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#551 1994 San Marino Grand Prix

2021-04-12 12:05

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#1994, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Monica Bessi,

#551 1994 San Marino Grand Prix

Thursday, April 28, 11:25 a.m. The Hawker 800 with Senna, his brother Leonardo, Julian Jacobi and Marie Ubirayara on board lands on the very short run

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Thursday, April 28, 11:25 a.m.. The Hawker 800 with Senna, his brother Leonardo, Julian Jacobi and Marie Ubirayara on board lands on the very short runway of the Paduan airport. Deus Armand, with his Sony over the shoulder, frames with the camera the Hawker 800 that stops on the Paduan runway for the Brazilian television channel Rede O Globo. The program is calculated to the minute: first of all, Ayrton has to visit the Carraro factory, then he has to go very quickly to the Sheraton for the mountain bikes presentation, before flying to Imola. About fifty meters from the Hawker there is the white and blue Alpi Eagles’ Augusta 109 with its blades already moving. Deus Armand keeps on filming Ayrton inside the helicopter talking with the photographer Koike and with Enrico Cuman that is welcoming him. Five-minutes-flight, then the landing on the grassy factory forecourt. Ayrton comes down the helicopter stairs and, with a wave of the hand, greets a hundred people that were awaiting him, mostly the factory employees that wanted to see him. Ayrton, who wears a green jacket, a white shirt and trousers and a cashmere-pattern tie, walks slowly, surrounded by people. He doesn’t want to shy away from hugs; instead, he stops to talk, to shake hands and to sign autographs. Right after, the Carraros invite him to visit the factory and the assembly lines from which his bikes will be produced. Senna follows them interested and listens carefully when they explain the construction method. Meanwhile, Betise Assunçao, Ayrton’s precious and inseparable press agent, walks nervously in the Sheraton Hotel hall. With her luggages always ready and press rooms and airplanes as her home, her job is to cultivate the image of Ayrton, to plan his meetings and interviews, to write reports and to send them late at night, via computer, to the headquarters of the Senna Promoçoes. However, Betise never liked the rush of Formula 1:

 

"If it wasn’t for him, I would never live in this shit world. I’ve had enough of this Formula 1".

 

Above all, she always hated rivalries, lies and hypocrisies - which are elements that characterise Formula 1. However, for Betise, Ayrton is different from any other driver and, for this reason, she tries to not think about it and to overcome stress and anger, besides being the efficient and caring support of the Brazilian driver at any time of the day, three hundred sixty-five days a year, twenty-four hours a day. An obscure but extremely precious job. Even in Padua she arrived on time, on Tuesday, April 26, 1994, to prepare Ayrton’s visit. Betise, together with Celso Lemos - the contracts manager of the holding - before going to Imola, had to follow the organisation of the press conference for the mountain bikes presentation. These mountain bikes, produced by the Cicli Carraro company in Saccolongo, will have the Senna brand. Thus, Betise checks the Hotel Sheraton’s Mantegna room, where the presentation will take place, the press kits and slightly modifies the appointment and timetables schedule. The day before, she was with Enrico Cuman, the owner of the advertising agency Il Telaio in Bassano del Grappa, and with Andrea and Enrico Carraro, the owners of the bike manufacturer. Betise, as scrupulous and perfectionist as his employer, has organised everything perfectly. A little later, when the helicopter lands, Betise and the three hundred people that are there to await Ayrton are really excited. Part of the group runs towards the exterior to see him arriving, while the others try to take the first-row seats in the big conference room. At the hotel entrance, Ayrton takes the bike that is handed to him and enters the room with all the cheering from the public. With his sweet speech, he relaxes and hypnotises the audience, until a girl asks him if Ferrari is still in his programs:

 

"It’s always been my dream since I was a child. I wanted to become a driver and I made it. I wanted to become World Champion and I managed to accomplish this too. With Ferrari I almost made it but, at the last moment, I didn’t. Back then, I did it because a beautiful dream must not be ruined. In order to make it, the deal has to happen at the right time. Driving a Ferrari and losing three seconds in the race won’t make sense. The victory would only be an illusion. And in Formula 1 there’s no room for illusions".

 

Ayrton answers questions for an hour. He also tells the story of the yellow bike that he wanted and that was the first gift of his life:

 

"I was four when I saw that bike in a shop window. A few days later, I took my father Milton there to buy it. I used it a lot, I did many rides but I also fell many times. I was so attached to my yellow bike that I’ve continued to use it even when I was older and couldn’t pedal properly. I did some strange races with my friends. Whoever arrived last won. My track stands were endless. I was good, I rode really slowly".

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The journalists of the specialised Italian press - that group of twenty-five or thirty people who usually follow all the Grands Prix - didn’t show up to this presentation. They would see him later in Imola. Only a few journalists of the local press are there, together with Carlo Grandini, a journalist from Milan that occasionally follows Formula 1. In the last few years, Senna was particularly close with him. After the conference, in a private room Carlo Grandini himself heard Ayrton Senna’s last words outside the Imola Circuit. The journalist starts the interview asking him what he expects from the Imola Grand Prix. Ayrton answers:

 

"From Imola it will be a new life. It’s the starting point to make up for the Championship. It’s difficult, but possible. It’s all about doing a great job with Reanult’s mechanics and engineers to optimise the changes that we are building: the car needs a better balance. As Williams, we had problems that I hope will never show up again. Imola is a fast track where the power of Renault’s ten-cylinder engine could help me. It could change the values that we have seen so far. Races are unpredictable, but I can’t make mistakes in Imola. The Championship isn’t over".

 

Then he continues:

 

"I really want to win. After all, I always want to win, but in some cases races are unpredictable. Michael is a great talent, he has a very fast car and he deserved his achievements. It’s up to the others to fight him, starting from myself. I will try to honour my personal tradition as long as I am motivated. Michael has talent, but there are other young drivers that have it too but that don’t have a car as fast as his".

 

And he concludes:

 

"We are living a natural phase of generational turnover that we have to accept and that is a negative aspect for the Formula 1 interest. They are young talents but aren’t drivers as Mansell, Patrese and Prost. These drivers had a charisma that made people emotional and promoted Formula 1. Apart from the case of Ferrari, which is unique, people don’t root for a car, they root for a driver that with his behaviour, his style, and his driving style takes the car to the finish line. If a true Man is missing, the interest, the motivation and the desire to follow the races will be lower. And today we are poor".

 

At 2:00 p.m. Ayrton is still in Padua, so he arrives late in Imola. When he arrives at the circuit, he goes into the garage to talk with Frank Williams and Patrick Head. After that, he is ready to go to the hotel he has been staying at for six years which is located in a small village nearby, Castel San Pietro. However, before going there, he has an important meeting. In fact, only a few people know that, whenever Ayrton is in Imola, - which means even for some testes - he always visits a special friend in the local hospital: Massimo, a guy who is around twenty years. Massimo has been hospitalised in the Imola hospital for over a year, after he went into a coma as a consequence of a motorcycle accident. Motionless, the only things that make him react are the photos of the Brazilian driver. Ayrton often goes to visit him and every time he keeps on talking for ten minutes. He is certain that his talks help Massimo to react. Massimo’s mother guarantees that whenever Ayrton visits her son - with whom he has developed a special way of speaking with his fingers - he reacts in an incredible way. For this reason, Ayrton talks and talks. However, before this, Ayrton has to face some accusations. The Brazilian driver begins to be seen as a driver who is at the end of his career, by now successful and who isn’t challenging for victories anymore, regardless his public declaration:

 

"I don’t race for glory or for money. I race because I like to be a driver. My job gives me an endless amount of emotions. These emotions are the reflection of the love I have for races. When I don’t win I feel blocked as if I was an invalid".

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The issue of Autosport published on 21st April 1994 is titled: Michael 20, Ayrton 0. One week after, below a photo of Ayrton in which he seems worried, Autosport writes: Can Senna handle the pressure? Ayrton now has assets of over forty million dollars. Furthermore, the Brazilian driver is good at business. Over the years, he has accumulated real estates: houses, flats, villas, palaces, farmhouses in São Paulo, Higienópolis, Tatuí, within the country, in Angra dos Reis, his marine paradise, in Portugal. He bought a helicopter, a plane, some motorboats, a Ford and an Audi car dealership. He started the project related to the Senninha comic for an amount of four million dollars a year. He trades and buys all the exclusive models, like electric equipment, motorcycles and bikes. He also has a life insurance by the Lloyds that, according to the Financial Times, is about twenty-nine billion dollars. By the end of 1994, it is expected that Ayrton’s commercial activities will reach seventy billion dollars. It is certain that Ayrton didn’t suddenly become a slow driver or that he doesn’t want to race only because he owns an excellent wealth. The truth is that Ayrton didn’t expect a championship beginning so bad, with Schumacher twenty points ahead after the first two races and with a Williams FW16 almost uncontrollable. As Adrian Newey - his design engineer - admitted, the sudden regulation changes have put him in crises. The FW16 is sensitive to ground clearance and, when Williams’ engineers tried to lower the nose of the car, they noticed that the car suffers a deadlock crisis in the lower part. This leads to a downforce reduction. In addition, the sides of the car are too long. In short, the car has been uncontrollable so far, but certainly not because of the poor quality of the driver. However, Ayrton is criticized. 

