLaren team coordinator, could bear to attend.
After an altercation between Ecclestone and Senna’s brother Leonardo at Imola over Ecclestone’s misconstrued reaction to the news of Ayrton’s death and the fact that the race had not been abandoned after his accident, Senna’s family refused to allow FOM president Bernie Ecclestone, a friend of Senna’s, to attend the ceremony. Instead, FIA President Max Mosley attended Ratzenberger’s funeral on May 7 in Salzburg, Austria.
In a press conference ten years later, Mosley said, “Everyone went to Senna’s burial, so I went to his. I thought it was critical that someone visit him.” The plaque on Senna’s tomb reads, “Nada pode me separar do amor de Deus,” which translates to “Nothing can separate me from God’s love” (a reference to Romans 8:38–39).
The spectacle at Honda’s headquarters in Tokyo, where McLaren-Honda vehicles were customarily displayed after each race, was a tribute to his worldwide adoration. Floral tributes poured in from all over the world after his passing, flooding the vast exhibition lobby.
Despite the fact that Senna no longer drove for a Honda-powered team, this was the case. Senna had a unique relationship with business founder Soichiro Honda and was a national hero in Japan, where he was almost mythic.
To honor Senna and Ratzenberger, the FIA decided to leave the first two grid spots unoccupied and paint them in the colors of the Brazilian and Austrian flags for the next race in Monaco.
Accidents resulting in a fatality in Italy are required by law to be examined for any criminal liability, with the accident scene guarded and the actions that contributed to the fatality immediately terminated.
As a result of Senna’s death, criminal procedures were launched in Italy, with key Williams team members being investigated and charged with manslaughter. The first trial, which took place in 1997, ended with acquittals when the prosecution failed to prove its case.
The prosecution ended with the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation’s ruling no. 15050 on April 13, 2007, which stated: “The accident was caused by a steering column failure, according to the investigation. Modifications that were poorly developed and performed were to blame for the failure.
Patrick Head, who is responsible for the lack of control, bears the brunt of the blame “.. Head, on the other hand, was never arrested because the Italian manslaughter statute of limitations is 7 years and 6 months, and the ultimate verdict came 13 years after the accident.
The car’s steering column was found to have sheared off at a spot where a change had been made, prompting criminal accusations.
The prosecution claimed that the column had failed, causing the accident, and the Williams team admitted that the column had failed, but only as a result of the Tamburello corner hit.
Senna had requested that the position of his FW16’s steering wheel be adjusted in relation to the seating position since he didn’t like it. Senna’s request was fulfilled by Head and Adrian Newey, who had the existing column cut and expanded with a smaller-diameter piece of tubing welded together with reinforcement plates.
Because there was no time to make a new longer steering column in time for the race, the alteration was done this way.
Feature image credit: Getty images.