As one may imagine, every Brazilian holds its own theory on
national hero Ayrton Senna's death. Most people still stick to
the steering wheel column breakdown scenario, but among those
who have a deeper knowledge of motor racing, this theory
proves to be weak.
Blaming the accident on the car's ride height or even on
Senna's blackout is a lot more plausible considering the TOTAL
lack of reaction demonstrated by Ayrton during the accident -
this from a driver widely known and praised for his almost
super-human reflexes. There's no apparent deceleration at all
between the car's first display of losing control and the hit
Senna went head-on into the concrete wall, as if not trying to
brake. He also seems not to try to protect himself like
drivers normally do before a hard impact (and in the low
cockpits of F1 cars up to 1994, these movements were often
Either he didn't brake at all - due to a blackout - or, if he
did, it was completely useless, as the car's tires held
practically zero grip, since it was the bottom of the car the
responsible for most of the traction between car and track -
transforming the Brazilian in a mere passenger. It is
important to say that Imola was, at the time, one of F1's
worst circuits, with a rather bumpy track that made low ride
heights a no-no.
But Senna had to gamble at this high speed track, since he'd
scored zero championship points after two races - both won by
Michael Schumacher - in a season everybody expected him to
"Sunday drive" to the crown. Truth is, the '94 Williams was a
very unstable car, having lost its active suspension and all
other electronic gizmos the season before. The Renault V10
provided more power that any of the other engines that year,
but the chassis was practically a carry-over from the previous
years' car, a design made with the active suspension in mind.
Benetton's born bread-and-butter, Ford V8-powered lighter car
was visibly more competitive - putting all the pressure on
Senna. Proof to that is Schumacher's winning the title over
Damon Hill, in spite of actually racing only 12 times during
the 16-race season (the German was punished during a race
twice and got suspended for two races).
Senna's character was one of never admitting defeat. Who's the
greatest, Senna or Schumacher, is definitely arguable. But who
was the greatest in the year of 1994 is not. To beat newcomer
Schumacher, Senna was visibly having to overdrive the FW16,
but the results were somewhat coming - he took all of the
season's three poles coming into Imola's race day; he was
closing the gap to Schumacher in Brazil an unbelievable two
seconds per lap before committing one of his career's rare
mistakes; he was taken out at the very first turn in the
Pacific GP at Aida, Japan, and couldn't even post a challenge.
Apparently, no reason to despair. But that only applied if you
weren't named Ayrton Senna da Silva. Senna wouldn't come out
of San Marino with anything but the victory.
To add up to the immense pressure Ayrton was under, Austrian
Roland Ratzenberger was killed Saturday in the cockpit of a
Simtek, and fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello suffered the
most horrible accident of his career Friday, nearly being
killed. Everybody who knew Senna says until today that the
Ayrton present at Imola that late-April, early-May wasn't the
one they'd lived with. It was a rather somber one.
Nelson Piquet ('87) and Gerhard Berger ('89) suffered
similarly hard hits at Tamburello, but both driver's reactions
allowed them to hit the wall in a less acute angle - a move
they probably own their lives to, even though Piquet admits
that after this accident (happened during practice for the
1987 San Marino GP) he never completely recovered his sight,
especially when it came to his sense of distance, and Berger
walked off suffering somewhat serious burns after his hideous
incident during the 1989 race. Ironically, 1987 was the year
of Piquet's last title, as he claims he was never the same
driver after that hit.
the Williams FW16 - Note the lack of protection around
Senna's head compared to today's cars
As much as the world and Brazil in particular misses Ayrton,
re-opening the suit against Patrick Head and Sir Frank
Williams is nothing short of a complete waste of time. At the
end of the day, Senna died from an unbelievable lack of luck -
a suspension bar that broke away from the car during the hit
and punctured his helmet like an arrow in its weakest point,
the junction between the helmet itself and its visor. It was
almost mystical, one of those incidents in which the "Racing
Gods" seem present; to the less rational mind, it's as if "his
time had come" and there was nothing that could be done about
Viviane Senna, Ayrton's older sister and nowadays head of the
Ayrton Senna Institute, one of Brazil's largest charity
institutions, repeatedly stated the family's desire to drop
the charges against Head and Williams during the first trial.
Re-opening this process will only be of use to tarnish the
image of two of motorsport's most credible figures, and that
of designer Adrian Newey who was also indicted in the process.
Worse, it won't bring back the fallen hero, serving only to
revive the sorrow the racing world still feels for the loss of
one of its history's greatest.
Copyright 1999-2014 AutoRacing1 is an
independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed
by the IRL., NASCAR, FIA, Sprint, or any other series sponsor.
This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without