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Imola - 20 years on

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    :worship: RIP Sir Jack Brabham AO, OBE (1926-2014) 3 World Titles, Legend.



      McLaren boss Ron Dennis looks back at his hugely successful partnership with Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian won all three of his world titles with the British team.

      Awesome watch. Love or hate Ron, he has given his life to the sport, and you can tell what Senna meant to him.
      Originally posted by brasher
      TJ is 99% African American.


        Disappointed I missed this thread last week. I didn't even think to look in the Motorsport section...
        A copy of the Facebook post I put up on the 1st May.

        On this day, 20 years ago, I remember sitting at school in my senior year, surrounded by close friends as I was crying (yep, I'll admit it here) about my hero, Ayrton Senna, dying. Even today I don't understand why I cried that day. Thank you for some amazing memories, Donnington 1993, Japan 1988 and Monaco 1988 during qualifying. Although I still love F1 today, it certainly lost that something special on that terrible weekend at Imola.
        I'd never admitted before, other than the few friends that were around me, that I cried that day.

        Yes, I know, it wasn't actually on the 1st May that I would have been at school, I watched the race on the 2nd May (we always video taped the races so Dad and I could watch them together the next morning), the Labour Day public holiday in Brisbane, then was at school on the 3rd, but meh, details like that don't matter.

        I still have the VHS tape of the race and a lot of the news stories from around the time. I'll never, ever throw that VHS away.

        Like a few others here, I work with a Brazilian who was 15 at the time Ayrton died. Like millions of others he lined the funeral procession as well, he said it was the most humbling experience that he's ever felt. The area where he was, was dead quite, which for a Brazilian is pretty much impossible. Must have been amazing.
        I survived the patio flooding catastrophe of 2012.


          I know this a bit old now, but BBC showed this on Sunday - enjoy before its deleted by FOM

          Originally posted by brasher
          TJ is 99% African American.


            I remember ray martin or someone on channel 9 interviewing senna back in 92 or 93 - was a good interivew, was for 60 minutes I think.... never seen it since, but it's one of my major memories of seeing him back on tv...


              Imola - 25 years old.

              Still just as sad thinking about this weekend

              Vale Roland - 30/04/94
              Originally posted by brasher
              TJ is 99% African American.


                Autosport's recent podcast on Senna seemed fair & balanced. He was human & he made mistakes.
                Ross Brawn reckons Schumacher in a Benetton would've beaten Senna in a Williams, even in '96 (Damon's championship year) with what they had in the pipeline & if MS had hung around instead of jumping over to Ferrari.
                Who knows how good Bruno Senna could've been without Ayrton's crash? Lot of what-ifs.
                He jerked off with the determination of someone within sight of Everestís summit, having lost all his friends and Sherpas, having run out of supplemental oxygen, but preferring death to failure.


                  Autosport plus - Berger on Senna

                  Few people in motor racing knew Ayrton Senna better than Gerhard Berger. They first came across each other when they were competing in Formula 3 in 1983, and over the years as they moved up the ranks in grand prix racing, they became friends.

                  Somehow the intensely driven and competitive Brazilian gelled with the laidback practical joker from Austria, and when they came together at McLaren in 1990 their relationship became even closer, as they spent time together both at and away from the circuits.

                  Berger was Senna's team-mate for three full seasons - one more than Alain Prost. That gave him a special insight into what made his friend and rival tick on and off the track.

                  "We met each other in F3," he recalls. "We always liked each other from the beginning. I remember I bought an F3 car from Dick Bennetts, and Ayrton was driving for him, so the year after when I had the car I went sometimes to ask for spare parts or whatever, and Ayrton was always there.

                  "But then we had this bloody race in Macau, and he won the race, and I was third. And I had the quickest lap, but I saw in my [own] sheet I didn't have the quickest lap - somehow they did a mistake, Ayrton had the quickest lap. For me it wasn't important. So in the evening we went to a party and Ayrton came over and said, 'You don't have the quickest lap!'

                  "Then I realised how competitive he is, and how he wants just everything for him. That I experienced later even more! But putting this on the side, I always liked him, we always had a good chemistry, the chemistry worked, and we always had a good mixture between fighting each other and having fun, and that went until the last day."

                  Senna arrived in F1 at the start of 1984 with Toleman, and Berger joined him on the grid that summer when he had his first outings with ATS. They remained friendly over the next few years, as both became major players in the championship.

                  Then in 1990 their relationship moved to a different level when Berger did a straight swap with Prost, moving over from Ferrari to replace the Frenchman at McLaren. Senna's relationship with Prost had broken down during the tumultuous 1989 season amid suggestions of special treatment for the Brazilian from Honda. Their on-track clash at Suzuka was the final straw.

