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San Marino Grand Prix, Imola 1994 – The worst weekend, part two

Submitted by on June 21, 2011

In all the drama that was that weekend at Imola in 1994, it’s all too easy to forget that we also lost the very likeable Austrian Roland Ratzenberger on April 30, the day before Senna had his fatal accident that sent shockwaves around the world.  After Rubens Barrichello’s awful crash the day before, we headed back to the track very early on Saturday morning. To read about Thursday and Friday’s memories, click here. And remember to come back to see how the rest of the weekend unfolded in front of my own eyes.

Saturday, April 30, 1994

After the shocking events the previous day and Rubens Barrichello’s awful crash, the unthinkable happened. During qualifying, Roland Ratzenberger had a front wing failure, and hit the wall hard at high speed. You could tell instantly from the TV images that it wasn’t good. To think that 48 hours earlier, he had been showing us around his new Porsche at the airport, and now I was watching the medical team try to revive him live on TV in the media centre. It was hard to deal with.

Roland didn’t make it having suffered severe head and neck injuries, and he was Formula 1’s first fatality in 12 years. Two big accidents in two days tore the usually fun paddock apart. Sponsor functions were cancelled, team members were shattered, with team boundaries fully down. Williams guys hugged Jordan guys, photographers sat on the ground openly crying, and everyone had a moment for Roland’s Simtek team.Ayrton Senna had made his way to the scene, just as he had visited Rubens Barrichello in the medical centre the day before – and as I wrote in part one, had done many times before.

The Formula 1 paddock that day was truly was a family lending its rivals a shoulder to cry on. Roland Ratzenberger pin badges and stickers started arriving as a tribute. It was another long and arduous day for the reporters as back page news began to dominate the front pages too. These stories were demanding a lot of ink. It was a very busy and moving day.

After seeing the Senna movie this month, David Brabham, Roland’s team-mate at MTV Simtek that weekend said it stirred up strong memories. “It’s strange to see me on the big screen,” said the Australian. “It’s a great movie, it captured the spirit of Senna that we all feel and love.

“To relive those events brings benefits as well – my appreciation of life and what I have in life,” added Brabham.

Back to 1994: Sadly, the terrible weekend wasn’t over yet. Dinner at the Trattoria that night was very sombre, not the usual fun we had there. Everyone one took an early night preparing for a busy race day, an early start beckoned.

Sunday’s events will be here tomorrow.

By Andy Hallbery

Images: TheCahierArchive

To read part 1, click here

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