Remembering Senna, Ratzenberger 19 years after Imola weekend

1 Comment

This year marks 19 since the horrific, black few days at Imola in 1994, and the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger during the San Marino Grand Prix weekend. Ratzenberger was killed Saturday, April 30, in qualifying, with Senna’s fatal accident on May 1 during the race.

May 1 is poignant for other reasons; the day was also Senna’s first win for McLaren, at Imola, 25 years ago today in 1988. With the all-conquering McLaren MP4-4 Honda, Senna and teammate Alain Prost dominated the season with 15 wins from 16 races between them. It was the first win for Senna before he captured his first World Championship.

In 1994, both Senna and Ratzenberger were destined for new, great horizons before the weekend. Senna switched to Williams after his final years at McLaren were dispiriting thanks to a down-on-power engine, while Ratzenberger was due to compete for Toyota in that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Test driver David Coulthard and 1992 World Champion Nigel Mansell filled the second seat at Williams the remainder of the year, with Mansell winning his final Grand Prix at Adelaide in the season finale.

Ratzenberger’s place at Le Mans was taken by then-Jordan rookie Eddie Irvine, and the team finished second with Irvine, Mauro Martini and the also late Jeff Krosnoff. As a tribute, Ratzenberger’s name still was displayed over the cockpit.

Senna, of course, was set to pay tribute to Ratzenberger during the San Marino race. An unfurled, blood soaked Austrian flag was found in his Williams after the accident.

F1 2017 driver review: Max Verstappen

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Max Verstappen

Team: Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 2
Podiums (excluding wins): 2
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 168
Laps Led: 133
Championship Position: 6th

Max Verstappen rise as a once-in-a-generation talent continued through the 2017 Formula 1 season, even if reliability issues meant we were made to wait for his best form to arrive.

Verstappen stole the show in a wet-dry Chinese Grand Prix by charging from 16th to seventh in the opening lap before ultimately finishing third for Red Bull, yet he would not grace the podium again until the Malaysian Grand Prix at the start of October.

A combination of power unit problems and on-track clashes saw Verstappen retire from seven of the 12 races in the intermittent period, with incidents in Spain and Austria being avoidable.

Perhaps most embarrassing of all was his stoppage due to a power unit failure in front of a grandstand swathed in orange at the Belgian Grand Prix, a race tens of thousands of Dutch fans had attended to cheer Verstappen on.

But when Verstappen got things right, it was – as he frequently quoted – simply, simply lovely. There was plenty left in the tank, as proven by his sheer domination of the races in Malaysia and Mexico as he took the second and third wins of his career.

Perhaps even more impressive was Verstappen’s victory over Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the qualifying head-to-head battle this year, an area the Australian has traditionally been strong in. Verstappen outqualifed his teammate 13-7 – it wasn’t even close…

All in all, Verstappen once again proved that on his day, he is one of the finest talents to grace F1 in recent years. With the right car underneath him next year, a title fight is certainly possible and will be the target – but there is always room for improvement.

And that is the scary part: Verstappen is only going to get better and better.

Season High: Dominating in Malaysia after an early pass on Lewis Hamilton.

Season Low: Crashing out on Lap 1 in Austria.