                  "I think for him it was a big relief, because he had a difficult time, as he was so competitive," adds Berger.

                  "I want to say here, I like Prost also, I have a very good relationship with Alain, and I respect him. He's a great, great, great race driver.

                  "He was the first guy I remember who started to practice pit entry and pit exit in a different way to anybody else did before"
                  Gerhard Berger
                  "But the truth is, Ayrton was quick. And all the data, you could see it. Ayrton was quicker, whenever, wherever, except in Paul Ricard, that was Alain's place.

                  "Then obviously with all the discussions of a better engine, not a better engine, it was more about politics and having different material than the facts.

                  "As I explained before how competitive Ayrton was, he was suffering so much to see on the data that he was quicker, and then it did not came across anymore. So Ayrton was quite damaged after these years. When I came in, things started to cool down, and it was relaxed."

                  Berger soon discovered that Senna was like no team-mate he'd had previously.

                  "All the others were schoolboys against him! No really, because he had the full package," says Berger.

                  "He was fast, and then he was maybe more focused than any of the others, he was talented more than any of the others, he was more experienced than anyone else, because he started when he was three years old in karting. When he came to F1 he already had 400 starts behind him.

                  "So I studied him in the first year, 'what can I put my finger on to beat him, or to get him out of shape?' It's very difficult, you didn't find any weakness on the guy around the racetrack, or the racecar.

                  "He was different. He was so interested in everything. I think most of us dream of being an F1 driver, then you arrive there, then you are a star there, great, you do the best job driving, you get your physical condition right. Then you have a couple of guys who are doing much more. Like Ayrton.

                  "The race was finished, for him on his plane the most important thing was the video. He'd sit there and watch the race again. Schumacher was the same. He just followed everything from karting until F1 so closely, he knows every overtake, when it happened, inside, outside, why did it work out.

                  "He was the first guy I remember who started to practice pit entry and pit exit in a different way to anybody else did before. He went out on Friday morning, free practice, it didn't matter at all what lap time you are doing.

                  "For him the most important thing was he overtook you in free practice like it was for his life. And you'd think, 'why is he doing it? He's completely mad'.

                  "But what it means is after a while you look in the mirror you see the yellow helmet and you go to the side because you think, 'I don't want any trouble!'. He tried to make everything perfect. Pit entry... Faster than any of the others. Today it's very normal, but at the time, it wasn't. And you didn't have a speed limiter, so really you could make lap time out of there."

                  Nevertheless, Berger was quick enough to keep Senna on his toes: "We had bloody hard racing at the time, really hard. I remember Imola once, he went on pole, I went out, I went on pole, he went out on pole, four or five times, again another fresh set.

                  "He got out of the car, came over to my car, and said, 'Listen, should we stop, or should we go even more into dangerous things?' I said, 'Let's go!' So it was really tough."

                  "When I found out that he was giving me the win, I didn't like it, and I didn't appreciate it. But it happened"
                  Gerhard Berger
                  Berger says that Prost always remained the guy who Senna respected most.

                  "At the end of the day, who really challenged him to the maximum?" he asks. "I would say lap-time wise I was quite close with him, maybe the closest, I don't know. But on challenge for race wins, it was Alain, because Alain was very good when it comes to reading a race, setting up the car, and getting race wins.

                  "So when I said before about the speed, that's one thing, and that's very important for a race driver, but I think Alain was for him the biggest challenge."

                  Having lost to Prost in 1989, Senna would win the world championship in both '90 and '91. In the second season he acknowledged Berger's help by handing him victory at Suzuka at the last corner, although Berger was not comfortable with the gesture.

                  "I didn't like it," he says. "The shit with it was he was fighting for the championship. For me it was clear at a certain point I will not win this championship any more, it was impossible, he will win.

                  "So for me it will be clear, not to help him, but I'm not going to hold him up in lap time. When we come to the first corner both next to each other, OK go on. Things like this were clear for me, and he appreciated that very much. There were a couple of races before where things happened.

                  "Then this race I was on pole position, he was second, and I was trying to win the race. I was leading, and then my bloody exhaust broke, so Ayrton had to go, and he went into the lead. And then last lap when he started to slow down, I thought it's fair, now he has a problem.

                  "And then I could win, and I thought I won it because he also had a problem, and I just found it fair. But then when I found out that he was giving me the win, I didn't like it, and I didn't appreciate it. But it happened. If I knew at this stage, I would lift off too."

                  Over the three years together Berger and Senna grew even closer, their relationship famously enlivened by the Austrian's practical jokes. Briefcases thrown out of helicopters, a plague of frogs in a hotel room, a pornographic picture glued into a passport - the stories are legion.

                  "He got me a couple of times," says Berger. "The funny thing is nearly every race, especially testing, that something was going on like this, and it made it a good time.

