In , Senna took a commanding lead in the championship with six wins, two-second places, and three-thirds. Among his victories were the opening round in Phoenix , in which he diced for the lead for several laps with a then-unknown Jean Alesi before coming out on top, and in Germany , where he fought Benetton driver Alessandro Nannini throughout the race for the win.
As the season reached its final quarter, however, Alain Prost in his Ferrari rose to the challenge with five wins, including a crucial victory in Spain where he and teammate Nigel Mansell finished 1—2 for the Scuderia. Senna had gone out with a damaged radiator, and the gap between Senna and Prost was now reduced to 9 points with two races remaining. At the penultimate round of the championship in Japan at Suzuka, where Senna and Prost collided the previous year, Senna took pole ahead of Prost. Before qualifying, Senna had sought assurances from the organisers to move pole position left onto the clean side of the racetrack.
After qualifying, FIA president Balestre denied Senna's request, leaving Senna to start on the dirty right side, thus favouring Prost on the left. In addition, as revealed by F1 journalist Maurice Hamilton,  the FIA had warned that crossing the yellow line of the pit exit on the right to better position oneself at the first corner would have not been appropriate, further infuriating Senna.
At the beginning of the race, Prost pulled ahead of Senna, who immediately tried to repass Prost at the first corner. Following the second championship-deciding collision in two years, Jackie Stewart interviewed Senna at the Australian Grand Prix where Senna won pole and led for 61 laps before gearbox trouble forced him to slide off into a tyre barrier and brought up a number of controversial collisions in which Senna had been involved over the last few years, stating that Senna had made more contact with other cars and drivers in the last four years than all the champions before him.
An irritated Senna questioned how someone like Stewart, himself a triple world champion, could ask questions like he did, knowing the pressure under which drivers raced.
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A year later, after taking his third world championship, Senna explained to the press his actions of the previous year in Suzuka. He maintained that prior to qualifying fastest, he had sought and received assurances from race officials that pole position would be changed to the left, clean side of the track where the racing line was , only to find this decision reversed by Jean-Marie Balestre after he had taken pole.
Prost later went on record criticising Senna's actions as "disgusting", saying that he seriously considered retiring from the sport after that incident. In , Senna became the youngest ever three-time world champion, taking seven wins and increasing his pole position record to 60 from events. Prost, because of the downturn in performance at Ferrari, the likes of which littered the team's history, was no longer a serious competitor. In preseason testing, Senna made public misgivings about the car's competitiveness with the new Honda V12, stating that the engine was not as powerful as the prior year's V By midseason, Nigel Mansell in the Williams-Renault was able to put up a challenge.
During qualifying for that Grand Prix, he attempted to take the banked degree Peraltada corner Mexico City circuit's fastest corner faster than normal, ending up spinning off the track and rolling over the car after crashing into a tyre barrier. Though Senna's consistency, the car's competitiveness and the Williams's unreliability at the beginning of the season gave him an early advantage, Senna insisted that Honda step up their engine development program and demanded further improvements to the car before it was too late.
These modifications enabled him to make a late-season push, and he won three more races to secure the championship, which was settled in Japan when Mansell who needed to win , went off at the first corner while running third and beached his Williams in the gravel trap. Senna finished second, handing the victory to teammate Gerhard Berger at the last corner as a thank-you gesture for his support over the season.
That year, as had been the case in and , Senna won the "International Racing Driver Award" granted by British magazine Autosport annually. In , Senna's determination to win manifested itself in dismay at McLaren's inability to challenge Williams's all-conquering FW14B car.
A delay occurred in getting the new model running it debuted in the third race of the season, the Brazilian Grand Prix and in addition to lacking active suspension, the new car suffered from reliability issues and was unpredictable in fast corners, while its Honda V12 engine was no longer the most powerful on the circuit. He had to be extricated from the car by circuit doctors; although he raced the next day, albeit retiring from the race due to gearbox failure.
Senna scored wins in Monaco , Hungary , and Italy that year. He exited his car and ran across the track to help the Frenchman, disregarding his own safety in an effort to aid a fellow driver.
