He was a Formula One driver who transcended his sport, a man who amassed 161 Grand Prix starts, 41 wins, and three World Championships, and did so with a rare humility rarely seen in sports today.
Ayrton Senna died on May 1, 1994, when his car crashed into a concrete barrier while he was leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, a crash that shocked the world and became the turning point for new safety regulations for Formula One.
On May 1, 2014, the 20th anniversary of his death, fans and Formula One racers alike paid tribute in remembrance of the man who transcended the sport, both with his passion and with his personality.
Statistics, in the end, don’t do him justice but always seem to bear listing. In addition to the ones listed above, Ayrton Senna had a 25 percent winning percentage and holds the records for most consecutive wins at the same Grand Prix (five, at Monaco), most consecutive pole positions (eight, from 1988 through 1989), and most pole positions at one circuit (eight, at Imola).
But he was and still is just as well-regarded for his personality as his accomplishments.
“He was the best and most charismatic race driver F1 has ever had,” Niki Lauda, non-executive chairman on the Mercedes team, said on the league’s official website. “An unbelievable character. He had personality, he was fast and he had charisma – no wonder that he won everything.”
A memorial service was held at the Imola Circuit this past Thursday, the track that took the life of both Senna and Austria’s Roland Ratzenberger on the same weekend. There was a minute’s silence at 14:17 local time, the exact time when Senna crashed 20 years earlier. Motorsports legends, past and present, were in attendance.
Fans paid their own tribute to Senna, laying floral wreaths down at the feet of the bronze statue of the driver, a statue which sits near the section where Senna crashed.
Ron Dennis, McLaren group CEO, said, “On the racetrack, Ayrton was passionate about motor racing – and it was his life to the exclusion of many, many things that other people enjoy on a regular basis. He was completely dedicated and completely focused. He derived tremendous satisfaction and gained uplifting emotional experiences from racing and winning. He was completely unique in the sense of how much of an adrenaline rush he used to get. Ayrton did not really have a bad side; he was a caring guy, he was a team player, and he was prepared to admit he was wrong when he was wrong – and those are unusual qualities for a Grand Prix driver.”
For the impact he made he is remembered, both for his personality and his achievements on the track.
Image via Wikimedia Commons