By Jadran Mandekic
I started watching Formula 1 in 1994. Although I can’t be completely sure it is actually the first race I ever saw, the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix is definitely the first race I remember watching.
My interest in Formula 1 started at age 10, when my cousin was telling me about this great champion Ayrton Senna who is having problems in his first few races of the season. My father was regularly watching F1, so on a Sunday – the 1st of May 1994, I decided to watch the race with him. I was immediately taken aback by this beautiful blue and white Williams car that Senna was driving – the FW16. This car and livery would remain my favorite to this day. Who could have thought at the time that pretty soon I would be watching one of the most horrendous and significant moments in Formula 1 history.
Then it happened – Tamburello, the crash, ambulances, helicopters and a concerned look on my father’s face. I’m sure I couldn’t have fully grasped the tragedy and significance of these moments at the time, but I fully understand it now.
Ayrton Senna, aged 34 was tragically killed while the whole world was watching. One of the greatest, if not the greatest driver of all time died in front of millions of people for his passion and their entertainment. We are all aware of the dangers, the drivers and the spectators, yet it is moments like these (which will hopefully never happen again) that bring us back to reality. They strip off all the layers of glitz, glamour and excitement and leave us with the cruel reality: these extraordinary people are doing something extremely dangerous and risk their lives every other Sunday.
As I said, I started watching F1 in 1994, so I didn’t have the opportunity to follow Ayrton Senna’s career as it happened, but his legacy, his legend was inescapable.
Later I went back and researched his career, watched some of his legendary races, read interviews and articles, all in an effort to get a more complete picture of this great man, this genius. And make no mistake about it, he was a genius in his field. From his extraordinary races in a less than stellar Lotus, through his unparalleled run with McLaren, his legendary battles with Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell, all the way to his promising partnership with Williams, Senna was confirming with each race that he was a one of a kind personality and an absolute driving genius.
Knowing what we know now, it is almost a certainty that Senna would have won at least a world title or two (if not more) had his tragic accident never happened. Sadly, it didn’t work out that way and Williams’ place in the legend of Ayrton Senna will forever be a tragic one. But some things are inevitable and it is a burden that the people who chose to follow their passion have to live with. Ayrton was optimistic about his relationship with Williams and it has been confirmed by many different sources that Sir Frank Williams genuinely loved the Brazilian driver. They were both doing exactly what they loved and one has to be happy for that.
In the end I will leave you with the words of Sir Frank Williams himself, who beautifully summed up everything that made Ayrton Senna an extraordinary person and an amazing Formula 1 driver. The greatest of all time. Ayrton, we will remember you forever.