He later visited Comas in the hospital. His actions won universal praise from within Formula One and seemed to soften his hard-nosed image. Senna finished fourth overall in the championship, behind the Williams duo of Mansell and Riccardo Patrese , and Benetton's Michael Schumacher. Senna's relationship with Schumacher had deteriorated throughout At the Brazilian Grand Prix , Schumacher accused Senna of 'playing around' while attempting to overtake Senna, who had a problem with his engine. Senna later confronted Schumacher, who admitted responsibility for the accident.
At a test session for the German Grand Prix , Senna and Schumacher had a confrontation in the pits, with Senna grabbing Schumacher by the collar and accusing him of endangering him by blocking him on the track. Questions about Senna's intentions for the upcoming season lingered throughout , as he did not have a contract with any team by the end of that year.
Ferrari had offered him a contract which Senna discussed with Niki Lauda , but decided to decline the offer. Given this scenario, Senna secured an IndyCar testing session with the support of compatriot and Penske driver, Emerson Fittipaldi. To familiarise himself, Senna initially ran 14 relatively slow laps before completing a further 10 laps on the same tyres and setting a best time of By comparison, Fittipaldi had set a best time of Faced with this, during a press conference at the season-opening test session at the Estoril Circuit on the Portuguese Riviera , an infuriated Senna called Prost a coward, leading to some commentators stating that what Prost had done was no different from Senna vetoeing Derek Warwick from joining Lotus in , but they did not take into account that Senna's chances of winning the championship were much higher in By this time, McLaren was forced to take a customer supply of Ford V8 engines, which were two specifications behind that of Ford's then factory team, Benetton.
The Brazilian, however, agreed to do so only for the first race in South Africa , where he would assess whether McLaren's equipment was competitive enough for him to put in a good season. In the opening race in South Africa, Senna finished in second place after surviving a collision with Schumacher.
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The latter has often been regarded as one of Senna's greatest victories,  in the process setting a record for the fastest lap in an F1 race driving through the then speed-unrestricted pit lane. He was fifth at the first corner and led the race at the end of the first lap going on to lap all but second place in a race where up to seven pit stops were required by some drivers for rain or slick tyres. Senna won the penultimate race of the season in Japan , which was marked by an incident involving Jordan's rookie Eddie Irvine , twice unlapping himself against Senna. Immediately after the race, Senna attended at Jordan's garage and, following a lengthy and heated discussion, punched the Irishman in the face.
The season concluded in Australia , with Senna's 41st and last F1 career win, as well as the last win for an active-suspension F1 car ironically, had the first victory for such cars also at the hands of Senna in Monaco. The win in Adelaide was an emotional one due to Senna ending his successful career with McLaren and defeating his biggest rival, Prost, for the last time.
Because of the Frenchman's imminent retirement from the sport, Senna surprised the F1 community by openly welcoming Prost on the top step of the podium, which many considered a sign of pacification between the duo. Overall, Senna finished the championship second to Prost. Rule changes for had banned active suspension, traction control, and ABS. Senna expressed his discomfort with the handling of his car, stating, "I have a very negative feeling about driving the car and driving it on the limit and so on Some of that is down to the lack of electronic change.
Also, the car has its own characteristics which I'm not fully confident in yet. The first race of the season was at Interlagos in Brazil , where Senna took pole position. He took an early lead, but Schumacher's Benetton was never far behind. Schumacher took the race lead after passing Senna in the pits.
Both drivers retired with front-suspension damage. Hill also retired with transmission problems, while Schumacher took the victory again. It was Senna's worst start to a Formula One season, failing to finish or score points in the first two races, despite taking pole position both times. Schumacher was leading Senna in the Drivers' Championship by 20 points.
The season was the subject of sweeping rule changes, most notably banning the use of electronic "driver aids" such as active suspension, anti-lock brakes, traction control and launch control. From the start, suspicion of foul play mainly involving the Benetton team was said to have troubled Senna. For example, instead of returning to the pit area after his first lap retirement at the Pacific Grand Prix, Senna opted to stand near the first corner and watch the cars complete the race to see if he could detect whether any now banned traction control system was being used.
