I have been a Formula 1 racing fan for as long as I can remember. Of course some places that I have lived made getting information and news from the sport most difficult. Back when I first saw F1, I could not fathom what I was seeing. Auto Racing coverage was geared at least when I was in the states toward Daytona and Indianapolis. Over the last few years I have watched NASCAR gain in popularity, and I have seen the Indy cars/CART, and even F1 basically cut their own throats in regard to their product.
NASCAR does a great job on it’s coverage and I think the chase at the end of the season makes things much more interesting. But watching one team and one driver dominate the series over the last few years has not helped them in my opinion.
I think that the luster has been worn down off of the Indy 500 a bit, not sure why. Hans and I discussed over the Memorial Day Weekend, how it was when he and I were growing up. Watching that race on tape delay so that it could be shown in prime time on Sunday. Sitting with our fathers and grandfathers and hearing them tell great stories of the past. Hans will probably add to this in the comments, but it is just not the same now. Its not due to overcommercialization, I really cannot put my finger on it.
This is not one of those in the good old days posts. I saw the preview for the upcoming film Rush and started thinking about those races I saw when I was younger.
I obviously did not get to see Juan Manuel Fangio race. I missed Jackie Stewart and Jack Brabham by a few years. But I do remember James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost, and of course Ayrton Senna.
Going to start the Best Drivers of F1 off with Senna.
Ayrton Senna was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 21 March 1960. Senna died on 1 May 1994 at Imola, Italy at the San Marino Grand Prix. His is the last driver fatality in Formula 1.
Senna was teammates with Alain Prost at McLaren, and the drivers and the team simply dominated F1 from 1988-1991. The Williams-Renault team finally ended the dominance in 1992, and after a runner up finish in 1993, Senna moved over to Williams for the 1994 season.
Senna was beyond most other drivers skills. He excelled in racing in the rain, and dominated the Monaco Circuit, winning there 6 times. Senna did not live without controversy, as he and teammate Prost had some very memorable run ins, most notably in the 1989 and 1990 Championships. Prost and Senna each won a title in 89 (Prost) 90 (Senna) but the titles were decided at the final race each time, and each time due to a collision where both had to retire from the race, the Japanese Grands Prix.
A solid documentary called Senna, was made in 2010.
The 1994 year started rough for Senna and Williams. Senna failed to finish either of the first two races that season. He stated that he would begin his run to the championship at Imola. In Friday qualifying, Senna put the car on the pole for a then record 65th time. Senna was not satisfied with the car itself, however. During the afternoon session, Rubens Barrichello would crash and withdraw from the race due to injuries.
Saturday would add to the worsening weekend as Roland Ratzenberger was killed when his car crashed into the wall. Senna commandeered an official car and drove immediately to the crash site. He was called before the racing officials, but not punished for using the car.
Sunday Senna and Prost spoke about reforming the drivers association and improving driver safety. The race started and a collision sent a tire and metal into the stands injuring several fans. After the race restart Senna turned the fastest lap of the race; on lap 7 Senna’s car left the track and hit the wall at approximately 145 mph/233 kph. When the medical team arrived Senna was already in critical condition. The right front tire had come off and struck his helmet, with a metal spar also piercing the visor.
Found in Senna’s car was an Austrian Flag that Senna had planned to unfurl as a tribute to the fallen Ratzenberger.
Senna’s funeral followed three days of national mourning in Brazil.