                  "I think I was the only one he let in. I was quite close with him. We've been good friends, and we had a good relationship. We discussed our contracts.

                  "Before, Ron [Dennis] dealt with Prost on one side, Ayrton on the other side. But now with us, me and Ayrton were always linked together, so I knew what he was telling him, and he knew what he was telling me, so we've been quite transparent. So contract negotiations and things like this were fine.

                  "And also when Honda left, he was the first one who came to me and said, 'Gerhard, be careful, Honda is leaving, you are just discussing your contract. Nobody knows yet, even Ron doesn't know yet...'

                  "I thought, 'what am I going to do? I'm going to Ferrari'. I said, 'Now Ayrton, I'm going to put one thing in the contract, I don't care how much money, I don't care what conditions, I just put one thing in the contract... You're not going to be my team-mate anymore!'"

                  Berger duly went to Ferrari in 1993, and the following year Senna moved to Williams after six incredible seasons at McLaren.

                  "We had this Roland accident, and we came out from the drivers' briefing, and Ayrton came to me and he said, 'Gerhard next week we need to do more for safety'"
                  Gerhard Berger
                  His third race with his new team was at Imola, where Berger had endured a fiery crash in 1989.

                  "I had the accident a few years before in the same place," he says. "I was in hospital, and he called me.

                  "He said, 'Gerhard, how are you?' I'm OK, it's still hurting, everything. I said, 'You know what Ayrton, we need to move this wall, because one day somebody is going to die there.' He said, 'You're right, you're right.'

                  "So we fixed how we can go therefor the next test and see how we can push the organiser to put this wall at Tamburello away.

                  "And Ayrton and myself, we walked out from the pit - I remember it like yesterday - together next to each other, wearing overalls, to see what we do with this wall.

                  "I remember we arrived there, we looked over the wall, and there's a river behind. We looked at each other and thought there is nothing really we can do, because there's no space behind.

                  "At this time we didn't think about putting a chicane or whatever, we just accepted it. And we walked back, and we didn't do anything. That was exactly the place where he died, where we were standing."

                  The 1994 Imola weekend was to be one of the darkest in motorsport's history. A huge crash for Rubens Barrichello on the Friday was followed by the fatal accident in qualifying for Roland Ratzenberger.

                  "I don't know what happened this weekend - it was like 10 years of F1 concentrated on one weekend, on bad stuff," says Berger. "It was really strange. The whole story is sad.

                  "We had this Roland accident, and we came out from the drivers' briefing, and Ayrton came to me and he said, 'Gerhard next week we need to do more for safety.'

                  "He'd been, let's say, even more pushy than me on these things, because when he had something in his head, he went for it. I said, 'Yeah we can do it, let's see.'

                  "Then I remember we went to the starting grid. He was on pole with the Williams, and I was just behind with the Ferrari. As a Ferrari driver you're always the big star in Imola, and I remember the people were all shouting, and I was out of the car, and he was still in the car. I remember looking at him, and he was laughing under the helmet...

                  "I've been happy when there was something good for him, and he was happy when there was something good for me. So that was my last eye contact that I had with him.

                  "Then we had the start, and the second lap or whenever it was, I think Michael [Schumacher] was behind him and I was just behind Michael, and I remember exactly when he started to go off. I looked and I said that's a good angle, no problem, because it was not head on. Then we came back to the starting grid, and they stopped the race.

                  "Bernie [Ecclestone] came and said, 'He's out of the car,' and in our language 'out of the car' means he's OK. So I didn't even ask, they're just cleaning the circuit and putting the rubbish away. I didn't even think about any bad things. I was waiting for the restart, we had a couple of laps, and then I had a damper problem at the back, and I stopped.

                  "His dream was to go to Ferrari, he always told me 'Gerhard I want one day to be in Ferrari, but I just have never seen the moment where they've been good enough that I know that I can deliver'"
                  Gerhard Berger
                  "I went into the garage. I remember I was sitting on the desk, and people came and said, 'You know Ayrton is fighting for life, it's very difficult, and he's in very bad shape.'

                  "At the same time I remember hearing a bang and mechanics flying through the air - that was [Michele] Alboreto [losing a wheel], just in front of our pits. And then people came again to me and said, 'It doesn't look too good for Ayrton.' I could not believe it, it didn't look that bad.

                  "I called Josef Leberer, he's another Austrian, who was our physio. We took a helicopter and flew to Bologna to ask what the situation was. And when we arrived in Bologna we came in, and they positioned us in front of the operation room, and told us that it's quite critical, and so on.

                  "And then Sid Watkins came out of the operation room and said, 'It doesn't look good, but would you like to see him?' I was surprised, but I said, 'Yeah.'