Schumacher went on to win the driver's world championship title controversially after a collision that forced his retirement and that of his rival, and Senna's teammate, Damon Hill. Senna died aged 34 after succumbing to fatal injuries sustained during his race at the San Marino Grand Prix , on 1 May Senna stayed in room no.
The European leg of the F1 season, starting at Imola, was traditionally considered the beginning of the yearly competition.
Brazil mourns Ayrton Senna 25 years after his tragic death at Imola
Senna, who did not finish the two opening races of the season, declared that this was where his season would start, with 14 races, as opposed to 16, in which to win the title. On Friday, Senna placed the car on the pole for a then-record 65th and final time, but he was upset by events unfolding that race weekend. Senna complained about the FW16's handling and reported that the car's performance was generally worse after the engineers' latest adjustments.
Barrichello suffered a broken nose and arm, and withdrew from the event. Barrichello reported that Senna was the first person he saw upon regaining consciousness. There he was met by FIA Medical Chief Professor Sid Watkins , who suggested to a tearful Senna that he should retire from racing and go fishing a hobby they both shared , to which Senna replied that he could not stop racing. Senna spent his final morning on the Sunday talking to former teammate and rival Alain Prost to discuss the re-establishment of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association , with the aim of improving safety in Formula One.
Prost had retired from the sport at the end of the season, and was now a media presenter. As the most senior driver in competition, Senna offered to take the role of leader, starting from the next race in Monaco. During the drivers' briefing, concerns had been raised about the mainly promotional use of a Porsche lead car for the warm-up lap, with organizers agreeing to abandon the practice.
At the start of the Grand Prix, Senna retained the lead from Schumacher, but proceedings were soon interrupted by a startline accident. A wheel and debris landed in the main grandstand, injuring eight fans and a police officer. The safety car, a sporty version of the Opel Vectra medium family saloon, was deployed for several laps. The Vectra's slow pace was later questioned because of the consequential drop in tyre pressures on the Formula One cars. Senna had pulled alongside the Vectra and gestured to the driver, Max Angelelli , to increase his speed.
The red flag was shown as a consequence of the accident. Within two minutes of crashing, Senna was extracted from his race car by Watkins and his medical team, including intensive care anaesthetist Giovanni Gordini. Initial treatment took place by the side of the car, with Senna having a weak heartbeat and significant blood loss around 4. Because of Senna's poor neurological condition, Watkins performed an on-site tracheotomy and requested the immediate airlifting of Senna to Bologna's Maggiore Hospital under the supervision of Gordini.
At , the head of the hospital's emergency department, Maria Teresa Fiandri  made the announcement that Senna had died, but said the official time of death under Italian law was , which is when he impacted the wall and his brain stopped working. The right-front wheel and suspension are believed to have been sent back into the cockpit, striking Senna on the right side of his helmet, forcing his head back against the headrest.
In addition, a piece of the upright assembly, most likely a tie rod , penetrated the helmet visor, which was a new, thinner version, above his right eye. Senna sustained fatal skull fractures , brain injuries and a ruptured temporal artery. As later revealed, when the medical staff examined Senna, a furled Austrian flag was found in his car—a flag that he had intended to raise in honour of Ratzenberger after the race. Out of respect, those photographs have never been made public. On 27 April , as part of commemorating Senna on the 20th anniversary of his death, a three-journalist panel composed of Murray Walker, Maurice Hamilton, and David Tremayne and interviewed by Sky Sports ' Simon Lazenby, concurred that, at his final F1 Grand Prix race , Senna was under extreme pressure due to:.
Senna's death was considered by many of his Brazilian fans to be a national tragedy, and the Government of Brazil declared three days of national mourning. The Italian Air Force offered to fly the coffin back to Brazil, but the Senna family wished that it return home in a Brazilian plane.
Contrary to airline policy and out of respect, Senna's coffin was allowed to be flown back to his home country in the passenger cabin of a VARIG McDonnell-Douglas MD airliner, accompanied by his distraught younger brother, Leonardo, and close friends. The coffin was carried by soldiers from the Air Force Police to a fire engine , where eight cadets from the Military Police Academy mounted guard as it carried the coffin on the mile journey into the city.