 

For this reason, the Imola weekend - a circuit where he already won three times in his career - is crucial for his season: some say that Imola is his last chance to remain in contention for the championship. Thus, the last weekend in Imola begins for Ayrton Senna. The thermometer indicates a rising fever. For Formula 1, that is. The organizers of the San Marino Grand Prix, which starts on Friday, April 29, 1994, with the first day of practice, are convinced they have reached a turning point in the trend. Last year, the historic minimum attendance was reached during the three days of the race: 89.500 spectators. Now, pre-sales indicate that at least 100.000 people will be surpassed. It's not a boom, but at least a positive sign. Of course, the absence of Jean Alesi played a nasty trick, but it was counterbalanced by Ferrari's third and second places in the first two races of the season. In short, the hills of passion will not be empty. Also, because along with Italian fans, the presence of a genuine German horde is expected. Indeed, thousands of Michael Schumacher fans are anticipated, the first German driver who can realistically aim for the world title, more skilled than the celebrated Von Trips. Until now, they had to settle for German-speaking riders with laurels won by Austrians Rindt and Lauda. A Schumacher ready to show that the two full centers of San Paolo and Aida were not determined only by Senna's misadventures. On Thursday, April 28, 1994, the two rivals show up at the circuit in the evening. Shummy goes to Campogalliano to pick up his new flamboyant Bugatti, a supercar worth 570 million. While it is announced that in Monte-Carlo in fifteen days, a special Ducati motorcycle dedicated to SuperAyrton will debut. After all, Senna has always said, if he hadn't been a driver, he would have liked to become a businessman.

 

"I don't like to sit idly by, and I try to work well even off the track. The race? Difficult. We always have the same engine, while there are some new things to try in Williams' aerodynamics. Here begins my real season. Always beat Benetton, and Ferrari shouldn't go bad either. In terms of the engine, which matters a lot here, it is strong at our level, if not superior".

 

The Maranello team, overcoming the controversies of the past few days with the FIA (Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone pay a pastoral visit to Luca Montezemolo), presents some small novelties in the suspensions and bodywork of the 412 T1. Nothing revolutionary, small improvements, but the big problems, those of the chassis, remain. Probably it will be necessary to wait for John Barnard to review the chassis, and this cannot happen before the middle of the championship. Nicola Larini, however, is quite confident:

 

"I have conducted tests at Fiorano, and it seems to me that there has indeed been progress. The car is more consistent as the laps go by, and even the braking seems better".

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The Tuscan driver, quite unlucky in recent weeks (retirements in DTM and the incident in Aida), has taken precautions: he has a red horn in his pocket, and in his car (his personal one), he carries a horseshoe. You never know… Alberto Tomba, a fan of the Maranello team and a car enthusiast (he wants to get the new 456 GT), is also present to wish Ferrari well. In excellent physical shape, the Bolognese skier did not want to talk about himself:

 

"I've just retired, let me breathe. Instead, maybe next year, I'll train with Berger, they told me he's a phenomenon on skis. For Sunday, I make a prediction: at least the podium".

 

He doesn't commit much. Among the day's news is the return of the Rai troupe to Formula 1 and the opening of an Italian House organized by Agip with Minardi, similar to those set up at the Olympics and World Cups, to offer hospitality and promote Italian products. A nice initiative. On Friday, April 29, 1994, at 1.00 p.m., begins the first hour of qualifying. Before free practices, Ayrton speaks very honestly to his mechanics saying that the championship starts with this race and that they don’t have to think anymore about what had happened previously. Then, he goes on track. The Brazilian driver agreed with Elf to do a lap on the radio, during which he would describe all the actions he would take along the lap. This recording would have been used by the French television TF1, where Prost is the technical commentator of the race. After the out lap and before starting, he exclaims:

 

"Before starting I would like to greet my dear friend Alain. Alain, I miss you. We all miss you".

 

This statement surprised Prost - like he would have told in the following years - but not entirely because that wasn’t the first time that Ayrton said these things about him.

 

"In Imola, Ayrton recorded a video with Elf during which he had to drive around the circuit and describe it through the microphone in his helmet. Ayrton started with that statement that I discovered when the guys of TF1 showed me. It was a nice moment".

 

Then, the fear: Variante Bassa, 1:15 p.m., 15 minutes after the start of the first round of qualifying. Barrichello’s Jordan flies at over 200 km/h against the barriers. The driver lost control of the car which went over the curb and crashed against the barriers, over the tyres that served as protection. Then, after two spins into the air, it completely disintegrates.

 

"A true bomb. We got scared, we honestly believed that the driver was dead".

 

This is told by some spectators that were in the Vip grandstand, exactly in front of Variante Bassa which precedes the straight. In a blink of an eye, doctors and fire marshals arrive. The upside down Jordan is turned so quickly that, some hours later, Italian journalists will accuse the marshals of acting too hastily. However, it’s not like that. On the contrary, medical regulations affirm that it’s better to provoke a spinal injury than to leave the driver in a possible suffocation condition. In this case, due to the upside down car, it’s difficult to assess the driver's condition. For some terrible minutes the 22-year-old Brazilian driver is motionless in the cockpit, covered by plenty of blood, mostly on the entire face. With all the necessary precautions, marshals get the driver out of the car, after releasing his tongue that had rolled up inside the mouth and intubating him to make him breathe. Barrichello is loaded into the ambulance and is carried to a well equipped emergency room. Then follows some moments of anxious waiting. After 15 minutes, Dr. Giuseppe Piana - the medical service manager - gives the first encouraging news:

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"Barrichello underwent a cervical spine x-ray and a brain scan. These excluded traumatic injuries to the brain. Now he will be carried by helicopter to Ospedale Maggiore of Bologna for further tests. In our opinion, he should be under observation for forty eight hours. For safety reasons, he is out of free practises and the race".

 

Later, other good news come from the hospital. Basically, apart from the shock, the very lucky Rubens has suffered a nose fracture, several hand and ribs contusions:

 

"Probably I went too long and maybe I touched the curb with one rear tyre or maybe there was oil on the track. The fact is that I arrived too fast to the apex and I couldn’t turn nor slow down enough. I still remember in my mind the moment when, after I went on the curb, I flew over the tyre barrier and against the fences. Then the void. I feel good, I have some difficulties breathing due to the nose pain. It’s a shame. I can’t even joke with the nurses. However, I want to be back at the circuit tomorrow".

 

Meanwhile Senna, who won the provisional pole position, is very worried for his young compatriot and friend:

 

"My Williams went really well, but I couldn’t concentrate. I think that Barrichello came to that point too quickly. There was wind and the track was dirty with sand. Maybe he slipped and lost control. He was lucky. The car was unstable and setups were unpredictable. Here in Imola there aren’t enough escape routes. If you go on the curb in the middle of a turn, like it happened today to Rubens, you fly on the other side of the track and you can end up in the crowd. This is a problem in Imola as it is in other circuits of the Championship. Every track has a point where there is such risk".

 

Therefore, Ayrton is asked why drivers keep on complaining but, in the end, they never find the courage to do something. He thinks, winces and then answers:

 

"In the past I had many problems because I did things that I thought were right. Now I don’t want to let these things affect me. I am mature, the experience taught me that sometimes it is better to shut up".

 

However, it is clear that something isn’t working. Now that drivers are in Imola, not to make winter tests but to race at maximum speed, all the limits of a ridiculous technical regulation are becoming more and more obvious. Imola is a medium-high speed track and drivers - that last year used to have the help of active suspension and traction control - now risk too much and make mistakes. This is demonstrated by many drivers, even the better ones, that go off the track: Senna, Hill, Brundle two times, Schumacher and De Cesaris who spun worryingly several times. There are some drivers that didn’t find a good balance in this qualifying. One of them is Schumacher, who has to do a good lap to beat Senna’s one. Nevertheless, there is no controversy so far. Two pieces of good news for Ferrari. The 412 T1 shows some progress, and Alesi has recovered. This doesn't necessarily mean that the Maranello team will win the San Marino Grand Prix, and the Frenchman will definitely make his return to racing after the accident in the March 30th practice in the next race in Monte-Carlo. But the prospects are good in both cases. During the first day of practice, Gerhard Berger sets the third time (Nicola Larini the fifth), just over 0.5s behind Ayrton Senna's Williams and 0.1s behind Michael Schumacher's Benetton. Credit is also due to the new engine 043 that Jean Todt surprisingly had installed on the Austrian's car. A completely redesigned twelve-cylinder with a wider V at 75°. Todt does not explain the reasons for this choice. It is clear, however, that they wanted to take a bit of a risk because here in Imola, in front of their home crowd, Ferrari wants to make a good impression. However, the engine will be used again on Saturday in practice but not in the race. Jean Todt says:

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"Our plan is to use it in the second part of the season because it needs further development".

 

Clearly, there is still a lot of work to be done. Indeed, Berger could have been even faster (and perhaps secured the provisional pole position) if he hadn't encountered a couple of problems in his second timed attempt:

 

"The mapping, i.e., the electronic management of the engine, wasn't perfect. The response at low revs was slow. Then, I broke the sixth gear. But I'm happy. It's important that there are signs of progress. Now we have to make two or three more changes to the chassis, then we can start getting serious".

