May 1st will forever be etched into my mind. Even now, 28 years later I still feel the loss I felt on that fateful day. I still can see the footage from Tamburello on repeat in my mind’s eye.
As a young F1 fan Senna was in my eyes a God among mere mortals. His raw talent and ferocious competitive nature behind the wheel never ceased to inspire me. I saw him do things in an F1 car that no one thought possible. Watching him race was a privilege. Even back then I knew I was watching something truly historic. There was a sense that I was witnessing history every time I saw him race.
That’s not to say that he was infallible. After all, he was human and he did make a few mistakes. His incident with Prost in Japan for example. I wasn’t supportive in that move to decide the Championship. In hindsight I still don’t like it but I understand the “why” better now. Senna was calculating and hated nothing more than losing. Second was a failure and not an option for him. This hatred of losing sometimes pushes Champions passed the edge. I’d be remiss not to admit that Schumacher did it too. Perhaps it’s just life’s way of showing us they aren’t invincible?
Unfortunately we did find out he wasn’t invincible 28 years ago at Imola. Only God knows why he had to leave us that day. If I’m ever fortunate enough to enter heaven that question will be in my top ten when I meet my maker.
No matter the how or why, we lost one of racing’s greatest drivers that day. A Champion like Senna doesn’t happen often and I’m thankful to have seen his brilliance. I really couldn’t grasp the profound reach his depth had on the world until I landed in Sao Paolo two weeks after his death. I went to Brasil the last week of May 1994 to visit the beautiful woman who is now my wife. Senna’s funeral had happened and he was already laid to rest but the grief that still overwhelmed the city was immeasurable. I had never experienced such a massive collective sense of sadness and it moved me to my core. In an odd way it was comforting to know that the man I thought a hero was indeed respected by so many. I never felt that commraderie in the US as an F1 fan. Going to Brasil and sharing an admiration for Senna proved that I was not alone.
Unfortunatley time moves on. New legends rise and fall. Although in my mind few as great as Ayrton.
I suppose the best we can do is to revel in the victories of the past. We can tell stories like old men do and knowingly laugh with our peers when the next generation compares Senna to the next “new star”. The expression “the Goat” gets thrown around too easy nowadays. Sadly it’s become more about tires and strategy than raw talent. The brilliance of being on a razor’s edge has been replaced by marketing and hastags. Oh, and the cars sound like shit!
No matter what the latest hype or noise might be we should always remember who the real Goat is. Thankfully YouTube can let us relive the glory days and offer proof as to why Senna will always be remembered as one of the greatest who ever lived. Just check out Donnington from 1993 to start with. You’ll thank me later.
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