Senna: Why his legacy lives on

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Senna: Why his legacy lives on

“Every era has someone who changes the sport and he was one of those people.”

The words of Damon Hill when remembering Ayrton Senna, the charismatic and iconic Brazilian driver whose talent behind the wheel of a racing car ensured he transcended the sport in which he made his name.

May 1 marks the 30th anniversary of the triple world champion’s death at the San Marino Grand Prix.

Imola 1994 was a dark and traumatic weekend for Formula 1.

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Martin Brundle and Damon Hill reminisce about the great Ayrton Senna’s personality

Roland Ratzenberger, the Austrian Simtek driver, was killed in an accident in Saturday qualifying.

Senna then lost his life in a crash during the following day’s race.

Thirty years have passed, yet Senna and his career story remain as inspirational and illuminating as they ever have. So what was it about a brilliant yet intense racing driver from Sao Paulo that so captivated the world?

Sky Sports F1’s Damon Hill, who was Senna’s team-mate on that fateful Imola weekend, gives an illuminating first-hand insight into the Brazilian below.

‘People were fascinated by him’

Damon Hill, Williams team-mate:
“Every era has someone who changes the sport and I think he was one of those people. He changed the sport, he changed the approach. He was far more aggressive and far more committed, to the point of almost craziness. But he had such self-belief, and I think that inspired people – I think they were fascinated by him.

Image: Damon Hill was Senna’s final team-mate

“I think he was a bit of a shock to the system when he arrived in Formula 1 because he was audacious. I think that’s why everyone wanted to have him in their team, because they knew that this was the guy who would give everything he absolutely had to get the very last drops out of that car.

“Sometimes it went wrong, sometimes he went too far – but fans loved him and he was a massive, massive symbol of hope and success to Brazilians, and people around the world.

“He had an air of uniqueness about him and he was also not messing about, he was a very serious person. He wasn’t here to have fun, he was clearly here to do business. So he was quite intimidating from that point of view. But whatever attitude he had off the track, it was backed up by his results on the track. It wasn’t like he was putting on airs or graces, he was the real deal.”

Ratzenberger, Senna to be remembered in Imola

While the 30th anniversary of their deaths falls on the week of the Miami Grand Prix, poignant tributes are set to be paid to both drivers in Imola.

The Municipality of Imola, along with the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, is hosting a day of remembrance, with F1 fans invited to attend for free.

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Roland Ratzenberger’s team mate at Simtek, David Brabham, his team boss Nick Wirth and his race engineer Humphrey Corbett pay tribute the racing driver

The celebrations of the drivers’ lives will include a walk of the track, moments of silence and the sharing of excerpts from films and books that have been created about them.

The day is part of a three-month celebration of Senna’s legacy, with an exhibition having been on show at the San Domenico museum since March 21.

Speaking when plans to celebrate Senna’s legacy were launched in March, F1 president Stefano Domenicali said: “We have experienced difficult moments, but we must try to remember the aspects that make us look to the future. We know that many things have changed in the sport since that tragic situation.”

Further tributes will be paid when Formula 1 returns to Imola in two weeks’ time for the 2024 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

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Sky Sports’ Craig Slater is at Alpine’s headquarters as they pay respects to Ted Toleman and Ayrton Senna and speaks to Pierre Gasly who reveals what it was like to take a drive in Senna’s Formula 1 car

Remembering Senna on Sky Sports

Sky Sports F1 is re-airing several special features about Senna, which will run on the channel from Wednesday in tribute to the Brazilian great:

Legends of F1: Ayrton Senna
Steve Rider pays tribute to the life and career of Formula 1 great Ayrton Senna. With contributions from Ron Dennis, Alain Prost and Gerhard Berger.
Wednesday: 2pm & 6pm

Senna… with Murray Walker
F1 legend Murray Walker plus leading journalists Maurice Hamilton and David Tremayne join Simon Lazenby to look back over the Brazilian’s legendary career.
Wednesday: 3pm & 7pm

A Winning Partnership
Former McLaren boss Ron Dennis looks back at his hugely successful partnership with Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian won all three of his world titles with the British team.
Wednesday: 4pm & 10pm

The Last Team-Mate
Damon Hill and David Brabham, Senna and Ratzenberger’s respective team-mates for 1994, return to Imola to relive F1’s fateful weekend.
Wednesday: 5pm, 8pm & 11pm

Race to Perfection: Imola 1994
F1 has seen spectacular highs and devastating lows. This episode remembers the drivers who fought back from adversity – and those who lost their lives doing so.
Wednesday: 9pm

Memories of Senna
Martin Brundle, Dennis Rushen, Damon Hill and Bruno Senna recall their favourite memories of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna, recorded 20 years on from his tragic death.
Wednesday: 9.30pm

Remembering Ratzenberger
A look back at the life and career of Roland Ratzenberger on the 30th anniversary of his death. The Austrian debutant lost his life during qualifying for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Thursday: 12am

Prost on Senna
Alain Prost, Senna’s most famous rival and former team-mate, speaks candidly about his relationship with the Brazilian.
Thursday: 12.30am

Watch this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend, starting with first practice on Friday at 5.30pm.

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