 

Larini (whose car had a standard engine) is not satisfied with the traction but thinks he can improve. In the afternoon, it is announced that the medical examination undergone by Alesi in Paris by Professor Saillant has had a positive outcome. The specialist authorizes the driver to resume training. Ferrari immediately calls him for Monday and Tuesday at Fiorano. From Maranello, it is pointed out that if there are no problems, Alesi will be able to race in Monte-Carlo in two weeks. Alesi announces that he will be in Imola with the team on Saturday and declares that he will go to the Tosa corner, in the midst of the crowd, to cheer for Ferrari. On Saturday, April 30, 1994 free practises begin in the usual tense and competitive atmosphere and Formula 1 seems to have overcome the crash of the day before. At 12:00 p.m. Barrichello, with a splinted and bandaged right arm and a swollen nose and lip, had just finished telling how he survived the crash which happened the previous day. Suddenly, the tragedy happens: sixteen minutes after the start of qualifying, the Simtek number 32 of Roland Ratzenberger, a 32-year-old Austrian driver, crashes like a bullet at over 300 km/h against the barriers at the Villeneuve corner, the fastest and most dangerous one. Then, the car goes over the grass sideways and stops in front of the horrified eyes of the audience at Tosa, two hundred meters from the impact. After the crash, Ratzenberger’s head dangles motionless from one part of the cockpit to another. Qualifying is once again stopped. Dr. Salcito, together with Servadei and Sid Watkins, both neurosurgeons, rush beside the wreck. The scene is horrible: the helmet and the driver’s suit are full of blood. Roland doesn’t respond to Sid’s commands. At this point, Sid Watkins takes off the helmet from the unconscious Austrian driver and begins to act on his body which is still inside the car. After a few minutes, Roland is taken out of the car and laid down and doctors start performing the cardiac massage. Dr. Lega starts performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation because the driver shows a severe respiratory insufficiency caused by the accident. Later, Dr. Servadei will tell:

 

"Ratzenberger’s medical state made us think about a fracture of the first two cervical vertebrae. During the crash against the barriers the violent deceleration acted as a guillotine. It is a neck injury and it spares no one".

 

At the box, Ayrton sees the scene from the screen and exclaims:

 

"Oh shit".

 

Then he goes away. Ayrton doesn’t want to see the scene. The Symtek box closes. Seven minutes passes from the accident to the moment when Roland is loaded in the ambulance to be carried to the medical centre of the track, where Dr. Piana doesn’t want to be asked anything. The parts left are loaded on the tow truck to clean the track and the car is taken to the box. Then, it is immediately hidden with a blue cover and impounded by Magistrate Luca Ghedina. At the same time, Senna runs towards a service car that from the pit lane is about to reach the crash site. There, an intervention is needed to fix the broken barriers. When he sees where Senna is, Roland Bruynseraede, the race director, proposes to send him a note of caution:

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"Senna was in a place where he shouldn’t have been".

 

Actually, Ayrton just wanted to make sure that the conditions allowed them to continue qualifying. The service car stops a few meters away from the Villeneuve corner, then goes away and stops at Tosa. There, Ayrton gets out of the car to talk with somebody from CEA Squadra Corse. Everything happens very quickly and then Ayrton goes back on the front passenger seat of the service car and goes away. A few moments later, a group of doctors moves Roland from the medical center - lying on a stretcher with a wrapped head - to the inside of the helicopter, ready to fly towards Ospedale Maggiore of Bologna. During the short way to the helicopter and until the moment of the embarkation, a doctor continues to perform the cardiac massage insistently. It is a terrible scene. After the hospitalisation, Dr. Piana goes to Ezio Zermiani, a journalist, to tell him that the condition of the unlucky Roland is very critical. Hospitalisation happens at 01:57 p.m., but at 02:15 p.m., exactly fifty-nine minutes after the crash and seven minutes after the arrival in Bologna, Dr. Piana - the medical service manager - tells that Ratzenberger passed away in the anesthesia and resuscitation service. The report specifies that his death was due to a basilar skull fracture and to irreversible brain damage. Roland’s body is carried to the Istituto di medicina legale (Institute of Legal Medicine, N.d.T.). Senna and his teammate Damon Hill don’t go back on track. They don’t feel like continuing. Even Flavio Briatore calls back his drivers:

 

"Today we won’t continue qualifying. It doesn’t matter if we lose some places in the grid".

 

Gerhard Berger, instead, finishes his turn and, with his eyes looking into the void, answers with harsh words Benetton’s choice:

 

"Briatore wants to make policy. He never drove a Formula 1 car, he can’t understand. No one better than me can say these things. In the motorhome, I asked myself: should I go back on track or not? Then, I told myself: I can continue to race in the future, if I feel like it, if I have this strength, otherwise it’s better if I give up today and forever. I thought that maybe it was better if I went back into the car because it is the only way I cannot think".

 

Imola is in shock. There are some rumors that blame the harsh laws of this sport, other rumors that accept them. Clay Regazzoni wants to speak up and, immediately after the crash of the Austrian driver, affirms:

 

"Yesterday, with Barrichello, we were not far off from the disaster. Today we fully experienced it. These cars kill. They are built with advanced technologies, but we have to face the reality. Regulations are wrong. Since the beginning of the year we have been seeing many accidents and it’s just a coincidence if all has been going well until today. Wings and tyres have to be reduced to make sure that a car driven at high speed isn’t so dangerous and that the driver can control it. Now we should be racing in the desert, with kilometers of escape routes to avoid accidents if a driver goes off the track. All the things the FIA and Ecclestone are doing are absurd. For Ecclestone, the only thing that matters is cash on Monday morning. He doesn’t care about anything else".

 

Then he continues:

 

"For fifteen years we have witnessed absurde regulatory decisions. These Formula 1 cars require dangerous setups. Maybe they’re easy to drive, but when they lose traction the driver can’t do anything. Who said that the front end has to have over a thousand kilos of downforce to turn? If Ratzenberger had had another car, studied with different regulations, he could have corrected the trajectory and saved himself".

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He concludes by saying:

 

"Senna? He talks a lot about safety, but he doesn’t do anything".

 

The Brazilian driver doesn’t answer and chooses to stay silent but, to the journalist Ezio Zermiani, who works for Rai as Clay, after qualifying confesses:

 

"Now I’m too nervous, but on Monday I will tell you all the dangerous and deadly places of all the tracks around the world. This will put some important people in danger".

 

But what happened to Ratzenberger? On a warm afternoon of April, the Formula 1 world can only make assumptions. The television shows that the Simtek lost a part of the front wing. In these cases, cars become undriveable because they lose grip and ground effect. The reasons that caused the wing breaking are not clear. In addition, it seems that the wing went first under the car and then flew at fifty meters of height. Some believe that Ratzenberger may have caused the breaking by going on a curb, while others believe that, following the damage on his car caused by the collision with his teammate David Brabham, maybe the wing has cracked and nobody noticed it. Jean Alesi is exactly in the place when Roland’s car has gone at a speed of 315 km/h earlier. He is searched insistently by David Brabham, Roland’s teammate, who bursts into the Ferrari motorhome and asks:

 

"Where is Jean Alesi? I heard that he saw the accident. I want to speak with him".

 

The French driver tells:

 

"I saw something flying, then the Simtek went straight into the wall: a tremendous crash. The problem was aerodynamic, the driver didn’t do anything wrong and even the track can’t be blamed. Services have been timely".

 

Michele Alboreto, who harshly criticised the situation, will add:

 

"At that speed if you lose a wing you’re done, you can’t control the car, you can’t turn nor break because the tyres don’t touch the ground anymore: you just have to hope that you go off in a place where there are enough escaping routes to stop you without hitting the wall harshly".

 

Rubens Barrichello, who on Friday was the subject of a miracle, is talking to some journalists about his accident when is informed of the Austrian driver’s death. After a few moments of disbelief, he says:

 

"Now I’m really sad. In Aida, Roland and I touched each other when I was passing. There was a misunderstanding and he squeezed me. I would have liked to have a friendly explanation with him but now it can’t happen. Imola is a track where cars have a low rear downforce and the ground isn’t regular. Even Villeneuve crashed at the same point as Ratzenberger".

 

Ratzenberger was almost a rookie. The Austrian driver ran his first Grand Prix in Japan and finished eleventh, always fighting in the background. After the end of the grand prix, where he finished four laps off the firsts drivers, he said:

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"Now things will get better because in Imola I can give my best. I know the track and I can give a hard time to those at the back. There will be a lot of people for Berger from Austria, but I will be there also. With the car that I have, I do what I can. Sooner or later I will be successful because I have no fear".

 

Roland didn’t talk a lot, but listened. Above all, he listened to Berger, an Austrian like him. It was the Ferrari driver, years ago, who convinced him to go racing.

 

"You have talent, Roland. You can get to the top".

 

So Roland put aside his engineering degree and began travelling the world to make some money. The driver worked day and night to go racing. The 31-year-old driver wanted to marry his girlfriend, a black model born in Kenya:

 

"But first I have to become a champion".

 

With plenty of courage, Roland got some wins in smaller categories. In 1983 in Formula Ford at Nurburgring, in 1986 at Brands Hatch and in the two following years became vice-champion of Formula 3 in England. Then he moved to Japan, where he got other wins, before joining Formula 1. He was called by Simtek, which offered him a contract for the first five races. In this golden world, Roland proved to have a strong determination. He used to drink only fruit juices:

 

"Because alcohol doesn’t make you think clearly and I always want to have quick reflexes".

 

Before racing, he isolated himself from anyone to concentrate by listening to classical music. Then, by surprise, came Formula 1:

 

"It was a surprise for me. I was certain to race again in the Japanese Formula 3000. I was told by some friends that Simtek was looking for a driver and I proposed myself. We reached an agreement and here I am in Formula 1. I found the money to race for five Grand Prix, but I hope to do well to make more money and finish the season. The team is young and I am young too: we should be successful together and demonstrate that with passion everything is reachable".

 

He wanted to reach Formula 1, he wanted to keep that seat which conquered with great difficulty. He had to drive and had to do it quickly to attract some sponsors and keep the seat in Formula 1, but it is that car that betrays him. However, not everyone thinks that the cars have suddenly become dangerous for the drivers. One of those is Giancarlo Minardi, who bravely replies:

 

"During tests many drivers complained about the asphalt. It should be said that we did everything we could to make these cars safer, even if now with normal suspensions they suffer a lot of stress".

