20 years ago I cried, cried tears for a man I never knew, spoke to or had even seen in the flesh.
I cried when Ayrton
Senna lost his life behind the wheel of a Formula One car, a car which he was
particularly adept at driving fast while handling it with a silky smooth touch.
I was 12 years old, I
knew of Niki Lauda’s accident, of Jim Clark’s death and had seen some big
accidents, but the drivers always bounced up and out.
Ratzenberger lost his life the day before, my 12 yr old brain was sad yes but
knew the drivers, led by Senna would pay him a fitting tribute the following
day. How wrong was I?
May 1, 1994 was when us
youngsters fully understood the danger of F1 and our fathers and grandfathers
looked on knowingly, they’d been there.
In the era before
Breaking News took hold, I remember the BBC coverage of the San Marino grand
prix, the excited and irrepressible Murray Walker and the safe hands of Steve
Both knew Senna, to
hear Murray’s voice go from his fizzy pop ‘anything can happen’ bounce to a
slow, morose and at times emotional tone fully conveyed this wasn’t just a run
of the mill accident.
And Rider went from the
host back to a news journalist, conveying what was known and not speculation.
All of the time there
was still, farcically a grand prix taking place! I can’t remember who won the
1994 San Marino Grand Prix and maybe no one else can either.
20 years on and F1 is
more safer and no fan young or old has had to revisit that day, Schumacher had
a huge accident at Silverstone in 1999 and only had a broken leg.
Cars go upside down,
tyres puncture at high speeds, accidents still happen but this generation still
go home at the end of the race.
Senna’s legacy is the
fact that all F1 drivers still step into those machines, still go for that
overtake, still push for that vital hundredth of a second off their lap time.
They do so with the
fear, the fear it could be the last time they do, only when the fear becomes
too much is it time to hang up the helmet
That’s something Ayrton
Senna never got the chance to do. Thank you for the
memories Ayrton, may you continue to rest in peace