Formula 1’s premier designer, Adrian Newey, is still haunted by the death of Ayrton Senna—he’s not alone. Senna represented much more than just a racecar driver. He was the voice and face of a nation who needed one badly. He was a galvanizing personality and a man of faith, a man of conviction. He was a champion and he was arguably one of the best drivers the series has ever had.
Adrian Newey was the car designer for Williams in 1994 and it was his creation that Senna died in. Newey took time out to speak with BBC’s 5 Live why he’s still haunted after 19 years:
“I guess one of the things that will always haunt me is that he joined Williams because we had managed to build a decent car for the previous three years and he wanted to be in the team he thought built the best car – and unfortunately that ’94 car at the start of the season wasn’t a good car.
“Ayrton’s raw talent and determination… he tried to carry that car and make it do things it really wasn’t capable of.
“And it just seems such a shame and so unfair he was in that position. And then, of course, by the time we did get the car sorted, he wasn’t with us any longer.”
I recently watched the movie called “1” and there was a moment in the film in which former FIA president Max Mosley says that when a driver starts worrying about safety, he’s most likely in the wrong business. He’s most likely not the fastest driver anymore and should think about hanging up the helmet.
Mosley was a huge champion of safety in F1 and his statement is not against safety but rather a telling commentary on past champions and their changing opinion over time about what they do for a living. Many champions started worrying about safety more than squeezing another tenth out of qualifying and it is this moment, when the reality of mortality creeps in, that the driver considers his/her options.
Senna was concerned about safety and that weekend at Imola in 1994 had many reasons to give him pause. Rubens Barrichello had been in a horrible crash and Roland Ratzenberger had dies in qualifying. When Professor Sid Watkins could tell something was wrong with his friend Senna. He told Ayrton to simply stop. Stop racing now!
Senna explained that he couldn’t and unfortunately fate would insure that he actually did. Millions of fans wish it had been the end of his career on Senna’s terms, not on death’s terms. It is haunting for all F1 fans and imagine how it must feel to be the man who designed the car that one of the greatest of all time died in…haunted may not be the best choice of words for that weight on your conscience.