 

Even Lauda, Ferrari’s consultant, says:

 

"There’s no point in decreasing the speed because you can be killed at 250 km/h or at 300 km/h. Unfortunately we have had a lot of luck all these years. It was an illusion. We’ve had the illusion that we have solved the safety problem. We did not. The chassis that we have today are so strong that they can be almost undamaged but the head, the helmet and the neck of the driver are still too exposed. It happened also with Ratzenberger".

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For this reason, in Ferrari, after an accident that in the last few weeks involved Alesi, the sports director Jean Todt admits that they’re studying a new type of helmet:

 

"The weakest point has become the head which is weighted down by the helmet and subjected to terrible decelerations. We are working on this specific problem with professor Gerard Saillant".

 

The same doctor that is treating Alesi was the first to appoint the helmet problem:

 

"It doesn’t cover all the cervical area. If you crash but stay conscious you hold on, but you can’t do anything concerning the backlash. We have to attach it to the cockpit with a belt in some way".

 

Prost is the most lucid and intelligent one in analyzing situations. He has been in Imola since the previous day. A few hours away from the loss of Roland, Alain gives an interview in which he analyzes what happened and blames the International Automobile Federation:

 

"The FIA is more interested in money and show at the expense of safety. President Mosley changed the regulations just to make races more interesting, not caring about drivers’ safety. There will always be accidents but in recent years nothing has been made for safety. Risks are huge, for this reason I retired. Even drivers have their responsibility. I tried to recreate the drivers’ association but many of them - and not the unimportant ones - opposed it, as did sports directors, authorities and sponsors. There isn’t a dialogue anymore. The reduction of tyres’ width has made cars more dangerous: there are no more active and anti-skid suspensions. But who writes the regulations never sat into a Formula 1 car".

 

Meanwhile, Ratzenberger’s body is carried from the mortuary of Ospedale maggiore of Bologna to the Institute of Legal Medicine. No driver goes there to pay tribute to the unlucky competitor. Is it insensitivity?

 

"No, they didn’t come because otherwise they would have seen themselves in him".

 

Explains Bourghard Hummel, Ratzenberger’s personal manager and friend. Shortly after the accident, the Benetton team, in agreement with the sports director and the drivers (Schumacher and Letho), shaken by what had just happened, decided to dismantle the equipment at the pit and leave the circuit. Alessandro Benetton announced this decision.

 

"There is a close and good friendship between our drivers and the driver who unfortunately had this accident, so we have decided to go back home as well. As a sign of respect for this ugly incident. I saw some rather shaken, affected drivers, so we did not consider it appropriate to subject them to further stress".

 

However, the team will change its mind a few hours later. After the tragic hour of qualifying, drivers decide to meet and bring back the Grand Prix Drivers Association. The GPDA, founded in May 1961, operated between ‘60s and ‘70s. The first president was Stirling Moss and his main objectives were to get the representation of the International Sports Committee of the FIA, which at the time was the best organisation to improve safety standards for both drivers and the audience. It should be noted that, in the second half of ‘60s and under the impulse of Jackie Stewart, drivers started to make themselves heard. Their complaints led to the cancellation of the Belgium Grand Prix in 1969 because of the dangerousness of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, and to the track changing of the German Grand Prix in 1970 from the dangerous Nürburgring to the Hockenheimring. Then the association started to become less and less influential. 

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In 1982 it didn't operate anymore due to Pironi’s terrible accident, who was a reference point in the association. Now the association is brought back by Senna, who wants to write a document with a series of requests and technical and organisational clarifications concerning some circuits. Now organisers begin to worry. Journalists and Formula 1’s organisation try to contain the controversy believing that it is a consequence of the two terrible accidents that happened in Imola. Ayrton is with Sid Watkins when he hears about Roland’s death. He bursts into tears on his friend’s shoulder. Sid, who was the first to arrive on Roland’s body, seeing Ayrton angry for what had just happened, says to the Brazilian driver:

 

"You are a three time World Champion, you’re the fastest driver, what else do you have to prove? Just leave everything. I will retire too and we can go fishing together".

 

But Ayrton doesn’t want to leave racing. On the contrary, he answers:

 

"There are things that we can’t control… I can’t leave, I have to go on...".

 

After this exchange of ideas, Ayrton goes inside the Williams’ motorhome and asks Frank to know if the race can be suspended because he thinks that most drivers aren’t in the right conditions to race. Frank reassures him. Shortly afterwards, Roland Bruynseraede, the race director, summons Ayrton to the race tower to ask him if he can explain the reason why he was at the crash site. At 03:10 p.m., in the race tower, Ayrton is said again:

 

"You just have to drive".

 

This absurd situation makes him feel even worse. In Imola, Ayrton feels alone, even if there are his friends or his brother Leonardo. For this reason, in the afternoon he goes to the McLaren box, where there is his friend Jo Ramirez. Ayrton asks Jo to book him a helicopter flight to go back to Forlì, where his jet is. After the Grand Prix he wants to go home immediately, at Quinta do Lago, in Portugal, where Adriane awaits him. Ayrton, taking advantage of the moment, vents his feelings with him and confesses that Williams’ behaviour is really different from the one that he very much liked at McLaren. In Williams, he feels like he is being treated like a simple employer. Then, Ayrton stays silent for the rest of the day.

 

"We talked about the many risks linked with this sport, but not about those involved with this job, the extra ones, the free ones, the ones involved from this show and from the money”.

 

Says Michele Alboreto, to whom a reply which implies that in the past drivers tried to organised themselves is addressed:

 

"And nothing happened, I know this very well. I tried many times to convince the others, the track owners and the organisations. Nobody wanted to listen, they just pretended to not hear. Even you sometimes, the press or part of it. How many journalists wrote some critics that I did about this circuit when we practiced it? At the time I said that it was crazy to race on this circuit".

 

Then continues:

 

"I said that a part of the asphalt had to be redone, and even that wall from where drivers turn at 300 km/h and where at that speed you can die. You know that I clearly said to the team that on this track I would have never practised again? Me, the one that has got many myracles, with the Silverstone crashes during free practice and the race with the Footwork here in Imola. But why did nobody ever want to listen to who drives Formula 1 cars?"

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So the subject of the dangerousness of Formula 1 returns. As it was pointed out to Michele, this is a very wide topic. Maybe now the Imola circuit is blamed and next year will be another track…

 

"No, I'm not just referring to this circuit".

 

Michele says.

 

"There are other two tracks that are as dangerous as this one, Silverstone and Spa, that have crazy track places. We should work on these circuits tomorrow morning. Also Montreal. Circuits like Aida are welcome! There you crash at half the speed of the other three. In places like Imola when you go off you get hurt. I tried the impact with the asphalt. They want us to race at 300 km/h? No problem: they have to put three hundred meters of sand, so they can stop you before the crash. And next week we will be in Monte-Carlo".

 

At this point, Michele is pointed out that there are also the regulations to blame:

 

"Of course. All the things that they have made in the last few years are just adjustments. Somebody said that they eliminated active suspensions for safety reasons. A word to the wise - there are other reasons! For years I've been facing the consequences firsthand when I say something. Why did I suffer so much all these years in various teams before staying here? Because I keep on saying these things. Whenever one of us spoke there were some consequences. Why, at that time, did Ayrton lose a Championship? He started worrying too much about these things and wasn’t heard, despite his Championship titles".

 

In addition, for many years drivers didn’t organise to bring back the Grand Prix Drivers Association, as Prost said the day before:

 

"What do you want me to say? That we are a bunch of idiots? What does it change? Do you want me to remind you how to get into Formula 1? Do we want to remember the only drivers’ strike in South Africa in 1982? Why was it successful? Because drivers were different, they were brave. When you were paid to race, you were paid because of your skills, but when you said something you were heard. What do we want to do now - where most drivers are paid drivers and the sponsor’s agreement has to be respected? If you organise something, who does hear you? And if they do, you lose your seat due to consequences. There are plenty of drivers ready to take your seat. Then why do I say these things? Because I love this job, even if I can do something else - although I know I do my job very well".

 

On Saturday morning, Williams’ and Goodyear’s technicians protest to the FIA with Charlie Withing, the technical delegate. Williams says that the tyres provided until that moment were defective (Patrick Head will say that some holes formed on the tyre) and they ask for the changing. During the lunch before qualifying, Senna is clearly worried about the behaviour of his car during free practices. This discussion between Senna, Frank Williams and Goodyear’s technicians was recorded by the Brazilian television channel Globo. The Brazilian driver says to Frank Williams:

 

"I can’t go on track and be disadvantaged due to technical problems. It’s not my responsibility to solve them".

 

The team principal and some Goodyear’s technicians listen to the Brazilian driver. Senna goes on and exclaims to one of the technicians:

 

"It doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. It’s a serious issue. I have to say it. Somebody needs to do things in the right way".

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Williams, annoyed, stops to eat and says firmly to another Goodyear technician:

 

"Do what Ayrton wants because if he has an accident you will be in trouble".

 

At 1:00 p.m., while free practice is starting, five tyres for Senna and four for Hill are changed. Three D compound 5176 rear tyres are changed with C 5179 tyres and two D compound 5175 front tyres are changed with C 5180 tyres. This is quite strange because on the other cars the D compound tyres work very well. The Williams FW16 is the only car that has problems with a soft compound tyre and this points out how difficult it is to find the right setup of these cars. In addition, Ayrton and his teammate Damon Hill discuss how to drive in this part of the track to be far from the apex despite losing time. They want to avoid bumps that could excessively undermine the balance of the car at Tamburello. After qualifying and the loss of Roland Ratzenberger, Senna let his colleagues know that the following morning he wanted to organise a meeting to discuss about safety. Alboreto, Schumacher and Berger agree immediately. In the evening, Ayrton leaves the paddock with his friends, Betise and his twenty four hour briefcase. But after ten minutes he goes back to the box where Frank Williams is, this time without his briefcase, with his friends out to await him. He calls Patrick Head and starts talking in a nervous way. After twenty minutes he leaves again and Frank Williams exclaims:

 

"It’s incredible. Ayrton came back to discuss again about the setup of the car for tomorrow. He said exactly the same things we said at the meeting in the afternoon".

