Today marks the 27th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s passing. The three-time Formula 1 champion died on 1st May 1994 following a tragic accident during the San Marino GP at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Ímola.
The outstanding driver was under a lot of pressure as he arrived at the third round of the season in Italy that fateful year. After some arduous negotiations, he had got a contract with Williams, the team that had reigned supreme during the previous year.
Already a Formula One hero, the Brazilian was aware he had to live up to his own legend, but nothing had quite gone to plan that beginning of season.
Ayrton Senna had not taken a single point in either of the two initial races. A young German driver named Michael Schumacher, on the other hand, had won both those rounds, becoming the great sensation of the moment.
Ayrton Senna under pressure
The champion found himself in a very oppressive situation. Nobody could understand why the prodigious car that had dominated the competition during the previous campaign, was not performing at the hands of the gifted South American champion.
The reason behind William’s underperformance was the new ban on electronic aids, which had made its preceding model an unbeatable enemy. In order to compensate for that disadvantage, Ayrton Senna had to push the machine to its limits. It was the only way for such an unstable and extremely dangerous car to be competitive.
Drivers were already at the circuit when Ayrton Senna received some personal news that made his anxiety even worse. His brother informed him of a compromising phone call from his then-girlfriend to another man.
The events that followed then brewed a perfect storm. Those were the dire circumstances surrounding the most tragic weekend in the history of Formula One.
A premonitory sign: Barrichello´s accident
During Friday’s free practice session, Rubens Barrichello suffered a horrifying accident. Sienna’s young compatriot became airborne at the wheel of his Jordan-Hurt, crashing violently against the tyre wall and fence of the ancient track.
In shock, Sienna rushed to the circuit’s clinic, where he was able to see with great relief that his ‘protégé’ had been miraculously unharmed.
Roland Ratzenberger´s death
Things, however, were about to get dramatically worse. Just 24 hours later, during Saturday’s qualifying session, the driver Roland Ratzenberger would lose his life on board his Simtek-Ford.
Ayrton Senna, who was following the sessions from his box, immediately realised the seriousness of the accident. He quickly made it to the scene of the accident where the worse was confirmed: His colleague had perished. The horror washed over the paddock and sent Senna into a deep state of consternation.
The last day of Ayrton Senna
World Championship doctor, Sid Watkins, aware of Ayrton Senna’s mental state urged him to retire now and dedicate himself to fishing, a shared hobby of theirs. Senna replied to his friend that his obligation was to continue competing.
Then his ominous last day arrived. Following an incident at the start, the race resumed on lap six with Senna in the lead. Inexplicably, his Williams continued in a straight line at the Tamburello Turn. Inside his car, an Austrian flag was found in honour of Ratzenberger. The driver had died and the legend had been born.
Images of Ayrton Senna: F1.