                  "So Josef and myself, we saw him in the operation room. They were still doing something on his head, but honestly I think he was dead already. We stayed in front of him for a while, and then we left, and then immediately after this they said, 'Yes, he's dead'."

                  The aftermath of Imola was a difficult time for all the drivers, and especially Berger.

                  "These things are always very hard, because you lose a colleague, and in in this case, I lost a friend," he says. "But on the other side, we all knew that at this time these things happened, and you have to cope with it. Somehow you also have a protection on it.

                  "But in my case at this time I went home and I said, 'Well this is maybe a good time to think about it, if you're still going, or if you say you had a great career, stop it.' But then one or two days after I said, 'No, I'll keep going.'

                  "Racing is racing, it went back to normal quite soon. But sometimes I would think if Ayrton had still been in Williams during the Newey times, and then it came for Jacques [Villeneuve] and Damon [Hill] - with a guy like Ayrton in the car, I don't think you would have seen anybody else winning other than Ayrton."

                  And would he then have headed to Maranello?

                  "His dream was to go to Ferrari," concludes Berger. "He always told me 'Gerhard, I want to be in Ferrari one day, but I just have never seen the moment where they've been good enough that I know that I can deliver.'

                  "I think everyone loves to be at Ferrari one time, but then you have the guys like Lewis [Hamilton], like Ayrton, that finally prefer to do it when they know that the package is together there."

                  Berger remains convinced that Senna would have gone on to lead his country.

                  "People ask me 'what would he do today?'," he says. "Schumacher, I would see him running Ferrari, and Ayrton I can see as the president of Brazil, absolutely, 100%. When the funeral happened, you couldn't believe it. There were 10kms of people in a row following the coffin. Unreal.

                  "You can be talented, you can work hard, you can be lucky to have the right car, the right team, you can have wins. But you cannot buy charm, and your personality.

                  "And Ayrton was a personality - and I remember when we were together in the team, whenever we came to a country everybody wanted to meet him, up to the president.

                  "There was a request from the president, 'Can I meet Ayrton Senna?, and I was sitting there! He had this special charm, and he used it. He knew very, very well how to play it."
                  Originally posted by brasher
                  TJ is 99% African American.


                    Thanks for posting that TJ

                    Originally posted by Jim
                    I feel that rules are important as without rules there is no cheating and cheating is a vital part of drag racing.
                    Originally posted by elfturbomax
                    What has happened to PF? It seems to be diesel love now days. Maybe the name should be changed to Particulate Forums.


                      Another Read

                      Legendary British Touring Car team boss Ian Harrison was the team manager at Williams in 1994 and had to deal with Aytron Senna's death on the squad's behalf on the day. Here, he recalls the Imola weekend and its full impact on the team
                      By Ian Harrison Published on Wednesday May 1st 2019 RSS feed

                      'Ayrton Senna is joining Williams...' I have to say that even though I was the team manager at the time, I had a certain feeling of trepidation when I heard this news. It was pretty daunting, because he was Ayrton Senna... he was coming with a little bit of a reputation. I suppose we thought he might be difficult to work with - all of the top drivers were demanding, but it was something we'd got used to. We'd had Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost at the team, but nobody quite knew what Ayrton would be like. Still, we were professional and we knew what we were doing.

                      I first met him at Williams' factory over the winter, probably at the start of 1994. He popped in for five minutes to say hello and he was quite quiet and extremely polite. That was the thing that immediately struck me about him. He was very calm. He was direct and matter-of-fact. You could see he was trying to weigh the place up because we were different to McLaren, where he'd been for six years. McLaren had been moulded around him and he had to start that process all over again with us, but we were determined to make him feel as welcome as possible.

                      The relationship was very new at the first race and, after first practice, we were in the debrief room looking at the time sheets. Ayrton's race engineer, David Brown, said something like, "Bloody Senna is always there or thereabouts isn't he?" to no one in particular. Ayrton, who was sitting next to him, just looked sideways with an enquiring look. David turned the colour of a beetroot. "Sorry mate, force of habit," he said. There was a good atmosphere about the place.

                      Although things hadn't been going well over the start of the season, there was no panic from Ayrton himself. He was calm and determined to help the team get to the root of any problems we had with the car. He got his head down, worked with the team and was pulling us in the right direction. He was prepared to work - and to work hard. He wasn't jumping up and down when things weren't going right. After he spun off in Interlagos chasing Michael Schumacher, he came back into the garage where I was with David. He apologised for going off and said that it wouldn't happen again. I think that really summed up the bloke.

