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1994: Formula One's 'blackest day'
The 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, Italy, was a race marred by tragedy.

On 30 April, 31-year-old Austrian novice driver Roland Ratzenberger was killed in a high-speed crash during a qualifying session.

The following day Brazilian Ayrton Senna died during the race itself when his car spun off the track at the Tamburello curve.

The Williams-Renault star - considered one of the finest Formula One drivers of his generation - was mourned by racing fans around the world.

Your memories

I saw that all on Brazilian TV.

My brother was with me. At the time, I was 23 and my brother 13.

Senna was a hero for our people. I couldn't explain what he represents for us.That day will be in our mind for the rest of our existence.

He was and will always be simply the best. Rest in God's arms tenderly.
Francisco Azevedo, Brazil

I and my son were watching that fateful day when Ayrton went into the Tamberrello and crashed into a wall. As the car came back into view my son said the wheel has hit him and the car came to rest. I saw his head move once more and knew we had lost him.

I and my son went and drove to Brands Hatch where we met other fans all united in grief over the loss of the greatest driver of our time.

Missed but not forgotten - Ayrton Senna da Silva.
Barry Amis, England

I was watching that race that day and saw the horrifying crash that ended Senna's race - and ultimately his life.

He was a great driver and is sorely missed.
Scott Lawson, UK

I have followed formula one since 1971.

I have seen many great drivers throughout the years but no one can be compared with Aryton Senna.

He is to me the greatest driver in my time. Senna made great records during his career - most of them today beaten by Schumacher. But I have not seen any race or driver since Senna that captured and fascinating.

Fantastic races and great entertainment.
Peter Johansson, Sweden

I was watching the race that fateful day he left the track but couldn't envisage the fact that later on that day he'd no longer be with us.

Disbelief in the numbness I was feeling, sadness in that I'd never see him drive again.

The biggest compliment I can pay to Ayrton Senna is that along with Elvis Presley and John Lennon I can remember what happened like it was yesterday.
Gary Jame, UK

While I was never a huge fan of Senna the man, I thought he was a great driver, and if I could cite a specific example, it would be his win at Donnington 1993, in the wet, in an inferior car.

F1 and the world were robbed that day of incredible battles to come between an up-and-coming Michael Schumacher and a grizzled veteran by the name of Ayrton Senna.

I think I know who would have come out on top, at least until his retirement.
Scott Lang, US

I remember it vividly; as soon as his car hit the wall, I said "He's dead", you just knew. Murray Walker's reaction was exactly the same, it was a devastating moment in motor racing history. I still have copies of the sports pages from the following day, I couldn't throw them away.
Alex B, Birmingham, UK

If you were Brazilian you felt like somebody from your family had passed away
Elaine, Brazil
Even if you were not a Formula One aficionado, if you were Brazilian, you felt like somebody from your family had passed away. That was the general feeling all over the country.

Not even winning the World Cup later that year helped, despite the beautiful homage by the team who together held up a strip dedicating the win to Ayrton.
Elaine, Brazil (living in US)

I was watching the race with my three boys playing nearby and asking questions about the race every few minutes. I was not a fan of Ayrton but always admired his talent and his aggressive driving.

At the time of the crash my sons suddenly stopped playing like they knew something really bad had just happened. My oldest one, six at the time, told me "Daddy, I think he is..." - you get the picture. I will never forget that moment.
Otto, US

I was embarrassed to say that the death of someone I never knew could upset me so much
Edward Motler, Leamington Spa
I can remember it like it was yesterday. Some moments after the Williams stopped I saw Senna's head twitch and I knew he was dead.

The next day I was sat in the park with my girlfriend and I couldn't explain why I was so miserable and upset. I was embarrassed to say that the death of someone I never knew could upset me so much. But it did and still does when I think about it.

Senna was just too good for this world, and he took his magic with him.
Edward Motler, Leamington Spa, UK

1 May 1994 was a beautiful day and I recorded the race while I attended a barbecue, with no inkling of the horrific events unfolding in Italy.

At 6pm my brother stumbled into the kitchen to tell me Senna was dead. Stunned and disbelieving, I watched the race, I felt like I had to somehow. It was purgatory.

The accident was bad enough, but watching Sid Watkins and the other paramedics struggling to save him, when I knew their efforts had been in vain, was beyond awful. Yet I sat through it, unaware of the tears streaming down my face.

Formula One changed forever that day, and me with it.
Andrew Duff, UK

My dear friend, we still miss you and the races are not the same. Only now, almost ten years after your departure am I regaining interest in F1. Ayrton, you truly were one of the greatest!
Antonio Zavaleta, US

It was only a couple of months ago that I finally managed to go on holiday to Brazil. I took the opportunity to pay my respects in Sao Paulo to, in my opinion, not only the greatest racing driver of all, but the most incredible human being.

