Motor racing fans and politicians gathered at Italy’s Imola circuit yesterday to pay tribute to triple world champion Ayrton Senna who was killed in a high-speed crash 30 years ago during the San Marino Grand Prix.
Fans carrying the Brazilian flag walked along the track before a minute’s silence was held at 2:17 p.m. (1217 GMT) at the Tamburello corner to mark the time of the crash which cost the charismatic Brazilian his life aged just 34.
“Senna was a very important person for all Brazilians, a very humble person, very dedicated with great values who taught us great lessons” said Renata Ewbank, a Senna fan from Brazil.
“And we still miss him deeply today,” she added.
The fans also remembered Austrian Roland Ratzenberger, who had been killed the day before Senna died after an accident in qualifying. The deadly weekend in 1994 triggered a major safety review, changing the sport for ever.
Bruno Senna, nephew of the champion and a former F1 driver, was among the crowd, along with Ratzenberger’s parents.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, as well as his Brazilian and Austrian counterparts Mauro Vieira and Alexander Schallenberg also attended the ceremony at the circuit.
Floral tributes were laid at Tamburello after the minute’s silence, with fans and security personnel breaking into applause. Scarves, flowers and candles were also placed on a statue of Senna at Imola.
Senna, driving for Williams, had started the race on pole, with Michael Schumacher alongside in a Benetton.
The safety car was swiftly deployed after Portugal’s Pedro Lamy ploughed into JJ Lehto’s stalled Benetton on the grid. Shortly after the re-start, Senna’s car speared into a concrete wall at Tamburello.
The Brazilian was flown to hospital while the race was re-started and won by Schumacher. At 6:40 p.m. local time, nearly two and a half hours later, it was announced that Senna had died.
Meanwhile former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone regrets prematurely informing Senna’s brother the three-time world champion had died after his crash telling it caused “unnecessary trouble.”
Ecclestone said he had misheard F1 doctor Sid Watkins.
“As soon as Senna’s accident happened I went into the control tower,” Ecclestone said by phone from Portugal.
“Sid Watkins was at the scene of the accident. I thought he said ‘he is dead’ and told his brother (Leonardo Senna). When in fact Sid had said ‘it’s his head’.”
In fact, it was not until nearly four and a half hours after the accident, that Senna was pronounced dead in hospital.
“It caused unnecessary trouble,” admitted a sorrowful Ecclestone who had been on friendly terms with Senna and his family, and travelled to Brazil for the funeral.
But it was his then wife Slavica Radic who lined up to pay their respects.
“Ayrton used to ring my children late at night in Brazil and chat with them,” said the 93-year-old Englishman. “The relationship soured a bit after his death with his sister (Viviane) and family, who thought that I should never have said he was dead when he was not.