 

Ayrton is really nervous. At 07:30 p.m., he has dinner against his will with a group of friends and his brother Leonardo at the trattoria Alla Romagnola of Castel San Pietro. Just before 10:00 p.m., he goes back to the hotel Castello in Castel San Pietro, a place that he discovered in 1989 during a helicopter flight. Ayrton is really happy to have discovered that place and in previous years convinced Ron Dennis and all the McLaren team to stay there during race weekends:

 

"I always leave the windows open because I like listening to birds when the sun comes up. Actually, birds are my personal alarm clock".

 

Ayrton goes back to the hotel where a wedding reception is taking place. Teresa Tinarelli, the bride, recognises him and asks him to take a photo with the groom Davide. Ayrton does it with pleasure, then toasts to the happiness of the couple, sees the cutting of the cake and answers to the bride’s mother who asks him:

 

"Mr. Senna, when are you getting married?"

 

Ayrton answers:

 

"Soon, maybe very soon".

 

Then he goes towards the elevator. Ayrton goes into Frank Williams’ room and they talk for an hour. Frank fears that his driver could refuse to race to be an example and to encourage all the drivers to refuse it too. During the afternoon, even Bernie Ecclestone - after speaking to Frank - fears that. But Ayrton reassures him saying that the following day he would have started the race regularly. Then, he leaves his friend and British manager’s room to go into his room number 200. He calls Adriane Galisteu, his girlfriend.

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"Ayrton was very sad and nervous: he had a bad feeling. He didn’t feel well, he had a lot of thoughts in his head. He was sad about Rubens Barrichello’s accident, who was staying at the hospital after the crash during free practice. Moreover, he was frustrated due to Roland Ratzenberger’s death during qualifying. I heard an anxiety in his voice that I’ve never heard before. I told him not to race, but he answered that he loved his job too much and that he couldn’t refuse to race. It was his life".

 

After this phone call, Ayrton sleeps until 07:30 a.m.. The following day, he goes to the track early. That Sunday morning, the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag publishes an article about Senna. The previous day, the Brazilian driver gave an interview only to the German newspaper and declared:

 

"I am in a difficult situation, but there are also fourteen races until the end. The 20 point gap from Michael Schumacher isn’t representative of the fight between us. During the Brazilian Grand Prix I made a mistake and that’s okay. But an accident like the one that I did in Japan, where Hakkinen pushed me off the track, could have happened to everyone. Williams had worked very hard to settle the car at its best but, after three hundred meters, all these efforts were useless. I complained with the race directors: I said that in the future young and inexperienced drivers should be controlled more carefully. This weekend confirmed my suspicions: Roland Ratzenberger died after an accident at the highest speed turn of this circuit in his first season. The day before, Rubens Barrichello, 21 years old, crashed into the barriers. Our problem is that at the moment there are too many young drivers and this increases the danger".

 

Then he continues:

 

"My main rivals are the Benetton team and Michael Schumacher. Benetton is surely an excellent car, in particular on wavy tracks and slow corners as in Brazil and Japan. My car, in these conditions, is a little nervous. This because of its peculiar downforce but also because of some suspension problems. For this reason, earlier last week we tried some downforce changes. However, I am optimistic about today’s race. The higher performance of Renault’s engine should give me an advantage on this track compared to Benetton’s Ford engine. Imola is a high-speed track and, in particular, there is an uphill part where a higher performance engine makes the difference".

 

And he concludes:

 

"After two wins and a gap of many points in the Championship, I think that Schumacher is the favourite for the final victory. His twenty point gap shows that I was right when, at the start of the season, I did not want to accept the favourite role. Anyway, I will try my best to create an exciting fight".

 

After the morning warm-up, Ayrton meets Alboreto, Schumacher and Berger and they speak about safety. At the end of the meeting, they agree to organise a meeting with all drivers for next Thursday, before the Monte-Carlo race. During the meeting held between the drivers and the race director, Roland Bruynseraede, before the San Marino Grand Prix, Gerhard Berger raised the issue regarding the fact that in Japan, during the parade lap before the start, conducted behind the Safety Car, the tire temperatures and, consequently, tire pressures dropped dangerously due to the slow pace of the safety car. Therefore, the race director decided to eliminate the procedure, also planned for the San Marino Grand Prix, where a full lap behind the Safety Car would take place before lining up on the starting grid for the subsequent start. This procedure would not be reintroduced from this moment onward. Ayrton asks his manager Julian Jakobi to bring him an Austrian flag to pay tribute to his colleague who passed away in the case of a victory. On Sunday morning, Ayrton meets Prost. Their meeting isn’t unusual because they have reconciled. 

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However, there is something unusual: Ayrton, who usually prefers to go inside the motorhome garage, goes into Renault’s motorhome among a group of people just to speak to Alain. The two former rivals talk, even if Ayrton is worried but tries to appear calm and diplomatic. They talk mostly about safety, about Schumacher’s apparently irregular Benetton and about the fact that Ayrton isn’t sure to win the race. At the end, they agree to meet again the following week. Alain will see Ayrton again in the garage, just before the race. But in this circumstance the French driver doesn’t want to bother him, even if he knows that Ayrton wants an help, an advice, someone to rely on.

 

"Since Adelaide, Ayrton had become a new person, a new driver. He explained to me that he had lost his motivation, his objectives. The strong person inside the cockpit had disappeared. I was very surprised by this change. He said that it happened because I wasn't there anymore".

 

Prost says. Then he continues saying:

 

"The week before Imola, he said to me some things about his private life that I won’t tell anybody. He said them confidentially but I will never understand why he did it. Surely they were things that explained the way he behaved. He opened up about his problems and personal life. He explained that our fight on track was really important and that he wasn’t motivated to race against these drivers. Even that surprised me. I had never been able to understand some of his behaviours as a driver and now I couldn’t understand his behaviour as a person”.

 

And he concludes:

 

“The Sunday before the Imola race, he came to me no long before the race. I was with some Renault's men and we talked for about five minutes. Even on this occasion I was surprised because it is weird that a driver does this. Then Ayrton and I went back to Williams' box. It was my last moment with him. He kept on talking about all the things that weren’t making him happy at Williams and about the fact that, according to him, Benetton was irregular. He was being weak just before the race. Certainly, it wasn’t like him to act like this, it wasn't the driver I had known in the past. It was a completely different Senna".

 

Ayrton is not only disappointed by what had happened to his colleagues, but also nervous and thoughtful about his Williams’ behaviour. In fact, he had spent much time with David Brown, his car engineer, in the last few days. With him, Ayrton reviewed all the behaviours of his car. Ayrton wants to win the race. He talks about this with Adrian Newey at the back of the box, away from cameras. To try and win it, Ayrton agrees with the team to start with sixty kilos of fuel. This will allow him to extend the initial stint and to refuel his car after Schumacher, who he thinks to be really close at the start. On the contrary, Ayrton spent little time - some photos and some jokes - with his sponsors in Imola. Then there is the usual pre-race briefing between the drivers and the FIA, at 11:00 a.m.. A briefing where, as Alboreto admits:

 

"We didn’t speak about anything. We did a 1 minute silence like we will do next time".

 

Regardless of Formula 1, the Imola weekend seems really haunted. On Sunday morning there is another serious accident. During the Porsche Supercup, the French driver Jacques Heuclin, 49 years old, goes off the track at Piratella. The car crashes against the lateral wall and the driver reports light injuries at the shoulder. However, the previous afternoon a truck containing the Formula 1 cars of the French drivers Bertrand Gachot and Paul Belmondo was destroyed by fire in Alta Savoia, near Chamonix. Luckily the cars of the British team Pacific-Ilmor were rescued from the flames that broke out for unknown reasons. 

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It is a difficult situation. Before the starting of the race, Ezio Zermiani, a Rai journalist, does an interview to Advocate Federico Bendinelli, Sagis’ president, that answers the charges towards the circuit by declaring:

 

"I don’t agree with the charges. Of course, we did everything we could. We are willing to make other improvements, but I think that today, speaking of services and structure, we can’t criticize the Imola circuit. Before making any changes to the track, we have always asked the drivers’ opinion".

 

Meanwhile, on the starting grid, Celso Itirebe Fratini - the Rete Globo journalist - sees Senna behaving in an unusual way. Usually, after the car is positioned on the grid, Ayrton stays inside the car to wait for the start of the race with his helmet on, despite the weather. During all his ten years of career, he never took it off in those twenty minutes of waiting. This time, instead, he incomprehensibly takes it off. Itirebe tells:

 

"Before the start he was weird, different. Usually he jokes, talks and laughs with his mechanics. That Sunday he didn’t. He was silent, worried. There is one thing that surprised me: he was motionless, with his hands on the rear wing, his eyes lost on his car as if he was touching it in silence. This for three or four minutes. A girl even came to ask for an autograph but he refused".