                      Still, working at Williams, the pressure was always on. And after two non-finishes in the first two races of 1994, it was really on. There wasn't a 'let's wait and see' attitude. Things had to change and we were pushing hard. It had become clear that something was not right with the pace of the car Senna and Damon Hill had, and the engineers were trying to figure out what it was. It was down to the powers that be, Adrian Newey and Patrick Head, to sort it out and they'd identified that there was something amiss and that it was an aerodynamic issue of some kind. There was a frustration and we were wondering why the car wasn't quicker because, by rights, it should've been.

                      It wasn't that the car lacked outright pace. Ayrton had put the thing on pole for the first two races, but it was a struggle when the green light came on; we didn't seem to have race pace and Ayrton had retired from the opening two grands prix of the season. We'd only had one podium with Hill, but Williams weren't the sort of team that panicked. We started going through everything properly and methodically and we'd put some upgrades on the car for the race in Italy. By the time we got to Imola that weekend, everybody was gagging for a result.

                      Qualifying on Friday went well for us. Senna went out and did 1m21.5s, which was half a second faster than Michael Schumacher's Benetton; Damon was seventh. Apart from a spin by Damon, I can't remember any huge dramas for our team, but that wasn't the case everywhere. Rubens Barrichello (Jordan) had a major off at Variante Bassa and was knocked unconscious. It was a big accident but he survived it and things carried on as usual.

                      Then we got to Saturday qualifying and Roland Ratzenberger's accident. It was 20 minutes into the final session of the day and Ayrton hadn't even gone out to do a time by that stage. Damon had done some laps and was second fastest in the session, which was enough to put him fourth on the grid. Then there was a red flag and the news began to filter back to us that Roland's accident had been a big one.

                      Ayrton went to see for himself what had happened in Ratzenberger's accident and he also went to the medical centre afterwards. You might think that this was an unusual reaction, but he was a humane guy. I didn't think Ayrton's actions in going to the scene of the crash were strange at the time because he was the man in motor racing. He was the top man. He was a bloke who was passionate about motor racing and Formula 1. He was interested in the sport and he wanted to know what was going on with everybody. He was wrapped up in it and this was one of his ways of showing it. Ayrton was always up front with everything and he wasn't a bloke who shied away from saying what he thought, which for me was great. I think going to the scene and then to the medical centre was just his way of dealing with it. He was interested in safety and deeply concerned with humanity. He had a thing about that.

                      One thing that struck me about Senna's reaction, though, was that we didn't really know him - we didn't know him at all. The relationship was just beginning to get there. It was starting to get to the stage where if he wanted something, he would just come and ask me. I remember before Imola, Frank Williams had asked me how it was going with Ayrton and I said that the bloke was fine but that I wished he would just come and speak to me if he wanted something. That was what I was there for. During the early part of the season, his manager would come and speak to us if there was something Ayrton wanted but, for it to have worked properly, I knew that we needed to build up that personal relationship with him so we could give him what he wanted. Well, Frank must have had a word in his ear because during that weekend at Imola, he was different. He was asking me "can we get this?" and "can we do that?" It wasn't a problem.

                      Everyone was pretty matter-of-fact about the weekend. Ratzenberger's accident had already cast a dark gloom over the paddock
                      I remember that after the Ratzenberger accident, Charlie Moody, who was the team manager at Simtek at the time, came to see Adrian [Newey]. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were sat in our awning and I just think he needed someone to talk to. I remember going back to our garage afterwards and thinking, 'Christ, what on earth must this poor bloke be going through?'

                      We didn't take part in the second part of qualifying after the red flag. Schumacher had improved his time but it wasn't enough to take pole position away from Ayrton, while Damon was on the second row. We had a shock on that Saturday with the accident, but the Williams team were a bunch of professionals and they just put their heads down and got on with the job. It's just the way the team were - there was still a race to prepare for. F1 was a lot less complicated in those days and it's quite amusing to think back now about how we used to prepare. On the Sunday morning, we would cycle through a programme that isn't a patch on modern racing. It was almost like, 'Off we go, here we are chaps, let's go motor racing!'

                      Damon, Ayrton and myself went to the drivers' briefing in Race Control and then straight after that we went into an engineering meeting. Engineering was the core of Williams; that's what made it what it was. I went through the rules - just the petty stuff like 'watch the pitlane entry', 'don't go over this line or that line' and things like that. It was easier back then because there weren't nearly as many rules in F1 at that stage as there are today. We went through the warm-up session and, again, Ayrton was first and Damon second. It was all going well.

                      In the build-up to the race, we did practice pitstops because it was the first year of refuelling. While the guys were doing that, me, David Brown and John Russell, and the engineers, sat down and worked out the final calculations for the fuel stops. It wasn't like today where you can press a button on a computer and it works it out for you. We had to look at the fuel usage from qualifying and from the warm-up and then we were looking to see what other factors we'd have to take into account at Imola. We thought about whether the guys would have to turn up their mixture at any stage, what the weather was likely to do and things like that. Ayrton and Damon were involved in the decisions too, and we came to a conclusion that we were all happy with.

