Ayrton Senna
1994 2 Ayrton Senna Williams FW16 Brazil (12).jpg
Born 21 March 1960
São Paulo, Brazil
Nationality Brazil Brazilian
Formula One World Championship Statistics
Team Rothmans Williams Renault
Car No. 2
Helmet Ayrton 1994 helmet.gif
Races 3
Pole Positions 3
Wins 0
Podiums 0
Fastest Laps 0
Points 0
WDC Standing NC

The 1994 Formula One season was Ayrton's eleventh and last season in Formula One and his first for the Williams Team. In all three races he competed in before his death at the third; the San Marino Grand prix, he achieved pole position. At Imola, fighting to stay ahead of Schumacher, he crashed at the 190mph Tamburello corner. He should have walked away - several drivers before him had done so after accidents at the same place. But a suspension arm pierced his helmet and caused fatal head injuries.  Senna's death at the age of 34 left behind memories of a multi-faceted and complex man who was so much more than a racing driver.

Report[edit | edit source]

For 1994, Senna finally signed with the Williams-Renault team. Prost's contract clause forbidding Senna from joining Williams did not extend to 1994 and Prost retired with one year left on his contract, rather than face the prospect of being a team-mate of his greatest rival. Pre-season testing showed that the new Williams FW16 car had speed, but it was difficult to drive. Senna himself had made numerous comments that the FW16 had some quirks which needed to be ironed out. It was obvious that the FW16, after the regulation changes banning active suspension and traction control, exhibited none of the superiority of the FW15C and FW14B cars that had preceded it. The surprise of testing was the Benetton team, whose car was more nimble than the Williams although less powerful.

The first race of the season was in Brazil, where Senna took pole. In the race Senna took an early lead but Schumacher's Benetton was never far behind. Schumacher took the race lead for good after passing Senna in the pits. Senna refused to settle for second. While trying for a win, he pushed too hard and spun the car, stalling it and retiring from the race. The second race was the Pacific Grand Prix at Aida where Senna again placed the car on pole. However, he was hit from behind in the first corner by Mika Häkkinen and his race came to a definitive end when a Ferrari driven by Nicola Larini also crashed into his Williams. Hill also retired with transmission problems, while Schumacher took victory again.

It was Senna's worst start to an F1 season, failing to finish or score points in the first two races, despite taking pole both times. Schumacher was leading Senna in the drivers' championship by twenty points.

At the third race of the season, the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, Senna, having not finished the two opening races of the season, declared that this was where his season would start, with fourteen races, as opposed to sixteen, in which to win the title. Senna again placed the car on pole for the 65th and final time, but he was particularly upset by two events. On Friday, during the afternoon qualifying session, Senna's compatriot Rubens Barrichello was involved in a serious accident when he slammed violently into the tyres at the Variante Bassa chicane, swallowing his tongue and suffering a broken nose and arm, which prevented him from competing in the race. The next day Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger was killed in qualifying in a devastating accident when the front wing broke on his Simtek-Ford while going flat out at the fast Villeneuve right-hander bend and into the concrete wall.

Senna spent his final morning meeting fellow drivers, determined after Ratzenberger's accident to take on a new responsibility to re-create a Drivers' Safety group (i.e. Grand Prix Drivers' Association) to increase safety in Formula One. As the most senior driver, he offered to take the role of leader in this effort.

Senna and the other drivers all opted to start the Grand Prix, but the race was interrupted by a huge accident at the start line when JJ Lehto's Benetton-Ford stalled, and an unsighted Pedro Lamy rammed him in his Lotus-Mugen Honda at nearly full speed. A wheel was torn off the car and landed in the main grandstand, injuring eight fans and a police officer. The safety car, which was an Opel Vectra for that year, was deployed and the drivers followed it for several laps. The Vectra's slow pace was later questioned due to the subsequent drop in tyre pressures on the Formula One cars; Senna had pulled alongside the safety car, gesticulating to its driver, Max Angelelli, to increase his speed. On the restart Senna immediately set a quick pace with the third quickest lap of the race, followed by Schumacher.

As Senna entered the high-speed Tamburello corner on lap 7, the car left the track at around 205 mph (330 km/h), hitting the concrete retaining wall at around 135 mph (217 km/h), after what telemetry showed to be an application of the brakes for around 2 seconds. The red flag was shown as a consequence of the accident. Within two minutes of crashing, Senna was extracted from his race car by Professor Sid Watkins and his medical team. Initial treatment took place by the side of the car, with Senna having a weak heartbeat and significant blood loss (approximately 4.5 litres). Because of Senna's poor neurological condition, Professor Watkins performed an on site tracheotomy and requested the immediate airlifting of Senna to Bologna's Maggiore Hospital, where he was declared dead hours later. Watkins later said that as soon as he saw Senna's fully dilated pupils, he knew that his brainstem was inactive and that he would not survive.

It is believed that the right suspension frame was sent stabbing back into the cockpit, striking Senna on the right side of his helmet, forcing his head back against the headrest and causing fatal skull fractures and brain injury. A piece of the upright attached to the wheel partially penetrated his helmet causing trauma to his forehead. In addition, it appeared that a jagged piece of the upright assembly, most likely a tie rod, penetrated the helmet visor, which was a new, thinner version, above his right eye. Senna also suffered a burst temporal artery.

It was later revealed that, as medical staff examined Senna, a furled Austrian flag was found in his car—a flag that he had intended to raise in honour of Ratzenberger after the race.

Photographs of Ayrton Senna being treated on the track by emergency medical personnel were taken by Senna's friend and Autosprint's picture editor, Angelo Orsi. Out of respect, those photographs have never been made public

Season gallery[edit | edit source]

Complete Season Results[edit | edit source]

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Team Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 WDC Points
1994 Rothmans Williams Renault Williams FW16 Renault RS6 3.5 V10 BRA
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.