Remembering Imola 1994

May 1st marks the anniversary of the passing of one of Formula One's greatest ever drivers. 26 years have passed since that fateful day when Ayrton Senna da Silva last stepped into a Grand Prix car.

The 1994 Imola weekend would be one of the most tragic of recent memory, with first Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger losing his life on Friday afternoon in his Simtek, then the great Ayrton Senna having his now famous accident at the fearsome Tamburello corner during Sunday's Grand Prix - live in front of a worldwide audience on terrestrial and satellite TV.

It feels incredible to think that both Ratzenberger and Senna passed over a quarter of a century ago. For those of us like myself who are old enough to remember, those tragic few days still feel so fresh and vivid in the memory - the emotion, shock and confusion still remain at the very forefront of the mind even 26 years after that fateful day.

Even now, all this time later, I can still see the Brazilian flag at half mast on a house across from my own paying their respects to one of the greatest drivers the sport has seen. That's how big of an impact Ayrton Senna had on the world during his all too short 34 years on this earth.

As is always the case this time of year, I would like to take a moment to remember the two drivers who lost their lives at Imola over the weekend of May 1st 1994.

Gone. But never forgotten.

Roland Ratzenberger: 04.07.1960 - 30.04.1994
Roland Ratzenberger.jpg

Ayrton Senna da Silva: 21.3.1960 - 01.05.1994
Ayrton Senna (1).jpg
RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief, occasional YouTuber, commentator and broadcaster, with a passion for motorsport on both the real and virtual racetrack.


Nice apex, I'll take it!
May 2, 2010
The main thing to learn about Senna's death is that he didn't die in vain. The serious Safety Crusade since then has saved countless other lives. The way Senna cared about the safety and health of other drivers as shown through his career with moments like his assisting Eric Comas at Spa, or his reservations after Ratzenberger's death shows that he'd probably be happy with the improvements brought about after this race.

Sadly, like many things in F1, it took a massive shock - in this case the death of a triple-world champion - to kick them into gear to make the improvements F1 needed to reduce injuries majorly. The fact that since then we've only had one death in F1 is staggering, especially as the cars cannot be blamed for Bianchi's death.


Oct 15, 2018
My dad, when I was a child, was talking everytime to me about Senna... it's really sad even think that Ayrton wanted the GP being cancelled for Ratzenberger. in motorsport is impossible not have deaths... Anthoine demostred that.
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Mar 21, 2013
I still am a hardcore Senna fan, I remember that day like it was yesterday, It took me a long time to come to the terms of losing him. I didn't know much about Roland but also an equal loss to many.

Terry Rock

Oct 24, 2009
Senna was an absolute 'master' in that car but it was what he did outside of it that counts most...even today.
Sure! he enjoyed life..he deserved to.
His Senna foundation has been instrumental in using the things he put into play all those years ago, to help lots of kids.
That is how I choose to remember him these days.
Roland was also an incredible loss. Had that wing not failed, who knows what he would have achieved.
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Proto 3.0

Sep 4, 2019
This is the blackest day in the world of motorsport, but I can not imagine Ayrton without racing or retiring.
This is the fate of the great racer:

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Sep 29, 2010
26 years, so many years ago but i still remember Imola gp weekend. Barrichello crash in practice, Ratzenberger accident in qualify, Pedro Lamy crashes JJ Lehto on start grid and then Senna. :( Hopefully we don't see that kind of gp weekend anymore.


Jun 6, 2015
I wasn't that much of a Senna's fan... in fact, I found him just a playboy with a big ego that eventually done good deeds... so, he was ok to me, but I was not a fan and at the day he died I was much more troubled about Ratzenberger, that was completely forgotten.

But the day I got devastated was 05/05/1994, when his funeral procession crossed São Paulo city (where I lived during most of my life) from north to south. Some colleagues and I (all around 15 old) skipped class to see the procession pass under the Vila Guilherme Bridge (at the first leg of the procession).

My little party wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, but we ain't sad, just curious and wanting an excuse to skip class. But the closer we got to the crowd over the bridge (there were far more people than accounted by the press, that must have counted just people on the service) more the things gone dark. There was even some beggars, that probably never saw Senna, crying. I never saw anything that sad in my live. Was like a big and rough miasma like from an horror movie, choking everyone there. We found a spot right over the place were the procession would pass (we arrived much earlier) and waited. When people near me saw the fireman truck some kilometres away on the horizon it was like being beaten on the stomach, harder than I was ever beat over 30 years of Kyokushin. As the truck got closer I almost panicked by the people's sadness... they were all broken. São Paulo city was not new about tragedies... we got civil wars, massacres, public executions, dystopian like crime, pandemics, mass murderers, suicide cults and every thing on the package... never in my life I saw São Paulo silenced by sadness, specially on a working Thursday. I didn't wanted to stay there, but couldn't move away.

To me, the man and the driver are lesser things... I don't admire too much the driver and don't care for the man... but the myth he became is another story. I still feel my spine going beyond 0ºC every time I see images from that day... felt the cramps when the people from Honda unleashed his ghost over Suzuka (still feel every time I watch that). To me, this is Imola 94:

Now, picture around 50km of it all.
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