                      I had these little cards printed up, and I wrote down what laps the pitstop window would be on and then I went around and handed one to every member of the pitcrew so there could be no confusion. The cards also said what fuel loads Ayrton and Damon wanted in their cars. Finally, before the race, we had a strategy meeting so that everybody knew exactly what was going on. Whenever you do that, you have to build in a degree of flexibility in case something happens or something changes during the race but that was all agreed. All I remember was that it was a pretty flat-out build-up to the start. Race days were always a blur and it was usually a rush to get my overalls on at the start because I'd be working right up until the last minute.

                      I remember one of the things the paddock was getting obsessed with at the time was Schumacher's Benetton and its electronics. There was all sorts of paddock gossip about traction control, which seemed to be the norm at the time. Ayrton himself was convinced that there was something different about Schumacher's car. I know that because I'd gone to meet him after his first-corner accident at Aida in Japan and we walked back to the pits together. Senna was still on a suspended ban after decking Eddie Irvine after the race at Suzuka the year before, so I thought I'd better go and find him after the Aida crash to make sure nothing else kicked off.

                      When I got to him, he was walking back and he was very calm. We stopped for two minutes to watch in the infield section. Ayrton said to me that he thought there was something different about Michael's car. Whether there was or not I don't know, but Ayrton was utterly sure that there was. On race morning at Imola, I got Richard West, who was the commercial manager of Williams, to get a video camera and go up onto the roof of the garages to record Schumacher's start to see if he left thick black lines on the asphalt, like you'd expect.

                      Everyone was pretty matter-of-fact about the weekend. Ratzenberger's accident had already cast a dark gloom over the paddock, and then there was another huge accident at the start when JJ Lehto, who'd qualified fifth, stalled on the grid and Pedro Lamy's Lotus smashed into the back of him. Bits flew into the grandstands, people were hurt and there was crap flying everywhere. I turned to someone in the garage and said that I thought the whole weekend was getting a bit like chariot racing. It was just 'wham, bam!' Things were happening everywhere.

                      I was the lollipop man that day, like I always was. Ultimately, we had all the top crew at Williams and it just fell to me to do that particular job. I didn't mind - I wanted to do it. I was the last of the old school and it meant I was responsible for releasing my car back into the race, with no pitlane speed limit in those days, which suited me fine. Besides, there was John Russell, Patrick Head, David Brown and Adrian Newey up on the pitwall. What the hell was I going to do up there apart from point out the bloody obvious? They were the top men in their field at that time, so I ran the pitlane side of it. That way I could make sure that the fuel was right, that we were ready to go, and that the pitstops went ok. Frank used to give us a hard time about not being fast enough in the pitstops, so I concentrated a lot on trying to improve that aspect of the team. It was crucial. Not to the level it is now, but it was vital.

                      After the shunt at the start, the safety car came out. It had been in the rulebook for 12 months and had only been used twice before, so the whole scenario was new to everyone and threw a spanner in the works as far as fuel calculations for the race were concerned. We had to think on our feet a bit but not for long, because the race restarted after five laps. I was in the garage watching on the monitor. Senna held the lead from Schumacher for a lap until he got to Tamburello on lap seven.

                      We saw the TV pictures... actually the only live TV picture I saw was one where the car disappears behind a wall. I couldn't see it properly because it was a shot looking back from Tosa. I couldn't see the actual impact but I could see the shit flying up and all the rest of it. Then there was another camera shot of the crash and I immediately thought, 'That was a big one'. There'd been some big crashes at that corner before, like Nelson Piquet in 1987 and Gerhard Berger's Ferrari in '89. Those drivers had walked away.

                      I remember looking at it and after probably about 10 seconds I just started saying, 'Move, move'. We'd seen Ayrton twitch inside the car and that represented movement. So, there was hope. Initially.

                      Then there was nothing. It just stopped. It became obvious that there was a bit of an issue but nobody knew how serious it was.

                      By the time I got back down to the garage, the flyaway Williams crew had gone home and it was just me and the truckies left, packing the things away
                      They stopped the grand prix and I went up to Race Control. I walked the length of the pitlane from where we were based in the middle of the pits, because we were the world champions and we had the biggest garage. As I walked, I started to register that it didn't look very good and one of the guys from Arrows, I think it was, patted me on the back as I went past. I didn't acknowledge it at the time but that made me think. I was beginning to realise that this could be really serious.

                      I got to the officials' office and it was a scene of controlled panic. The officials could see that there was something big unfolding. There was loads of talk going on in garbled Italian; people were speaking at 100mph and it certainly wasn't as organised as it is now. It was all a bit different at Imola. No disrespect to the guys there, but this was a massive incident and there was total pandemonium.