Leading the motorcade were 17 police motorbikes, and 2, policemen lined the route to keep the crowds at bay. This is widely accepted as the largest recorded gathering of mourners in modern times. After the public viewing, a gun salute was fired by the 2nd Artillery Brigade and seven Brazilian Air Force jets flew in a diamond formation as the funeral procession made its way to Morumbi Cemetery. Senna's family did not allow FOM president Bernie Ecclestone, a friend of Senna's, to attend the ceremony, after an altercation between Ecclestone and Senna's brother Leonardo at Imola regarding Ecclestone's misconstrued reaction to the news of Ayrton's death and the fact that the race had not been abandoned after his accident.
I thought it was important that somebody went to his. A testament to the adulation he inspired among fans worldwide was the scene at the Tokyo headquarters of Honda, where the McLaren cars were typically displayed after each race. Upon his death, so many floral tributes were received, they overwhelmed the large exhibition lobby. Senna had a special relationship with company founder Soichiro Honda  and was beloved in Japan, where he achieved a near mythic status. For the next race at Monaco , the FIA decided to leave the first two grid positions empty and painted them with the colours of the Brazilian and the Austrian flags, to honour Senna and Ratzenberger.
Italian law requires that accidents resulting in a fatality must be investigated for any criminal culpability, with the associated scene of the accident secured and the activities that led to the fatality, suspended forthwith. Senna's death was thus the subject of criminal proceedings in Italy, which saw key Williams team members investigated and charged with manslaughter. The original trial in concluded with acquittals on the grounds that the prosecution had failed to prove its case.
This failure was caused by badly designed and badly executed modifications. The responsibility of this falls on Patrick Head , culpable of omitted control". Head, however, was never arrested because the Italian statute of limitation for manslaughter is 7 years and 6 months, and the final verdict was pronounced 13 years after the accident. The criminal charges focused on the car's steering column, which was found to have sheared off at a point where a modification had been made. The prosecution alleged that the column had failed causing the accident and the Williams team conceded to this failure, but only as caused by the impact at the Tamburello corner.
Senna had not liked the position of his FW16 's steering wheel relative to the seating position and had asked for the former to be changed. Head and Adrian Newey satisfied Senna's request by having the existing column cut and extended with a smaller-diameter piece of tubing, which was welded together with reinforcing plates. The modification was carried out in this manner as there was no time to manufacture a new longer steering column in time for the race. Senna was a devout Catholic , once saying: "Just because I believe in God, just because I have faith in God, it doesn't mean that I'm immune.
It doesn't mean that I'm immortal" As his profile rose, Senna expressed concern over the poor in Brazil. After his death, he was discovered to have quietly donated millions of his personal fortune to help poor children. Senna was often quoted as using driving as a means for self-discovery and racing as a metaphor for life: "The harder I push, the more I find within myself.
I am always looking for the next step, a different world to go into, areas where I have not been before. It's lonely driving a Grand Prix car, but very absorbing. I have experienced new sensations, and I want more. That is my excitement, my motivation. Towards the end of his career, Senna became increasingly preoccupied with the dangers of his profession. On the morning of his death, he initiated the reformation of the GPDA safety organisation, with which he had intended to work to improve the safety of his sport. The pair had met the year before at an hospitality event by McLaren sponsor, Shell , as part of the Brazilian Grand Prix for which Galisteu had to audition through a model agency, to work as a hostess.
Senna enjoyed a range of physical activities including running, waterskiing , jet skiing , and paddleboarding. He also had several hobbies, such as flying real and model planes and helicopters ,  boating , fishing, and riding his favourite Ducati motorbikes. His private jet was a British Aerospace , and he also piloted his own helicopter between his residences in Brazil along with travelling to races. Senna was close friends with McLaren teammate Gerhard Berger, and the two were always playing practical jokes on each other. Senna was married to Lilian de Vasconcelos Souza from until Vasconcelos, whom he had known since childhood, had difficulty adapting to her husband's racing life in England.
Vasconcelos later said: "I was his second passion. His first passion was racing There was nothing more important in the world for him, not family, not wife, nothing. They were briefly engaged, but the relationship was broken off by Senna in late He then dated Christine Ferracciu, who lived with him at his homes in Monaco and Portugal, on and off between and One of the most extravagant claims involving Senna's past partners was made by Edilaine de Barros, a former model better known as Marcella Praddo.
