Editor’s note: The San Marino Grand Prix marked the lead story in the May 4, 1994 issue of National Speed Sport News, due to the death of popular Formula One driver Ayrton Senna during the event at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari.
May 1 marks the 25th anniversary of Senna’s death, and the following story is a present-day retelling of the events of that dark day in motorsport history.
IMOLA, Italy – Though Michael Schumacher won Sunday’s San Marino Grand Prix at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, there was no celebration, no joy and no pageantry.
In a weekend smothered by a wave of tragedy after the death of Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger in Saturday qualifying, the paddock was dealt another terrible blow on lap seven of the Imola event when Ayrton Senna crashed at the Tamburello corner.
Senna slid off the road at nearly 190 mph and slammed into the concrete wall, leading to a red-flag period. Senna was transported by helicopter to Maggoire Hospital in Bologna, Italy, where he was placed on life support before being pronounced dead at 6:40 p.m. local time.
The three-time Formula One world champion and 41-time Grand Prix winner was leading the race for Williams, the team he joined after leaving McLaren following the 1993 season, at the time of his fatal accident.
Ratzenberger and Senna’s deaths mark the first fatalities in Formula One since the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix, when Riccardo Paletti died following a crash on the initial start.
In speaking to the media following his third straight victory, Schumacher said there was “no satisfaction” in coming home as the winner, due to all the other events of the weekend.
“There is no satisfaction at all for me,” said Schumacher. “This win certainly should make me satisfied, but for me, too many things happened this weekend to let me feel satisfied.”
Several spectators and mechanics were also injured in separate incidents during the race.
The first of those melees happened on the initial start, when Pedro Lamy’s Lotus smashed into the stalled Benetton of J.J. Lehto, shearing two wheels off Lamy’s car and sending them flying into the grandstands.
Ten spectators were injured by the debris, four of whom were transported to the hospital.
That triggered a five-lap safety car period, after which Senna took off on the restart from his pole position and led until his tragic shunt at turn one.
From there, following the red-flag period to allow medics to attend to Senna and for cleanup of the accident scene, Schumacher took command for Benetton, though Gerhard Berger led briefly due to Schumacher’s pit strategy.
Shcumacher, the driver’s championship leader, reclaimed the lead prior to lap 20 and took the checkered flag 54.942 seconds ahead of Nicola Larini’s Ferrari, which finished second.
Larini’s points earned for the runner-up result were the first of his Formula One career. Mika Hakkinen completed the podium for Marlboro McLaren.
Karl Wendlinger’s Sauber was the final entry on the lead lap, finishing fourth.
In the closing laps of the event, Michele Alboreto was exiting pit lane following a round of service when his left-rear wheel came off and flew into a group of workers, injuring three Ferrari mechanics and one Lotus mechanic.
The 58-lap race was completed in one hour, 28 minutes and 28.642 seconds.
Michael Schumacher, Nicola Larini, Mika Hakkinen, Karl Wendlinger, Ukyo Katayama, Damon Hill, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Martin Brundle, Mark Blundell, Johnny Herbert, Olivier Panis, Eric Bernard, Christian Fittipaldi, Andrea de Cesaris, Michele Alboreto, Gianni Morbidelli, Pierluigi Martini, David Brabham, Bertrand Gachot, Olivier Beretta, Gerhard Berger, Ayrton Senna, Erik Comas, J.J. Lehto, Pedro Lamy.