                      I was up there with a radio in communication with the team, because Damon had gridded up ready for the restart and the crew needed to know what was going on. After a few minutes in Race Control Bernie Ecclestone turned up and started organising it. He was talking to everyone, sorting things out. He became the focal point of the whole thing. He turned around to me as it was all getting a bit fraught and said, "What are you doing here?" I told him that I'd come to see what was happening with my driver and he just turned around and carried on with what he was doing. He was organising it and I hope he thought 'fair enough' and didn't answer me. He left me there, which was fine.

                      A couple of unofficial reports came through that Ayrton had a broken shoulder and that he had been knocked out, something along those lines. It came from someone in the control tower who could speak English. Once I had heard that, I decided to go back to the team because I needed to go and tell Frank what was happening. I told him that although I'd heard it third-hand, the report was that Ayrton was basically ok.

                      In the meantime, Patrick and Adrian had been getting on with checking the remote data, trying to see what had happened because, by this time, there was a picture of the steering column sitting on the sidepod of Ayrton's car. They quite rightly went through the data and told Damon that they couldn't see anything fundamentally wrong with his car.

                      Eventually, Ayrton's car came back to the garages. The officials impounded it, but somebody, and I don't know who it was, insisted that we could pull the data off the car - or at least get what we could because it was all smashed up on that side. We were able to get some data from it; it wasn't a massive amount, but it was enough from what I understand, and Damon decided to continue in the second part of the race. A big man's decision.

                      I went back up to the organiser's office but I can't really remember anything about the race from that point onwards. I spent most of the time in Race Control trying to find out from the people there what was going on. I knew by that stage that Ayrton had been taken off in a helicopter, obviously, but everybody was hoping for the best. We thought he might have been a bit smashed up, but that was the extent of it.

                      After a while in Race Control, I was called into a little side room where there was this Italian lawyer who spoke really good English. He told me what the situation was. He told me that Ayrton had died in hospital. In Italy, they treat it as a road traffic accident and so all of a sudden I was the 'responsible' person in the eyes of the law... I had to sign a load of papers... the lawyer was very good and he went through it all with me. It was a total blur... I had to go and get my passport, which they then took off me. Eventually, they gave it back and they were ok with everything. The people at the track were good but it took a while to go through the whole process.

                      By the time I got back down to the garage, the flyaway Williams crew had gone home and it was just me and the truckies left, packing the things away. I went in to see [Ecclestone's Austrian caterer] Karl-Heinz Zimmermann as he was in the next bit of the paddock to me and we were quite pally because I could speak the lingo. He was in his little unit, very upset, but having a schnapps while he was at it. He's a proper bloke. He kept saying to me, "Come on Ian, you've got to have a drink." I remember saying that I shouldn't because the boys were still there packing up and I really needed to be there supporting them. I had to make sure they were alright and I guess I was on autopilot.

                      We'd been staying in Faenza and the people at the hotel had been great. I managed to book the remaining crew back into a hotel in Imola overnight rather than go to the airport, which was no easy task in the days before proper mobile phones and internet access. We'd all missed our flights, what with the delay. I guess there were about six of us, and we went out for a pizza. When I got back to the hotel, I managed to get hold of Ann Bradshaw, who was Williams' PR. She was at the airport and she told me that they'd managed to find a side room for the crew to get them out of the way of the press and everything, and that the guys had got back to the UK without a problem.

                      Early the next morning I got a call from one of the lawyers to say he was coming to pick me up and take me to the mortuary. I'm still not sure why they needed me to go, but I did what they said. When I arrived, Senna's manager Julian Jakobi was there as well as the guy from Senna's sponsor, Varig Airlines. It became clear that they were organising everything and it was all under control. The people at the mortuary asked if I'd like to see Senna, but I said no... I squared everything with Julian. I took a taxi back to the airport. Finally, I got on the flight home.

                      I got back to Heathrow and nobody was there. Normally there would be someone to collect you but there wasn't so I got a cab from Heathrow to Didcot. It was hugely expensive. I got in and the driver was a typical good old London cabbie. He looked at my kit and saw I was from Williams. He said, "Hey mate, bit of a shit weekend." I just automatically responded, 'Yeah, yeah, it was,' and he told me that he had the daily newspapers in the cab if I wanted to read them. So, I sat and read the newspaper reports on the way back to the factory. I was just thinking that the whole situation was so sad. So utterly sad.

                      When I got back to the factory on Basil Hill Road in Didcot, it was amazing. There were about 200 people there and this was about 4pm. The front gates were just covered in flowers. I'd never seen anything like it. I actually had to get out of the cab to move all the flowers so that the security man could open the gates to let me in. Luckily no one knew who I was.