Standing at his grave, a simple affair with flowers laid by followers, friends and a steady trickle of people paying respects, one felt a strong sense of peace - an air of contemplation as the man himself would have wished.
Martin, UK

The awful memories of that fateful weekend in May 1994 will never leave me. Formula One fans had a great season to look forward to: Senna, fresh from a sabbatical, was back in a leading team.

An incredible and unique talent lost forever
Stuart Rowland, UK
Fans who followed Senna detected something different in 1994: a more relaxed, fair and complete man, although still driven to win.

I will never forget Murray Walker's sombre address, two hours or so after the race had finished, when it fell to him to report to BBC viewers that Senna had passed away.

Viewing the subsequent scenes in Brazil and around the world one sensed we had not just lost a racing driver, but someone we all felt we knew and relied upon to shape the F1 world.

An incredible and unique talent lost forever.
Stuart Rowland, UK

It's simple - still the greatest, nine years on. Never to be forgotten by those who witnessed true genius behind the wheel.
Duncan, UK

I remember sitting watching the race, the sun coming through the window, remember the impact and then the most hollow feeling... You knew it was over. The driver you loved or loved to hate was gone and F1 still has not recovered.
Simon, England

Senna was and will remain one of the greatest racing drivers in the history of motor sport. I met him briefly at Silverstone in 1992 and saw a different Senna to the one that is predominantly portrayed in the media. It is these memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

We can only speculate on what he would have achieved by now
David Borg, Malta
Unfortunately, as happens to the very best, he was taken away from us and we can only speculate on what he would have achieved by now, had he walked away from that horrible accident at Tamburello.

His demise, in my opinion, also signalled the slow but steady decline of Formula One as a spectator sport. Schumacher may go on to break all the records that exist in F1 but he will never replace Senna in the hearts and minds of true, passionate F1 aficionados.
David Borg, Malta

I was working at a show with other colleagues and we heard the news filter through. By the time we got back to the hotel it was all confirmed. As we all worked for a motor racing magazine, we decided to watch the highlights in someone's bedroom together.

From the moment the TV was switched on and Steve Rider introduced the programme, to the end of the entire broadcast, not a word was spoken by anyone. All 26 of us sat stunned in silence unable to speak or comprehend what had happened.
G, England

I still remember the day Ayrton Senna died as if it were yesterday - it's hard to believe it was nine years ago. At 14-years-old it was one of those life changing moments when you realise we are all mortal - if he could die any of us could.

There will never be another like him and he will never be forgotten
Claire, England
It took a long time to get over it and reading everyone else's memories brings it all back. Whenever I look at the picture of him on my wall I remember what a great hero he was, there will never be another like him and he will never be forgotten.
Claire, England

I remember sitting in front of the TV, watching the race with my mom. We saw him crash in the wall, we didn't speak for at least 15 minutes. Then my mother started to cry, as did I.

An hour later we phoned our family in Brazil. In Brazil there was complete turmoil, people crying in the streets.

Schumacher would never have won if we still had Senna.

He was, is and forever will be the greatest race car driver ever to grace the sport.
Juliao Martins, The Netherlands

I was at the next Grand Prix in Monaco and it was a very emotional moment when all the drivers stood on the start line for a minute's silence, with Rubens Barrichello at the front with the flag... What a great loss.
Will, UK

Though I was only eight-years-old, the horror of the race to me was still apparent. I had watched Grand Prix since I was five, and Ayrton was the inspiration. He was and forever will be my favourite driver, and by far and away betters any achievement Schumacher may achieve.
Matt, England

The greatest driver of them all. From the great duels with Prost to the astonishing qualifying laps, he was simply the best.
Chris Schnauz, US

I was inconsolable for the next two days
Yorick, UK
They say that you can remember the place where you where when famous people died. I am now 21 and the only significant death that I remember from those years is Ayrton Senna da Silva - the greatest, most noble and talented racing driver that was and will be.

I was inconsolable for the next two days, sitting at the bottom of the garden on my swing wondering why the one genius of the sport that made F1 alive for me could be so tragically taken.

To this day there is a large photo of him on my wall. Ayrton Senna, the greatest, may he RIP.
Yorick, UK

I remember the race vividly. The sombre mood at the beginning of the race was added to by the huge smash at the start involving two cars.

Perhaps the thing that sticks in my mind most of all is the drained voice of Murray Walker, who had to keep commentating despite seeing a friend die in an awful accident, and the tears of Michael Schumacher, Nicola Larini and Mika Hakkinen on the podium at the end of the race.
Sean Murray, UK

Everyone had that 'What happened?' look in their eyes
Muhammad Hussein, Brazil
Since the death of the president Tancredo Neves in 1985 there hasn't been such a dark and sad day in Brazil. Everyone had that "What happened?" look in their eyes. No-one wanted to believe in what was going on.