She alleged that the couple dated from to Weeks after Senna's death, de Barros' child, Victoria, was born and claims that Senna was the father were soon made but abandoned following rejection of those claims by the Senna family. Years later, after joining a religious sect, the former model was convinced to sue against the estate of Senna.
In , DNA tests of hair and saliva samples given by Senna's parents conclusively proved that he was not the father of de Barros' child. In his early years in Formula One, Senna was the subject of a smear campaign orchestrated by Nelson Piquet , ranging from Senna being regarded a taxi driver to being homosexual given his failed marriage.
Former Formula One driver Bruno Senna is the nephew of Senna being his sister Viviane's son of whom he said in "If you think I'm fast, just wait until you see my nephew Bruno. In the late s, to take advantage of the close relationship Honda had formed with Senna, the Japanese company asked him to help fine-tune the Honda NSX 's suspension setting during its final development stages. Test runs were conducted at various circuits, including five sessions with prototypes at the Suzuka Circuit where chief NSX engineer Shigeru Uehara and his team were present to gather Senna's direct input.
Senna reportedly had access to three of these cars: a black NSX in Brazil, which he ordered to his specifications, bearing license plate BSS, which represents his initials for "Beco" — his childhood nickname — "Senna da Silva" and 8 to commemorate his first F1 championship in ; a red one with licence plate SX, which was loaned to him by Honda Portugal; a black one purchased by Antonio Carlos de Almeida Braga, who was a close personal friend, manager, and mentor of Ayrton Senna.
Senna was also instrumental in bringing Audi cars into his native country, both as an import and manufacturing business. Audi entered Brazil in via Senna's company, Senna Import, founded in Sales began in April that year, just a month before his untimely death. In the early s, Senna developed his own merchandise brand represented by a logo with a double S, after his full surname, "Senna da Silva".
The Senna brand was on apparel, watches, bicycles Carraro , motorcycles and boats. Many safety improvements were made in the sport following Senna's and Ratzenberger's deaths and Barrichello's crash. These include improved crash barriers, redesigned tracks, higher crash safety standards such as larger sills along the driver cockpit and major cuts to engine power. The Tamburello corner and other parts of the Imola circuit were altered for This was despite calls for action in , after a serious high-speed crash in which Senna's friend, Gerhard Berger, suffered burns to his hand.
No action took place after that crash because, following an inspection by Senna and Berger, they ended up siding with officials who had, for years, claimed that the wall could not be moved further back due to a river nearby. In July , the Brazil national football team dedicated their World Cup victory to Senna, and collectively held a banner on the field after defeating Italy in the final. A few months before his death, Senna had discussed with his sister the foundation of a charitable organization, based on a desire to contribute to those less fortunate in a more organised and effective manner.
The main road in Senna's Portuguese resort at Quinta do Lago , Algarve, was also dedicated to him, because his villa there was very near but not on this road. In the English town of Reading, Berkshire , where Senna lived for a short period of time, an avenue in the suburb of Tilehurst was named after him.
Brazil mourns Ayrton Senna 25 years after his tragic death at Imola | The Japan Times
Senna remains a national hero in Brazil and his grave attracts more visitors than the graves of John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley combined. In addition, to mark the 10th anniversary of Senna's death, on 21 April , over 10, people attended a charity match in a football stadium near Imola. The game was organised by several devoted Italian and Canadian fans of Senna, bringing the Brazil team that won the World Cup to face the "Nazionale Piloti", an exhibition team composed exclusively of top race car drivers.
Senna had been a part of the latter in The match finished 5—5 and the money was donated to the IAS. Viviane Senna, the president of the IAS, was also involved in the kick-off of this match. That same weekend, Bernie Ecclestone revealed that he still believed Senna was and remained the best F1 driver he had ever seen. Since his death, Senna has been the subject of several songs either wholly dedicated to him or simply referring to him including by: Italian singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla song titled "Ayrton"  and rock band The Rock Alchemist tribute song "Live or Die" ;  Jazz pianist Kim Pensyl ; Japanese jazz-fusion guitarist and T-square bandleader Masahiro Andoh references in songs such as "Faces" and subsequent revisions, like "The Face" ; Chris Rea on his song "Saudade" ; Spanish band Delorean extended play entitled Ayrton Senna ; British acid jazz band Corduroy song " Ayrton Senna ".