                      I got into the factory and there was no one there except Patrick Head. Normally everyone would be in getting ready for the next race, but the place was virtually shut down. Although I was still on autopilot, it started to hit home when I went to the deserted factory. It was a bit strange. Up until then, I'd just been doing my job, and then I started to come out of that mode. Patrick asked how it had gone after the team left and I told him everything was sorted out. It wasn't until I got home and my wife and kids came to meet me at the front door that I just fell apart. I absolutely lost it big time.

                      Monaco was a hard weekend to get through and Damon going out early wasn't such a bad thing
                      Then we were into work at 8.30am the next day. Peter Goodman, who was our company lawyer, came in and took statements from everybody about what they could remember from the weekend. The company offered everybody counselling but not one person took it. The T-car and Damon's car arrived back on Tuesday and by the Wednesday morning everyone was back in and we got on with getting ready for the next race.

                      By Thursday night, the team had run tests on the rig at Williams and tried to replicate Ayrton's accident from the data they'd been able to get from his car. They tried to simulate a mechanical failure and, from my understanding, couldn't get it to look the same as the data taken off the car.

                      I'm adamant it happened because it was one of the first times a safety car had been used; the tyre pressures were low, the car was running low anyway and it was full of fuel. If you looked at the in-car footage from Schumacher's Benetton you could see the car was bottoming out really badly from the restart. It was probably a combination of all those things that caused the shunt. I'm not an engineer but I think the thing bottomed out and Ayrton lost the front end.

                      After Imola, we went to Monaco with just one car. Nobody, and I mean nobody, wanted to be there. Of any race that you've got to do after what had just happened, we had to go to bloody Monaco - the most difficult one logistically on the calendar. The team had to schlep 10 tonnes of kit up to the garages each morning and 10 tonnes back in the evening. What an awful set-up.

                      On the Friday, Karl Wendlinger went into the end of the barrier and hurt himself badly. To a man, the Williams crew all went and had dinner with the Sauber guys - and we did it quite deliberately I suppose. We sat in their awning and tried to make conversation and support them because of what we'd been through two weeks before. That was Williams and that's the kind of people they had. It was a nice gesture.

                      The whole atmosphere of the place was down. I remember at the drivers' briefing that people were talking about the start and the first corner and the likelihood of an accident there. I sort of lost it a bit. I said we should start the race under a safety car because they were concerned about accidents at Ste Devote. I remember Gerhard Berger saying no and we had what you might call 'a full and frank discussion' about it. Looking back, I think it was just the emotion coming out.

                      Damon put the car off on the first lap with broken front suspension after a clash with Mika Hakkinen's McLaren. The mechanics packed up straight away and I sat back in the motorhome, having a beer with Patrick Head and the engineers. We weren't watching the race. I remember Patrick just turning round and saying, "Bloody hell, these things are noisy". None of us wanted to be there. It was a hard weekend to get through and Damon going out early wasn't such a bad thing.

                      When we got to Barcelona, the fifth race of the year, we were back up to full strength and David Coulthard was in the second car. It was an incredible race and Damon won. Schumacher had been stuck in fifth gear for most of the race and even then you could see the bloke was going to be special - but we didn't care. We'd won. Williams had finished first and that was the race that got the momentum going. After that, we really started to compete. It was a massive result for us.

                      I've actually got a Renault video that was taken from just over the other side of the pitwall. As Damon's car crosses the line, there's a shot of me, Adrian Newey, John Russell and David Brown. In it, you can see that Adrian and I just fall apart with the emotion of it all - although Adrian recovered a lot quicker than I did, I have to say. I had to go on the podium with Damon to collect the winning constructors' trophy (below). It was one of the great privileges as team manager at Williams that I had to go and do it. I had my Ray-Bans on because I was a mess. I didn't want people to see what a state I was in.

                      I just kept feeling that we were back and the car was better. It felt like we'd seen the light at the end of an awful tunnel. After I'd climbed on the podium and got the trophy, I returned to the team, went straight out to the back of the garage and just bawled my eyes out. It got to the stage where some of the boys were telling me to get a grip and toughen up, but after all we'd been through I just couldn't help it.

                      It's funny how the emotion of that day comes back to me when I see a crash in Formula 1. It really makes me wince, and just takes me straight back to that weekend at Imola. With Ayrton, we were just beginning to understand him, beginning to see how hard he worked and how determined he was. I'm totally convinced that, if he hadn't been killed that weekend, he would've won the 1994 world championship.

                      Like I said, it was just so utterly sad. And do you know one of the biggest regrets I have? We didn't really have time to get to know Ayrton Senna at all.

                      Ian Harrison was talking to Matt James
                      Originally posted by brasher
                      TJ is 99% African American.