It was about 1614, a sunny afternoon in Sao Paulo, when the news came: Ayrton Senna was dead. All TV [channels] instantly turned programmes into specials about Senna. In the morning after, the whole city stopped.
Muhammad Hussein, Brazil

I remember it vividly. It was the first Grand Prix I had missed for ages - my parents and I were house hunting at the time.

I remember flicking the TV on in the evening, still a bit shocked after Roland Ratzenberger had been killed the previous day, only to be greeted by a very sombre Steve Rider explaining the terrible events of that day. I had to listen to every news bulletin the following day - even though they were all saying the same thing, as I just couldn't believe he was gone.
David Turner, UK

I feel F1 died on that day
Paul Fitzsimmons, England
It was a beautiful day. I decided to go for a bike ride and tape the Grand Prix. I can remember cycling along the banks of the River Mersey thinking how the race was going.

When I got home my wife said your best friend (Senna) has had a crash and is possibly dead, I couldn't believe the scenes I was watching on TV. He is the greatest F1 driver I have ever watched and I feel F1 died on that day - the sport has never been quite the same.
Paul Fitzsimmons, England

I remember the day well - I had seen Roland Ratzenberger, the young Austrian driver whose rise to Formula One I had followed, killed instantly in practice preceding the race.

With pictures of a driver receiving heart massage in vain fresh in my mind, I decided instead of watching the race to go to a classic car show in Birmingham.

Just before I caught the bus home I called to find out the results. My mother told me the news that Senna was dead and I thought she was joking. When I realised, I told my partner and we sat on the bus home in silence.

When I got home, I watched the highlights, but the accident and the aftermath were never shown. I've had to turn to the internet to see it. What a shock - for one of the few races I've missed watching, to end in such tragedy. There will never be another Senna.
Flash Wilson, UK

I had watched Grand Prix races for many years and had finally convinced my girlfriend to sit and watch and entire GP. It was certainly one to remember but for all the wrong reasons, as this was the last race of the great Ayrton Senna.

Amazed, shocked and stunned, we sat watching a sad turning point in GP history.
Jonathan Holmes

To me Ayrton was invincible
Helen, Scotland
This was the day that changed my world. To see one's hero die on live television is something that nobody should have to witness, but at 11-years-old it was the toughest thing I had ever had to deal with.

To me, Ayrton was invincible. He still is. No matter what Schumacher does, or how many records he breaks, he will never have that little special "something" that our Senna had.
Helen, Scotland

I remember watching the race live on the BBC, like any other Sunday. I had watched Senna in many races, but this was a feeling that it was going to be a season dominated by Ayrton.

He had just joined Williams, clearly the best team and car available that year, and he was arguably the most gifted driver ever to grace a racing track. Williams had it all that year and lost it.

When Ayrton went around Tamburello throughout the race the car stuck like glue, but, when he crashed it was as if he had just let go. The car left the track before he had even pushed it to maximum grip.
Paul Henderson, Ireland

Never have I felt such emotion as that day - I missed two days of school. He was a true hero, my idol - the determination and skill. I still miss him.
MK, UK

I will never forget Moira Stuart saying on the evening news that Ayrton had died - I could not believe it, I sat stunned and in tears all evening. My mother had died in the February and now, in May, my absolute hero was killed. I still can't read stuff about the crash and his death without tears in my eyes.
Debs, Scotland

Like many others I sat and watched in disbelief. A strange feeling of numbness surrounded the whole episode. Like many others out there probably agree, the man was certainly one of the best F1 drivers to have drawn breath and I would have loved to see him cross swords with the likes of Schumacher and co. Alas, that will not be.
Leon, England

I remember where I stood, to the second, when I heard on the radio the news that Ayrton had died at Imola.

Having read all the comments in this tribute to one of the greatest F1 dirvers, I believe he would be very proud of the everlasting impression he left on us all.
Kevin Barvich, Australia

I was in Tokyo, Japan, as part of the Philippine Airline International Crew for flight 432 which had a lay-over stay in Tokyo.

The night before that fateful day, I noticed a large group of football players at the lobby and when I saw the Brazilian flags and colors in some of their outfits then it was easy to figure out that they were part of a Brazilian delegation fo soccer players perhaps on an invitational game in Japan.

This struck me because the day after as I was watching the coverage of the crash in Imola, I immediately remembered Ayrton's compatriots who I had seen the previous night having fun at the lobby, clueless to the fate that came upon their hero, the late, great Ayrton Senna da Silva. May you rest in peace my great champion.Simplicimente Il Migliore! Simply the best!
James Vergara, Philippines

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Ayrton Senna's Williams car crashes into the concrete barrier
Ayrton Senna crashed at 192 mph (220 km/h)


Medics attend to Ayrton Senna after the accident
Medics were unable to save the three times world champion driver

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