On This Day: May 1st


The 1st of May 1994 was the day Ayrton Senna tragically died in the during the San Marino Grand Prix. He died after a crash on lap 7, the second lap at actual racing speed due to an earlier incident during the opening of the race. Senna’s car left the racing line at the 190 mph Tamburello corner, ran in a straight line off the track and struck an unprotected concrete barrier. He was initially motionless in the cockpit but did move his head up to the left before it returned to its original position. The accident details:

What appeared to have happened was that the right front wheel shot up upon impact and entered the cockpit, striking the right frontal area of his helmet. The violence of the wheel’s impact pushed his head back against the headrest, causing fatal skull fractures. A piece of suspension attached to the wheel had partially penetrated his Bell M3 helmet and caused trauma to his head. In addition, it appeared that a jagged piece of the upright assembly had penetrated the helmet visor just above his right eye. Senna was using a medium-sized (58 cm) M3 helmet with a new “thin” Bell visor. Any one of the three injuries would probably have killed him.

This wasn’t the only accident or even death from the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, Senna’s protegé Rubens Barrichello crashed heavily in a practice session and Simtek driver Roland Ratzenberger also crashed heavily but wasn’t as lucky as Barrichello and died of his injuries, that was in the qualifying session. Despite this the race still went ahead. At the start of the actual race, Pedro Lamy and JJ Lehto were involved in a serious accident spraying debris in to the crowd and injuring bystanders. This accident was the reason lap 7 was only the second actual racing lap. It seems the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix was a disastrous event, with two deaths and many injuries it was a horror show from the start and with the death of Ratzenberger the race probably should have been cancelled.

Ayrton Senna was a three-time Formula 1 champion in 1988, 1990 and 1991, he has also been regarded as one of if not the greatest driver in Formula 1 history. He died tragically doing what he loved. He was also a pioneer for safety in his sport, 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.



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