F1’s blackest weekend shook the sport to its core
The recent Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Imola could hardly have contrasted more with the Formula 1 contest that the Italian circuit hosted 28 years ago.
A dark cloud gathered over the third event of the 1994 season just 17 minutes into first qualifying on Friday, as young Rubens Barrichello lost control of his Jordan and was launched over a kerb into a tyre wall. Incredibly, he escaped.
Then, in Saturday qualifying, rookie Roland Ratzenberger died as his Simtek shed its front wing on the 195mph Villeneuve curve and hit a concrete barrier. His death was the first at a grand prix weekend since Ricardo Paletti in 1982.
Visions of Paletti then came back to haunt F1 veterans when the race began on Sunday, as Pedro Lamy smashed blindly into the back of a stalled JJ Lehto. Thankfully, both men walked away.
The safety car came in after lap five, and minutes later was yet another tragedy, as Ayrton Senna, one of the greatest racers of all time, fatally hit a wall at 190mph. Shockingly, the race continued, and it gave one last nasty surprise: four mechanics hurt in the pit lane.
The race was understandably a turning point, heralding many big changes to improve safety in F1.