 

Ayrton is nervous. He spends his time trying to focus, keeping his eyes closed. Then he puts his helmet on again. A few hours earlier, he had said:

 

"I find myself in a difficult situation in the World Championship standings. But Senna is not afraid: there are still fourteen races to go, and the 20-point gap from Michael Schumacher is not an accurate reflection of the balance of power between him and me. During the Brazilian Grand Prix, I made a mistake, and that's okay. But an accident like the one I had in Japan, where Hakkinen forced me off the track, could have happened to anyone. The Williams team had worked hard to bring the car to its best, but these efforts proved futile after just three hundred meters. I complained to the race directors: in the future, I said, we will need to examine young and inexperienced drivers more carefully. This weekend, I had a tragic confirmation of my suspicions: Roland Ratzenberger, in his first season, died after an accident in the fastest corner of the track. The day before, 21-year-old Rubens Barrichello crashed into the fence. Our problem is that at this moment, there are many too young drivers, which increases the danger. My main opponents in the World Championship are the Benetton team and Michael Schumacher. The Benetton is certainly an excellent car, especially on undulating tracks and with slow corners, as was the case in Brazil and Japan. My car, in conditions like these, reacts a bit nervously. The reason lies in its particular aerodynamics, but also in some difficulty with the suspension. For this very reason, at the beginning of last week, we experimented with a couple of transformations in aerodynamics. As for today's race, I am still optimistic. In this race, the higher performance of the Renault engine should give me an advantage over the Ford engines of the Benetton. The Imola track is fast, and there is a uphill passage where having a higher engine performance means having an advantage. After two victories and a clear lead in the World Championship, Schumacher is, in my opinion, the clear favorite for the final victory. His huge 20-point advantage still means that I was right when, at the beginning of the season, I didn't want to accept the role of the favorite at all costs. Anyway, I will do everything to create an exciting battle".

 

The race director gives the green light to do the formation lap. Interestingly, after Ratzenberger’s accident, on Saturday afternoon Simtek thought about retiring its second car driven by David Brabham for the Grand Prix, leaving a place for the out-qualified Paul Belmondo’s Pacific. However, Bernie Ecclestone convinced the British team to race, so on Sunday Simtek goes on track with just the car number 31. Finally, it is decided to not give the final spot to anybody, leaving it empty. 

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As usual, Ayrton starts to warm up his tyres and to study his car’s behaviour. People on the grandstands go crazy for him and the two Ferraris. After the formation lap, the cars line up on the starting grid. It’s 2:00 p.m.. The roar of the engines rises. The asphalt vibrates. At the race start all the drivers go away except the Benetton of the Finnish driver J.J. Lehto that doesn’t move.

 

"I don’t know what happened. I know that, when I put the car in gear, the engine was working. Then I released the clutch and I didn’t move. I felt a big hit on my back and I hitted the right arm in the cockpit: I don’t have any comments, it’s incredible".

 

What happened? When the green light went on, Lehto’s car, which was fifth, had a technical issue and the engine stopped, leaving the Finnish driver to be still on the grid. The cars behind him went quickly on the sides to avoid him but Pedro Lamy, who started twenty-second, saw the obstacle at the last moment. The high speed and the presence of other cars on his sides makes the crash inevitable. The Lotus literally smashes Benetton’s rear end and drifts for about a hundred meters, stopping by the pit lane exit.

 

"I moved to the left because I saw that there wasn’t anyone, then the driver ahead of me moved and I saw the Benetton standing still. I tried to avoid it but I was too quick, I was about to put the fourth gear at about 180 km/h. I got scared, but I don’t think I am to blame".

 

Both drivers don’t suffer any serious consequences, except some aching, but all the debris from the two cars fly in every direction. Some of them go into the grandstands and hit eleven people. In particular, Antonio Mauro Maino, a real estate developer from Courmayeur who is twenty-eight years old, is hitted by a tyre. He is suddenly helped and on Sunday evening is carried at Bellaria hospital of Bologna, where undergoes a brain surgery due to a frontal hematoma. These are dramatic hours for his family, which arrived in Bologna from the Aosta Valley. A few days after, doctors issue a statement that doesn’t hide the seriousness of the injuries, but which contains concrete hopes of recovery:

 

"He’s in a medically induced coma. He underwent a surgery due to a frontal hematoma and now the prognosis is positive".

 

Meanwhile, the race directors order the safety car, driven by Max Angelelli, to go on track because most of the box straight is full of debris. This is done to make drivers slow down in order to clean the track and take away the crashed cars. However, the decision causes some protests from the drivers, who fear that the slowdown can affect their race. Generally, the safety car use in Formula 1 is controversial because, without regulatory standards, every track has a different safety car. Usually, the cars used - in this case an Opel Vectra - can’t go to a speed that allows Formula 1 cars to keep the tyres in the right temperature. For this reason, during these lower-speed laps, Senna goes side by side with the safety car or overtakes it many times to make it go faster. Meanwhile, from the pit lane, Williams’ engineers tell Ayrton to go on the straight on the right-side, avoiding the debris on track. But from Ayrton there is no answer. Once the track is clear, the race continues normally, with Senna in the lead followed by Schumacher. Ayrton does a good lap which will be the third fastest lap of the race. At the seventh lap, at 2:17 p.m.. Ayrton’s Williams approaches Tamburello at around 310 km/h. In the vicinity of the first dip, Ayrton Senna's Williams makes contact with the ground using the floor. This fact is confirmed by the disturbance in the images, resulting from the impact on the onboard camera (the initiation of oversteer had also occurred during the previous lap, but to a lesser extent). The driver feels the rear of the car sliding, as demonstrated by the telemetry, indicating a higher lateral acceleration than a moment before. Consequently, he begins to modulate the accelerator pedal to counteract oversteer, and the engine revs decrease. In 0.04s, the car will re-descend towards the ground. Calculating that a car traveling at 310 km/h covers 86 meters in one second, in 0.02s, it should cover 1.6 meters: these are small spaces of significant importance. In this transition, Senna's car again contacts the ground, widens the nose, and starts a tangential trajectory towards the outer wall. Lateral acceleration is constant while the negative value of longitudinal acceleration indicates a slight deceleration due to the contact. 

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Between the time 11.10s (detected from when Senna begins the seventh lap by crossing the finish line) and 11.24s, the car closes its nose to the left, corresponding to the turn, due to oversteer - to the extent that lateral acceleration goes from 2.72 G to 3.62 G - while at the instant 11.26, the opposite effect begins. At 11.30s, that is, 0.04s later, Senna starts reducing the steering input to correct oversteer, decided a tenth before (11.10s) but perceptible at 11.30s. In this phase, lateral acceleration decreases as the curvature decreases. From the images, one can observe Senna's helmet shifting towards the inside of the curve, an effect caused by the decrease in centrifugal force and due to the presumed straightening of the car relative to the direction of travel. This effect would also be confirmed by the decrease in lateral acceleration. At the second dip, Senna completely releases the accelerator pedal, the engine revs drop, and the longitudinal acceleration increases due to the inertia of the car advancing with less driving force while the lateral acceleration remains almost constant along the straight trajectory. In the presence of a fourth interference of the car body with the ground, the engine revs and the car would continue to decrease, and the car would truly start to go straight, as shown by the significant increase in the value of longitudinal acceleration due to the persistence of resistance to advancement (caused by the aerodynamic brake of the car that advances with the accelerator closed). These four times highlight the beginning of Ayrton Senna's desperate braking, with the engine revs dropping quickly and the values of longitudinal acceleration increasing negatively, indicating the braking force opposing the forward movement of the moving mass. At 11.80s, Senna brakes desperately, his head is moved forward due to the violent deceleration, the engine revs decrease to a lesser extent than the braking force, and the acceleration measured on the longitudinal axis of the car is now extremely violent. 

 

After lifting off at time 11.1s and making contact with the ground again at 11.24s, the car would have changed trajectory at the instant 11.26s; this contact would have caused the vehicle - also due to a loss of about 200 kg of aerodynamic load - to undergo a sudden deviation, too rapid to control. A deviation that leads Senna straight into the wall. The straightening of the car's axis, highlighted by the decrease in lateral acceleration, could also be due to a loss of steering functionality; in any case, the driver found himself aboard a system that suddenly became unstable and, in 0.02-0.04s, lost from the 8th to the 9th compared to the optimal curve path of Tamburello. A curve that does not forgive mistakes (the theory of deflated tires, due to the slow laps behind the safety car, should not be considered because the lateral acceleration of 3.6 G indicated as a symptom of oversteer would still be lower than that of the previous lap, measured at 4 G). However, the safety area positioned before the wall, however, is not aligned with the track. Therefore, Senna's car could have braked at its best right up to the edge of the track - with optimal aerodynamic load and grip values. Instead, it loses a significant portion of these characteristics in the last thirty-eight meters. Another peculiarity concerns the fact that Ayrton Senna chose the narrower trajectory both during lap 6 and lap 7, considering it faster, even though at the end of lap 10, Damon Hill will set a faster time by 0.6s despite taking the Tamburello corner with a wider trajectory (1’24”9, set by Senna in lap 6, compared to 1’24”3, which will remain Hill's best time during the race). The narrower trajectory was considered more dangerous, as confirmed by the notes made by Williams engineers on two official documents. The team's two cards relate to engineers' reports on the behavior of the car on the track. On these, it is written:

 

"Car bumpings, less driving".

 

The team had long been aware of aerodynamic instability issues. Shortly after the Pacific Grand Prix, the Williams team conducted tests at the Magny-Cours circuit, a bumpy circuit in southwest France. Damon Hill, driving the car, told Adrian Newey:

 

"It bounces too violently, I can't see".

 

Back on the track, Adrian Newey on a scooter chased Damon Hill and noticed that the car was bouncing to the point where the front wheels almost lifted off the track. This confirmed that there was something very unstable in the aerodynamics. 

