I watched as the safety car pulled away to the growls of the F1 cars behind it – raring to go, itching for the race to begin anew. The image was a bit grainy, like archival footage of the old, except this was 1994 and it was a beautiful May day in Imola.
My heart skipped a beat, just like it always does, as I watched the blue and white car hurtle down the straight nearing the corner…THAT corner. I felt myself cross my fingers tightly, like I always seem to do, as if I was trying to change the inevitable, to wipe out the past, the events of that particular day.
My heart wanted this to be a movie that always has a happy ending.
But it wasn’t.
I don’t think I could have seen that sight again – even though I know it like the back of my hand; it’s branded into my mind and I will never forget it. Instead, the camera panned to Damon Hill in the present, here and now, as he talked about that day.
But I know I had tears.
May 1 has always been difficult, even a heavy day sometimes, weighing down on me, sometimes even apologetic for what it means to me. This one doesn’t feel any different, except it is.
20 years. That’s how long it has been since that car hurtled down the straight, outpacing Michael Schumacher and dancing across the track, one last time.
Two names were engraved in F1 history – to be remembered, mourned and later commemorated – that black racing weekend.
Roland Ratzenberger, the Austrian with an easy smile, thrilled to be finally racing in Formula 1, a dream come true, died on April 30, 1994, during a Qualifying session.
And then, on Sunday, May 1, 1994, Ayrton Senna died.
He was my hero, the man who could make an F1 car sing, the man who drove through rain…who broke through convention, who dared to stand up against establishment, who wasn’t afraid to be himself, to be passionate, focused, determined and driven. He gave back to his country, and his people, and was always true to who he was. He dared to dream and live that dream. He never lost his heart.
He was everything I want to be.
He is the mirror I measure myself against.
He is my inspiration, often my strength.
He is my idol. Perfect. Yet imperfect.
Human. Yet a Hero.
Ayrton Senna, Never Forgotten, Always Remembered. R.I.P.