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Sunday, December 05, 2021

10 Years after: Tragedy at Tamburello, F1’s Darkest Day

On May 1, 1994, driving a Williams, Ayrton Senna da Silva crashed into the Tamburello curve at Imola in the San Marino GP. Senna suffered he...

April 25, 2004

On May 1, 1994, driving a Williams, Ayrton Senna da Silva crashed into the Tamburello curve at Imola in the San Marino GP. Senna suffered head injuries and was declared dead at the hospital.Ten years later, MICKY AIGNER recaps the events of that day and looks at what Senna means today.

Warning Signs

If Ayrton Senna, among the most spiritual of F1 drivers, had heeded the omens, racing history may have changed.

Friday, April 29
(Free Practice)

As Senna was returning to the pits, the Jordan of Rubens Barrichello hit the kerb in the middle of the 140mph Variante Bassa chicane, hurtled through the air, cleared a metre-high tyre barrier and smashed against a debris fence. Barichello was knocked unconscious and in the process swallowed his tongue

Saturday, April 30
(IInd Qualifying Session)

Austrian Roland Ratzenberger, driving a Simtek at almost 200kmph, slammed into a concrete retaining wall on the outside of the Villeneuve curve. He died instantly, the first casualty at a GP since Ricardo Paletti at Montreal in 1982. After a visit to the accident spot — 200m from Tamburello — an emotional Senna talked of retiring and felt it was ‘morally wrong to race’. However, a late-night talk with Frank Williams changed his mind.

Sunday, May 1
(Race Day)

In the paddock, a nervy Senna was distinctly suspicious of his car and walked around it. Half an hour later, as the starting lights turned green, Senna, in pole, was off on his own. Trouble brewed on the grid when Pedro Lamy’s Lotus slammed into the back of a stalled Benetton, scattering debris all over. A wheel flew over the debris fencing injuring nine people.

17 minutes later:

Senna and Schumacher took the Tamburello Curve for the second time. Schumi (driving a car long suspected of having illegal driver aids) was hounding Senna when the latter’s car veer off the track at 190mph and slammed into an unprotected concrete wall. Senna suffered massive head injuries and was rushed to hospital, where he died.


At the track, an unfurled Austrian flag was discovered in the Williams debris. Senna, anticipating his 42nd GP win, intended to wave it as a tribute to Ratzenberger.

‘The best I ever raced against’

Ayrton was certainly the best driver I ever raced against, by a long, long way. He was, by far, the most committed driver I ever saw.
Alain Prost

It’s not that I think about him everyday, but being Brazilian and living the emotion of being a Brazilian, you live with Senna every day
Rubens Barrichello

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