Between and , to pay tribute to Senna, the Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati produced three special "Senna" editions of their superbike. Ducati was at the time owned by Claudio Castiglioni, a personal friend of Senna who was an avid Ducati owner and endorsed the release of this in March In , under the presidency of Castiglioni, MV Agusta also released the special-edition F4 Senna motorbike followed by the F4 Senna in In both instances, each edition was limited to units and, just like with the Ducati, all profits from sales were donated to the Ayrton Senna Foundation.
It was custom-painted in the colours of Ayrton Senna's helmet by Alan Mosca, the son of Senna's helmet design creator, Sid, based on more than 50 "T5 Pole Position" models of the PX scooter that Ayrton won as part of the award to Formula 1 polesitters introduced by Piaggio in The organisers of the former Formula One Grand Prix street circuit in Adelaide, South Australia, renamed the first chicane the "Senna Chicane" in his honour in , and also a road in the Adelaide suburb of Wingfield is named "Senna Road".
He has been voted the best driver of all time in various motorsport polls, including F1 Racing magazine's poll, and German newspaper Bild am Sonntag 's poll of current drivers in In , the Japanese public ranked Senna 22nd in a survey of their favourite persons in history. In , Prince Albert of Monaco unveiled a plaque in honour of Senna in a ceremony that was attended by Vivane Senna. An exhibition also took place that showcased Senna's victories around Monaco, along with his helmets that were borrowed from Senna's family and a selection of McLaren cars raced by Senna that were brought over from Motegi.
In this documentary broadcast only once by the BBC, Senna is named the number one driver ever, by fellow racing drivers. A revised logo was featured in for the 20th anniversary of Senna's death. In July , Honda released a video of an audio-visual tribute on the Suzuka circuit in the dark, titled "Sound of Honda — Ayrton Senna ". On 25 October , a holiday PlayStation 3 bundle with Gran Turismo 6 was announced which is dedicated to his memory, with some of the proceeds of this bundle going to help the IAS.
This was then followed by the Japan-exclusive Ayrton Senna Personal Talk: Message for the Future for the Sega Saturn , which was a multimedia compact disc containing interviews with Senna overlaid with still images. In March , during the Brazilian Carnival celebrations, the samba group Unidos da Tijuca paid tribute to Senna in one of their parades in Rio de Janeiro. The school won the coveted trophy for the best parade of On 21 March , Google had a special Doodle to honour Senna's 54th birthday that day. PR-AYU cn with a new name and livery.
The airplane, which was formerly called "Azultec", has been renamed " sennasempre" "Senna always" and features the IAS logo on the rear side of the fuselage and the graphics of Senna's F1 helmet at the front, making it appear as though it is wearing the iconic helmet. Tributes were also made at the Imola circuit to mark the 20th anniversary of Senna's death.
The artist famed for his artwork using only jeans presented the piece, that also included the jeans of the Senna family to great acclaim. It was a tribute to Senna curated by, and with tickets proceeds going to, the IAS. There were exhibits of his cars, go carts and helmets as well as the Ian Berry denim portrait. In July , an update to Angry Birds Go! Various Madame Tussauds 's wax museums around the world exhibit a full-sized figure of Senna in racing overalls. On 10 June , after qualifying on pole for the Canadian Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton was presented with a Senna helmet that had been worn by Senna during a race.
It was given by Senna's family in recognition of Hamilton's 65th pole position, matching Senna's tally. On 1 October Nike and Corinthians unveil a never-before-seen collection honouring Ayrton Senna, including the team's new third kit. In a partnership with the Ayrton Senna Institute , the collection is inspired in the color scheme of the Lotus, which is considered one of the most beautiful F1 race cars ever.