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After returning to the wind tunnel and using Flow Vis (a mixture of fluorescent powder and paraffin used to check the airflow), Adrian Newey noticed flow separation under the sidepod entry edge. The separation was such that the diffuser almost completely stalled (Newey decided to design a new, shorter sidepod, which would later be used to reduce the diffuser stall phenomenon). Nevertheless, at Imola, Senna decided to start with a stiffer setup compared to Damon Hill's car. It should be noted that Senna had requested a modification to the steering wheel. The driver wanted the wheel slightly lowered to give more space for his knuckles. The task was to lower the wheel by a couple of millimeters. However, the team also had to consider the FIA inspection gauge, a 200mm by 200mm aluminum plate that the stewards had to pass between the driver and the inside of the cockpit, from the upper body to the pedals. Lowering the steering column would prevent the gauge from passing, leading to disqualification. The team decided to reduce the column diameter by 4 millimeters (simultaneously, the steering column on Damon Hill's car was also modified). Tony Pilcher, head of production at Williams overseeing the construction of Senna's modified steering column, provided precise data, claiming that the original steering column, designed on February 3, 1994, was replaced with a nine-piece assembly, regularly inspected and deemed compliant. This modified steering column was produced in three copies around March 10, 1994, just in time for the Brazilian Grand Prix. The original single tube of 22mm diameter D45 steel was essentially cut about 12 centimeters from the wheel, and a smaller diameter rod (18mm and 1.25mm thick) with a 1mm radius was inserted into the resulting intersection. The added steel was different from the original, and most importantly, the tube section was smaller. Later, the steering column would be found broken after the impact. 

 

This raised doubts about the usability of Senna's steering after the car check and before the subsequent crash. Colonel Hallglass of the Practical Sea Laboratory and Professor Cammarota of the Metallurgy Institute at the University of Bologna emphasized that Senna's steering column (enlarged 900 times) was broken due to fatigue for a circumference of 270° and for 35-40% of the section, contradicting the Forghieri-Carletti-Lorenzini trio who had examined their laboratory results on behalf of the prosecutor, subsequently hypothesizing a 70% section broken in a continuous manner. According to Hallglass and Cammarota, the mistake was to change the steering column section (from 22 to 18 millimeters) at the junction point, where the seal compared to the original piece was reduced by a third, while the turning marks would not have had much influence. However, the undersizing of the part could have been considered adequate with a short usage cycle, but on periodic usage times, like many other technical elements, nothing has been established absolutely certain. Examinations of SEM system photos of the column, an electronic eye capable of detecting up to 5000 enlargements by microscanning, will show that the damaged section would be between 21% and 40%, not affecting functionality. The comparison with two other similar columns (one made by them, one provided by the English team) would show that to have bending and torsion breakage equal to that of the accident, more than the 25 Newton/meter measured on the steering box from telemetry would be needed, a force obtainable only at the moment of impact. The aerodynamics and power steering manager, Nightingale, and the two laboratory test officials, Simon Wells and Steve Wise, will report on tests conducted on telemetry data, the steering column of Damon Hill's twin car, and the rear wing profile suspension. The three will note how the pressure peaks on the steering box should be attributed to the wheel bounces on the pit lane after the Brazilian driver left the wheel, because if this had been abruptly severed, the steering telemetry would have been reset. 

 

"We made a final attempt with a third steering column sample, structurally identical, and applied a torsional load that resulted in a break at 87.4 Newton/meter (8.91 kg): upon microscopic examination, the micro-indentations detected on the metal showed a very similar pattern to Senna's steering column... undoubtedly, therefore, the break occurred with a torsional load exceeding the 25 Newton/meter torque".

 

According to Williams' defense, a steering column like the one installed on Ayrton's FW16 could only break with a load much higher than the 25 Newton/meter recorded by telemetry on the steering box. 

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Since the detection sensors do not show values higher than this except at the moment of impact, it should be automatically inferred that the piece actually broke completely only when it collided with the Tamburello wall. In conclusion, after realizing he had lost control of the car, Senna decided to close the steering, allowing the tires to have the maximum grip needed for braking. This action allows him to decrease the speed from over 300 km/h to 211 km/h but, a few moments later, the Williams crashes against the external wall at Tamburello. Mirko Mezzetti, one of the head of the station number three of the marshals, who was ten meters away from the crash site, tells:

 

"A second before the crash against the wall, it seemed to me that Senna’s car had lowered. The tyres were straight as if the driver didn’t do any correction or move at the last minute. This was very strange. When it arrived on the cement before the wall, the back of his car was smoking. At the time I thought that was the flat floor. Then, rethinking about it and observing the tread that remained on the rear tyre, I convinced myself that the driver tried to slow down very strongly, locking the tyres that tended to lift up".

 

Then he continues:

 

"Senna’s car didn’t crash frontally, but to three-quarters. Pieces of carbon and suspensions flyed high. My impression is that Ayrton was hitted by some of these metallic parts. I don’t think that the head had touched the wall because the car was quite flat when he crashed. The evidence left by the tyres against the wall confirmed it. However, before the Williams crashed against the wall, I had the feeling that one arm of the front right suspension wasn't in its natural position. It was like it stretched as if it had detached from the frame. I suddenly noticed two things: that the car lowered when it was out of control and that, coming towards us, something wasn’t right in the front right suspension".

 

After the crash against the wall, the kinetic energy makes the car bounce back towards the track. The car touches the grass strip that divides the track from the escape route and goes back externally, to finally stop fifty meters away. The time passes, but Ayrton doesn’t move. The ridiculous thing is that the race isn’t suddenly stopped and, until it doesn’t, the medical car can’t move. This decision is up to the starter of the FIA, Roland Bruynseraede, who waits. The other directors of the circuit, next to him, ask him to stop the race, but the starter continues to hesitate. When Bernie Ecclestone sees that the driver doesn’t move and is still inside the car, tells the race directors to red flag the race and calls for help. After seeing the red flag, Schumacher - who had seen the accident firsthand but didn’t think that was that serious - drives his car to second place on the grid. He leaves the pole position to Senna who, in case of a restart, would have started the race in first place. At that moment, the drivers’ don’t know anything about Senna’s conditions and Schumacher himself thinks that Ayrton would have resumed the race. A few meters away from the crash site, photographer Angelo Orsi, a friend of Ayrton that is at Tamburello, gets on his scooter and goes where the Brazilian driver’s car has stopped. Angelo Orsi takes some pictures, then stops. He is too worried for his friend, who is clearly in a difficult situation. The fate made sure that Angelo was there, at that turn, that day because maybe another photographer would have sold all the pictures with doctors. Fortunately, these pictures have never been published thanks to Angelo Orsi’s will. At the end of the Grand Prix, and in the case of win, Ayrton would have carried Angelo in his car, in the name of their friendship. Then, he would have had a picture taken while celebrating with the Brazilian and Austrian flags that he had requested in the morning to Roland’s manager to pay him a tribute. Meanwhile, in the press room people are worried: Ayrton is motionless inside his Williams Renault FW16. Then he moves his head, maybe due to the brain injuries caused from the crash. But in that moment they hold on to anything to see Ayrton step out of the car unharmed. They don’t want to live another terrible moment. So, someone screams:

 

"He’s alive".

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But Ayrton lays his head on the left side of the cockpit, still motionless. At this point, the car at Variante Bassa receives the communication: an accident at Tamburello, red flag. Domenico Salcito starts the engine immediately, without waiting for other news. In two minutes, the car goes from Variante Bassa to Tamburello. After the turn, doctors see the car. The Alfa 164 stops next to the crashed Williams. In a few moments, Domenico Salcito, Giuseppe Piana, Giuseppe Pezzi, Federico Baccarini, Giuliano Mazzoli, Alessandro Misley and Giovanni Gordini - who was in the grandstands after the crash at the start - reach the car, headed by doctor Sid Watkins. They discover that there is some blood under the helmet. Giuseppe Bezzi, a resuscitator doctor, is on his knees on the right-hand side of the Williams. He tried to take off Ayrton’s helmet but couldn’t do it because the blood obscured the view to unfast the chin strap. On the left-hand side of the Williams, Salcito, having seen the difficulty, cuts the chin strap with the scissors and takes off the helmet. Baccarini, on Williams’ engine bonnet, holds Ayrton’s head together with doctor Watkins. Ayrton’s clinical conditions and position don’t allow any moves, so doctor Salcito opts for a rapid extraction from the cockpit. After unbuckling the seat belt, doctors lift Ayrton and lay him down on the ground in order to start the resuscitation as soon as possible. The driver is lifeless and in a state of agonal breathing (which is an involuntary muscle movement, a gasp characterized by an extreme decrease of breath frequency until its complete stop. Gasping, even if it seems a respiratory movement, is not an effective breathing. The patient must be considered as if he went into respiratory arrest and treated on the basis of the resuscitation protocols through mechanical ventilation and an external cardiac massage). In addition, besides the injury above the right eye, doctors discover that Ayrton has a blood flow from the nose and the mouth and doesn’t react to any commands. At this point, doctors keep his airways open through an intubation in order to better the oxygenation and the breathing, meanwhile they plug up the haemorrhage and transfuse some haematic material after recovering two venous accesses. 

 

But this process is difficult. Watkins, understanding the seriousness of the situation and after some unsuccessful resuscitation attempts, asks for the helicopter rescue having to perform an emergency tracheotomy. The helicopter lands directly on track, on the crash site, in an unprecedented way in Formula 1 history. Then, as opposed to the FIA protocol, the helicopter can go immediately to Ospedale Maggiore of Bologna, without going to the Medical Centre of the Circuit before. A few moments later, doctors place the cervical collar around Ayrton’s neck to stabilize it and start performing the immobilization techniques using the vacuum mattress. Meanwhile, in these agitated moments someone wrongly authorizes Érik Comas to go back on track, who didn’t restart with the others at the end of the safety car, but was still in the pits to change his damaged rear wing. The French driver Larrousse, unaware of the situation, arrives at Tamburello at a high speed, avoiding to hit the doctors by a hair. Comas, astonished by the situation, gets out of the car to control the state of his collegue. So he chooses to retire from the race before the race directors disqualified him for the danger caused. In the meantime, Damon Hill asks his engineers on the radio:

 

"What the hell happened? How is he? What happened?"

