Eighteen years ago today, the career of arguably the greatest ever Formula One driver was cut short at the San Marino Grand Prix.
Three-time champion Ayrton Senna was leading the race when his Williams car ran off the road due to a mechanical failure and hit the wall at Tamburello, a high-speed corner. A piece of the suspension pierced his helmet, killing him nearly instantly.
This was one of the darkest weekends ever in motorsports. That Friday, Rubens Barrichello suffered a heavy crash and rookie Roland Ratzenberger was killed that Saturday.
Senna was a man that transcended the sport of racing. He was a hero to his native Brazil, donating time and money to help the less fortunate.
But he was also a cutthroat driver. Senna did things in a car that, to this day, are nearly unmatched. His pace over one lap earned him 65 pole positions in his 10-year Formula One career.
In addition, he was ruthless. If there was even the slightest chance of a pass, he would go for it. As he famously said, “if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, we are competing to win.”
Below is the opening lap of the 1993 European Grand Prix at Donnington Park, England. His underpowered McLaren-Ford started fifth, but Senna shines in the wet conditions.
Watch how long it takes the red and white Mclaren to get to the front (via YouTube):
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