Ayrton raced for the team in the and the seasons. Starting from the penultimate row of the grid, Riccardo Paletti was not seen and accelerated hard when he smashed into the back of Didier Pironi's Ferrari, which had stalled on pole position. Suffering serious abdominal injuries and two broken legs, the year-old Italian was transferred to a hospital in Montreal where he died early that evening. European newspapers had already published their final editions, leaving radio news as the major outlet. With the greatest respect to Paletti in only his second grand prix, the story was never likely to make headlines outside Italy, particularly following just one month after the loss of Gilles Villeneuve at Zolder.
The Ferrari driver had been killed during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix. Callous as it may seem, distress was largely confined to the F1 family and followers as the race went ahead the following day and Villeneuve's loss was almost seen by the outside world as an unfortunate part of a dangerous sport.
Compared to this, Imola had a powerful effect, not least because both accidents were live on television and the loss of Elio de Angelis during testing in notwithstanding the 12 years without a race fatality had created a false sense of security.
That changed dramatically when Senna -- one of the best known names in global sport, never mind motor racing -- was transmitted across living rooms around the world. The feeling that motor racing was somehow 'safe' brought shock, followed by outrage. And yet this was , a decade ahead of social media's accelerating influence and its demand for answers almost before there have been sensible and measured questions.
Age had added a few wrinkles around his dark eyes, but had not dimmed his movie-star looks. And his driving was as peerless as it had ever been. A little less than two weeks before that media scrum on that balmy morning in Emilia-Romagna in , Senna had driven arguably his finest race. This writer was there, too, this time spectating, standing in the freezing rain at Donington Park's chicane, waiting for the cars to come around on the first lap of the European Grand Prix.
As ever at a British F1 race in those days, the circuit commentary was almost inaudible. There was no internet or smart phones to carry instant news. I had no radio. But as the noise of the cars embarking on their first lap began, a buzz began to flow through the crowd. Something special was happening. As the cars burst into view and rounded the chicane, Senna, who had started fourth, was already up to second, and, right up the back of the leading Williams of Prost, clearly about to be first.
Senna had just produced one of the greatest opening laps ever seen and, after doing so, proceeded to disappear off into the distance and make the rest look like they might as well not be bothering. Senna did that a lot. There are too many great drives to mention them all. But he marked himself out as something truly special from very early on.
He should have won his sixth race, the Monaco Grand Prix. In a midfield Toleman, he was catching Prost's leading McLaren hand over fist in the pouring rain, and was right behind when the race was called off at half-distance. The following year, his maiden win, in the Portuguese Grand Prix, came with one of the greatest wet-weather drives in history, finishing a minute ahead of Michele Alboreto's Ferrari, and at least a lap clear of everyone else.
He clinched his first title, having moved to McLaren in , with another stunning drive, fighting back through the field at Suzuka in Japan after dropping to 14th following a poor start, catching and passing Prost, now his team-mate, in the drizzling rain. And then there's Brazil , when he held off Ricciardo Patrese's faster Williams on slick tyres in a late-race rain shower despite a car stuck in sixth gear. By the end of that race, Senna was so exhausted he could not get out of the car unaided.
On the podium, he could barely lift the trophy to acknowledge the adoring Brazilian fans, who revered him as a kind of demi-god. This was a man who arguably dedicated himself to his sport more intensely, gave more of himself in the unbending pursuit of success, than anyone in history.
The transparency of how much it meant to him was another part of Senna's powerful appeal, but in the end it might have been his undoing. It will probably never be known exactly why he went off at Imola on 1 May in His steering column broke in the crash. Did it break before it? His Williams team said no, and their technical bosses Patrick Head and Adrian Newey were eventually acquitted after a long, drawn-out legal process in Italy.
They always argued that the accident was caused by a combination of factors, by the diffuser stalling, robbing his car of downforce, as Senna went over bumps at the mph Tamburello corner, taking a tighter line than the lap before, on tyres that were low in pressure after a safety car, trying to stay ahead of the faster Benetton of Michael Schumacher. Damon Hill, his team-mate of the time, says he believes that, too, having seen all the data from his car.
Senna went to his death believing that Schumacher's car was illegal at the start of that year. It may have been - illegal software was found in it, although no proof was found that it was used.