 

But even in the pits, they don't know what happened. Simultaneously, the noise and frenzy, filled with the sound of trumpets, horns, and tambourines, continue oblivious to what is happening at Tamburello corner. Adrian Newey responds to Damon Hill:

 

"I don't know, Damon, we don't know".

 

At 2:34 p.m., Senna is carried on the helicopter that takes off heading towards Ospedale Maggiore of Bologna. With Senna there are doctor Domenico Cosco, Alessandro Misley and the anaesthetist Giovanni Gordini. Everyone hoped that Senna could be awakened. Meanwhile, journalists run out of the press room and towards the paddock to reach the race directors. They are together with Leonardo, Senna’s brother, and Betise. Leonardo is pale, shocked and close to a nervous breakdown. 

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Betise, who is pale too, tries to be calm and to support Leonardo. Even Bernie Ecclestone is there and steps quickly into the race direction. Then walks out of it, heading towards his motorhome with Leonardo and Betise. Bernie reacts very nervously and rudely at some questions and two journalists - one of them is Italian and the other is Brazilian - get offended and insult Ecclestone. After a while, Leonardo Senna, inside the FOCA motorhome, calls his family saying that Ecclestone made him aware of the brother’s death. But Ecclestone corrects him and even later will be categorical in explaining the facts:

 

"There was some confusion when the accident happened. I was told by phone by who was on track that Ayrton was seriously injured at the head, but I understood that he was dead. That’s what I said to his brother. When the information was corrected, we began to hope again".

 

In the paddock and on the grid, the marshals keep on guessing what happened. 

 

The attention is on Schumacher who, being the first driver behind his rival, could have seen something unusual. In fact, the German driver says that he saw the Williams bumping many times, before moving on the right-hand side:

 

"In the two previous laps I saw that Senna’s car was really nervous on bumps. Ayrton was struggling to control it, but it didn’t seem to be a problem so big to cause this dramatic situation".

 

The second hypothesis is that a tyre could have failed when Senna went on the debris left by Lehto’s Benetton, who didn’t move since the start. After the race Barry Griffin, Goodyear’s spokesman, will say:

 

"We analyzed the Williams’ rear tyre and there was a cut on the tread. A cut that big provokes an immediate failure of the tyres. The driver feels it right away because mechanical suspensions don’t compensate for the air leakage as it happens with active suspensions. If the tyre fails, the car’s floor touches the ground. Senna was too experienced not to understand that something was wrong with his car. If he had had a puncture, he wouldn’t have gone at maximum speed at Tamburello, as it happened. The cut on the tyre was made after the crash against the wall, not before. We brought in Imola the same tyres that last year had worked well: the same construction and suitable compounds".

 

Is this enough to solve all doubts? No, because Senna had done just a lap, was in the lead, and suddenly the car crashed against the wall. Was it due to an illness? Maybe the autopsy will tell. Was it a driver mistake? Nobody believes this. Somebody else thinks that the safety car entry, after Lehto and Lamy’s accident at the start, and the lower-speed laps could have decreased the tyre pressure. In fact, when the race restarted, the cars went back to their high speed and Senna’s accident happened after one lap, when the tyres had not yet reached the right temperature and adherence. Moreover, Frank Dernie, Benetton’s engineer, said that both cars would have started the race with low-pressure tyres because the heat would have increased it quickly. He said this on Friday. However, after Ayrton’s crash against the wall, somebody swears to have heard Patrick Head screaming:

 

"Power steering".

 

And then he would have said his doubts to a technician:

 

"Since you know more than I do, verify if the system was off".

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Williams suspects that something could have failed due to the power steering not being used. However, the team can’t have positive data because the telemetry shows the data through radio message only when the car passes in front of the pits, but the seventh lap wasn’t ended. Meanwhile, inside the pits there are some rumours about Senna’s condition that raise doubts and discourage Williams’ mechanics and engineers. But the team’s leaders, in this moment of confusion, say to their employees:

 

"You have to focus on what you’re doing. Don’t listen to anybody else. Nobody knows what’s happening, you have to focus on what you have to do".

 

In fact, the news that comes out from the FIA - at least during the first few minutes - about Senna’s condition is positive, even if nobody wants to believe it.

 

No driver nor team manager is informed about the seriousness of the situation, except for Flavio Briatore, who is informed by journalist Ezio Zermiani. A FIA’s officer says to Williams that Senna is fine and has just a cut on the arm and that for this reason he has to miss the race. The same things are said to the drivers, otherwise they would never get back in the car. For example, Berger asks Bernie Ecclestone how’s Ayrton. The British manager answers that Ayrton is out of the car. So Gerhard is convinced that his friend and ex rival is fine. The track is cleared and the crashed car is sequestered by the Italian police together with Senna’s helmet. In thirty-seven minutes the race is ready to restart. The grid is decided by the final classification adding up the times of the two tranches. Meanwhile, although the car is immediately sequestered, Charlie Whiting goes into Williams’ box and asks Patrick Head if he wanted to see Ayrton’s car as a precaution. So, Whiting and a delegation of Williams’ men - led by Patrick Head - goes inside the box that will be closed with the seals of the Italian police and find out that Ayrton’s car has a frame bending on the right-hand side. This bending was caused by a front tyre and smashed the chassis where the steering-wheel is, blown off at the height of the steering column. For this reason, on the opposite side, at the height of the control unit area there is a massive crack on the frame. Head is not surprised by the fact that the steering wheel is broken but is even more convinced that there was a failure in the power steering box. As a precaution, back on the grid, Head and Williams’ engineers decide to not use the power steering on Damon Hill’s car. But before, Williams’ technicians pull out the control unit from the right-hand side, behind water radiators. 

 

Despite the negative report from Csai’s technicians, Fabrizio Nosco, Giulio Pedroni, Alessandro Palmieri and Luca Chinni, after receiving the approval from Charlie Whiting, the control unit is carried in William’s truck, where they try to link the connector to the computers. But Williams’ control unit - which records all the suspensions and chassis data - is irreparably damaged. The crash at 210 km/h has protected the external frame, but not the interior components. So, Head and his technicians go back to the box where Ayrton's Williams is and extract the second control unit, the Renault’s one. This control unit is not damaged and contains the engine and the power steering data, since this power steering is commanded by an oil pressure circuit activated by the engine. Bernard Michel Duffort, the responsible for the Renault Sport F1 engine control, will receive the Magneti Marelli’s control unit in Paris the same evening. Williams’ technicians - and Dickie Stanford in particular - go back inside the box where Ayrton’s car is. They control that nobody, apart from the Italian police, touches the car or takes some component. Inside the box, Stanford holds Ayrton's helmet for a few seconds in his hands and understands the seriousness of the accident. Then, from that moment, the box is sealed and nobody will get inside, apart from the Italian police. Actually, more than a person will get inside the box throughout the years to look around and see Ayrton’s car. At 2:55 p.m., the race can restart. The only evidence of this absurde situation is a very big bloodstain on the ground where Ayrton was rescued. The doctors on the Alfa 164 - the ones that rescued Senna - goes back on track for the second restart but just for professional duty. After that, all of them burst into tears in silence and remain inside the car until the end of the race. 

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At the restart, after that Berger with his Ferrari has tried to go away from the rest, Schumacher takes the lead. A few laps later, the Austrian driver is forced to retire the car due to a mechanical failure:

 

"I felt that there was something strange with the car. At some point, I looked at the left mirror and there were sparks. Later, at the Variante, I almost lost control of the 412T. I thought that could be the tyres. I got in the pits to change them but when I got back on track the situation was even worse. After a lap, I decided to stop because I didn’t feel like going back to Tamburello again".

 

Berger is in the pits when is informed about the seriousness of Senna’s accident. Gerhard, worried about it, organises all to go by helicopter to Ospedale Maggiore of Bologna. Meanwhile, on track, Larini is in a good position with the other Ferrari. He is in second place and takes the lead when Schumacher goes to the pits to refuel. All goes well until ten laps to go. Inside the pit lane, a serious accident happens: Alboreto’s Minardi, that is going out of the pits, loses a rear tyre which was fastened wrongly by the mechanics. The tyre goes against the other team’s mechanics at a high-speed. In this dramatic accident, three Ferrari’s mechanics (Claudio Bisi, Maurizio Barbieri and Daniele Volpi), a Lotus’ mechanic (Baltiry Naio), a Benetton’s mechanic (Mark Fluckingel) and Roberto Manoni, a CEA’s member, are injured. In a short time, the pit lane is full with paramedics and ambulances to help the mechanics. Claudio Bisi is hospitalized as a precautionary measure and is released a few hours later with just a contusion of the foot and of the left leg. On the contrary, Maurizio Barbieri and Daniele Volpi are kept in hospital because the first one has a compound fracture of the tibial spine and of his left knee femoral condyle, and the second one has a contusion of the left hypochondrium and of the cervical spine. Later on, Maurizio Barbieri, describing the accident, will say:

 

"I clearly remember that tyre coming at me. I fell, but I never fainted".

 

Lotus’ mechanic, Baltiry Naio, has a significant head and thoracic trauma. Mark Fluckingel, Benetton’s mechanic, and Roberto Manoni, a CEA’s member, have minor injuries. 


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