His Ferrari was airborne for more than metres before crashing into the ground and somersaulting along the track. He died of a fatal neck fracture and was pronounced dead in hospital that evening. Although many years after Formula One's deadliest period in the s, Brazilian Ayrton Senna's death marked the unthinkable. The sport's greatest driver at the time - and in many people's eyes, the greatest to have lived - whose appeal extended well beyond motorsport, died on television in front of millions of people, in an era when fans did not expect drivers to die in the name of sport.
His death marked a particularly black weekend for the sport. It is often forgotten that Austrian Roland Ratzenberger died in qualifying the day before at Imola, Italy, and that Senna's Brazilian protege Rubens Barrichello was lucky to survive a crash in Friday practice.
Formula 1's greatest drivers. Number 1: Ayrton Senna - BBC Sport
For the season, the electronic aids which helped drivers were banned, making the cars instantly more unpredictable and uncontrollable, while the construction of the chassis had not kept pace with the phenomenal cornering speeds the cars could now achieve. The exact reason for Senna's crash has been hotly debated, but whatever the cause, the three-time world champion plunged into the wall at Tamburello at around mph. A piece of the suspension assembly penetrated his helmet visor, and he died of fatal skull fractures.
To this day, no driver has been killed in a Formula One car since. Given the above, it seems all the more remarkable that the three crashes below resulted in no injuries to the drivers whatsoever. Martin Brundle at even jogged back to the pitlane to hop into the spare car, to the astonishment and delight of the Melbourne crowd. Terms and Conditions. Style Book. Weather Forecast.
Accessibility links Skip to article Skip to navigation. Saturday 28 September Life On The Limit: Formula One's deadliest crashes As a new film charting the history of safety in Formula One is released, from the fatal s through to the present, Daniel Johnson looks at some of the sport's most dangerous episodes Ayrton Senna prepares for the San Marino Grand Prix. He often flew a Brazilian flag after a race, during his victory lap. On that dark Sunday, his plan was to win, then wave an Austrian flag in memory of Roland Ratzenberger , a young Austrian who died in a crash during qualifying just one day before.
National days of mourning were declared across Brazil. Millions lined up to walk past his closed coffin, and millions more lined the streets for his funeral procession. Quite simply, Ayrton Senna was more beloved than Pele. Max Mosley's rationale was that since everyone was in Brazil burying Ayrton, if he didn't go to Roland Ratzenberger's funeral, no one would.
He wasn't wrong.
Since the moment he died, every single F1 car Williams has produced has had Senna's face or logo on it in remembrance. Ayrton's sister Viviane made her son, whom Ayrton described as a better driver than himself, give up racing after her brother died. Many years later, Bruno Senna started racing again, and even made it briefly to F1 -- on his uncle's Williams F1 team, no less.
Without all that time away, the sky could have been the limit for him. It was just one of many tracks he mastered, but Honda's tribute was nevertheless brilliant. Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna got along about as well as a cat and a dog. They both won a world championship at the other's expense by crashing. Each other. Prost even had a clause in his Williams contract that expressly prohibited the team from signing Senna as his teammate. They only began to speak after Prost retired. In the wake of Ratzenberger's crash, the evening before his date with Tamburello, Senna reached out to Prost, to discuss how to make the sport safer in the future.
They used to prank each other, with Berger placing a phallic photo in Senna's passport, and Senna gluing Berger's cards in his wallet, but it was more than just games. Years later, Berger acted as an advisor, guiding young Bruno in his F1 ambitions. Today, Instituto Ayrton Senna exists to help prepare children for the future, through education. Want more of the world's best Cars delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up for our daily email. Aaron Miller is the Cars editor for Thrillist, and can be found on Twitter.
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Life On The Limit: Formula One's deadliest crashes
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