Thursday, May 1, 2014

RETRO: San Marino GP weekend - 20yrs later, Day-3

Ayrton Senna's final racecar, the Williams-Renault FW16. (Image source:
And then it was unfortunately "D-Day!" As we all know that twenty years ago today, one of Formula 1's greatest drivers was taken from us...

As mentioned previously, Ayrton Senna was showing signs of a different self that weekend in Imola, with one of the most notable things being his  amazing decision over remarkably dropping his Angst towards "Alaine!" As it was "The Professor's" (Alain Prost) first Race visit of the season and Senna even went so far as to say over the in-car radio: "Hello to my good friend, (Alain) we miss you!" As Prost was sitting in the Williams hospitality area - while Ayrton was filming a lap of Imola for France's FT1. (French television network)

Senna once again reiterated these sentiments in the Team Willy' (Williams) motorhome, where seeing Prost seated, Senna joined him, had a light breakfast and a highly animated, yet friendly 30min conversation with his past adversary - finishing with Prost agreeing to help Senna on Safety issues in another meeting slated in a Fortnight in Monaco...

As Prost says: "They both dropped their Disgust for each other and simply Got On with one another." As Alain said later it was so unusual, since previously when the pair were in the motorhome together Senna wouldn't even say Hello to him.

And I broke into tears when reading of Senna's friend and past team-mate Gerhard Berger recalling his last image of Senna; when Ayrton turned and smiled a smile of genuine admiration when the Tifosi went Ga-Ga over Gerhard's name being spoken during the Driver introductions on the Imola Pre-grid...

Cannot help believing that the Senna movie is somewhat largely scripted off of this book, as its weird reading word for exact word what's spoken in the movie as Rubython's book was written seven years prior...

Sunday, May 1, 1994
Presumably, as a previous generation can recall exactly where they were when JFK was Assassinated, I myself can still vividly recall where I was that fateful weekend, along with where I first learned the news of Ayrton's death, since I've never noticed before how symbiotic it seems that I was ensconced in fabulous Italian machinery in los wages' (Las Vegas) at a Pantera International meet the very same weekend that the F1 circus was in Italy - which I believe I've scribbled 'bout in;

Thus, I won't try retelling the entire day's events, especially since I was neither there in person or watching the race upon Thy 'Telie.

Yet ironically, J.J. Letho, who I've previously noted was injured in a testing accident earlier that year, made a hasty return to action at Imola, taking his race seat back from Jos Verstappen.

In a weekend of incidents, Letho stalled his Benetton B194-Ford chassis at the start and was collected by Pedro Lamy, sending his wheel and suspension pieces high above the catch fencing and ultimately hitting four spectators! With Lamy's collision causing the Safety Car to be deployed, the very same safety car period that would ultimately lead to further tragedy on lap-6 when the race was resumed.

In an even more bizarre twist 'O fate, Senna was to perish at the exact same corner that his good friend Gerhard Berger had almost lost his life at five years earlier, the daunting Tamburello corner, where Berger had been engulfed in flames for some twenty-plus seconds!

Yet let's not forget about the further mayhem caused by Minardi's Michele Alboreto, who during a subsequent Pit-stop lost a wheel and ran into nearby Ferrari mechanics while a Lotus mechanic was struck by debris!

As somehow, perhaps I'd recorded the race? I vaguely recall seeing footage of sheets being placed around Senna's stricken Williams racecar in order to shield the probing camera's eyes while being attended to by Professor Sid Watkins and his medical staff before being flown to nearby hospital in Bologna where ultimately Ayrton was pronounced dead. As although this tragic announcement wasn't pronounced until 6:40PM, Senna's official time of death was listed as 2:17PM, thus having died instantly!

After the carnage had been cleaned up during the Red flag period, the race was re-started and ultimately Michael Schumacher romped to victory upon aggregate time, albeit a very somber win nevertheless, with Ferrari's Nicola Larini being the race's runner-up - the last Italian to score Grand Prix points for la Scuderia, with McLaren's Mika Hakkinen taking the podium's final step - where "Mika-the-Finn" had led his very first ever  Grand Prix laps.

In the aftermath of Senna's & Ratzenberger's deaths, the FIA pushed thru mandatory safety changes to the Formula 1 chassis, most notably the curtailing of driver electronic aids, along with extensive driver cockpit modifications - as notably the curtailment of launch control was found to be suspect upon Schumacher's car! As the Benetton team would subsequently be found to have "unknowingly"  left embedded upon the car's software, known as the mysterious "Code 13." As the top three finishers had their respective software data requested for analysis by the FIA with both Benetton and McLaren initially refusing to do so, being fined a cool $100-grand a-piece before complying...

Thus, it's with these changes in safety twenty years ago that I find it rather ironic that the FIA is now mulling the reintroduction of active suspension in 2017, which seems like a very bad idea indeed!

For a slightly different twist upon this horrific anniversary, primarily focusing upon the IndyCar side of the fence, including Senna's "secret" IndyCar test, see;