This year carries a large significance in Formula One lore, as 2014 marks the 20-year anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s passing in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola.
But while Senna is still a revered, global presence – and still considered by many the best Grand Prix driver who ever lived – McLaren is doing its part to pay tribute to the glory days when the two were paired together, and not dwell on the tragedy that was F1’s most horrible weekend.
The McLaren MP4/4, which Senna and Alain Prost took to 15 of 16 victories during Senna’s first World Championship-winning season in 1988, will head to Imola on the weekend of May 1-4 this year. It’s, as the team described on Wednesday, “a celebration of the life and times of the great Brazilian over the weekend of May 1-4,” and “will rekindle memories of a racing legend and a track that quietly slipped from the grand prix canon almost a decade ago.”
Indeed Imola’s last Grand Prix was held in 2006. In 2004, the 10-year mark of Senna’s passing, his teammate Gerhard Berger took one of Senna’s old Lotus chassis for a tribute lap (linked here; Italian commentary). Berger, who’s Austrian, also paid tribute to the other driver lost that weekend, his countryman Roland Ratzenberger.
The MP4/4, meanwhile, will also travel to Australia’s Top Gear Festival at the Sydney Motorsport Park March 8 and 9. That marks the car’s first return to Australia since winning the 1988 Australian Grand Prix 26 years ago, and coincidentally, the last win for a turbocharged Formula One car.
The next turbocharged F1 win will occur – fittingly – in the 2014 Australian Grand Prix curtain-raiser to the new season, with new 1.6L V6 engines.
SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.
The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.
Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.
Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.
But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.
It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.
Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.