RETRO. 30 years ago, Ayrton Senna, the genius crucified in spring

RETRO. 30 years ago, Ayrton Senna, the genius crucified in spring
RETRO. 30 years ago, Ayrton Senna, the genius crucified in spring

the essential
He had just left McLaren for Williams-Renault. He didn’t like his new car, he still took three poles in his last three races but death awaited Ayrton Senna at the insignificant Tamburello turn.

Death does not touch angels. They fly too high for her. She can still burn their wings and nail them to the sky for eternity. 30 years ago, on May 1, 1994, at 2:17 p.m. on the Imola circuit, Ayrton Senna’s Williams-Renault left its trajectory to crash into the concrete wall of Tamburello. The Brazilian’s desperate braking attempt did not soften the blow. The race, neutralized a little earlier after Pedro Lamy’s accident, stopped again in a stifling climate. On Friday, Rubens Barichello was miraculously transported in his Jordan after two terrible rollovers. On Saturday, the Austrian Roland Ratzenberger was not so lucky, killed instantly in qualifying at the wheel of the worrying Simtek! Senna, very concerned, in tears then determined to make things happen, immediately insisted on raising the issue of safety, with Niki Lauda in particular, then Alain Prost.

“I thought his soul was leaving…”

As during the first two meetings of the season, Michaël Schumacher, in Senna’s box just before the crash, imposes himself in indifference. Everyone, literally, is hoping for reassuring news from the Maggiore hospital in Bologna where the triple champion was airlifted. They will never fall. Doctor Maria-Teresa Fiandri announced at 6 p.m. that the injured man’s encephalogram was flat. His death was made official at 6:40 p.m.

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The sports world is in mourning. Professor Sid Watkins, a neurosurgeon close to the drama of this cursed weekend, will accompany his friend’s departure with this sentence. “I’m not religious, but when I saw him sigh and his body relax, I thought his soul was leaving…”
The irreparable happened at the start of the third Grand Prix of a season that the handsome Ayrton dreamed of flying over. After Prost’s retirement, fourth title in his pocket, he had just joined the Williams team but had not, to put it mildly, found the feeling with the FW16 that he shared with Damon Hill.

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A look back at the opening Grand Prix, his final “recital” in Brazil, on “his” route from Interlagos to São Paulo, scene of worrying auspices. Ayrton has passed this Junção bend, on the “José-Carlos Pace”, thousands of times. It is drawn at the end of the circuit and begins the climb towards Arquibancadas and the pit straight. This March 27, while he is fighting with the young Schumacher who has become a real rival at the controls of a Benetton-Ford suspected of not being regulatory, the Brazilian completes the 56th lap when the unthinkable happens. We see his car spin and stop. What he comes out of is abandonment. At the same time, half of the spectators left the site without a thought for another compatriot “Rubinho” Barichello who is fighting for the podium! At the height of “Sennamania”, the Paulista people cannot accept the affront. Not here…

The disturbing message to Alain Prost

Since he discovered his new car, coming from McLaren, the adored hero has been carrying around his doubts. He makes no secret of it and repeated it just before Interlagos. The FW16 lies to him a little, worries him a lot. She refuses to give him the guarantees of a happy marriage. Uncomfortable, he still signed the last three pole positions of his life, in Brazil, Japan and Imola.

All over the planet, the anthem of this spring cried by Springsteen fits too well in these heartbreaking hours. “Night has fallen, I’m awake, I can feel myself disappearing…” “Streets of Philadelphia” is not about car racing but about death and life. That of Ayrton Senna da Silva, “Magic” for an entire generation, only lasted 34 years, 99 days and a few hours. Yet his heart never stopped beating.

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For millennia, little phrases have accompanied big stories and the great rivalries that accompany them. Just before Ayrton Senna’s final departure in Italy, TF1 broadcast a recording made a little earlier in the weekend as the Brazilian took to the track. “And to start, a hello to our friend Alain. I miss you Alain! » he blurted out on the radio to his adversary who became a consultant. The duel between the two men divided the public for years. You couldn’t love Prost and Senna at the same time. You had to choose your side. “I miss you Alain…” I miss you Ayrton.
Patrick Louis

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