Ayrton Senna: The forgotten Imola crash that means Rubens Barrichello does not remember being pallbearer at F1 legend’s funeral

1 May

25 years on from Formula One’s darkest weekend, the sporting world continues to mourn Ayrton Senna.

Senna’s death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix came one day after Ronald Ratzenberger was killed at Imola when his Simtek crashed at the Villeneuve Curva, and marked the first World Championship fatalities since the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix.

A quarter of a century ago, Formula One lost its hero

Senna planned to pay tribute to Ratzenberger by, on the morning of the race, placing an Austria flag in his car. He was going to wave the flag after winning the race.

Senna would never cross the finishing line.

The Brazilian icon crashed at the Tamburello corner on lap seven, his Williams colliding with the wall at 135mph.

Senna’s fatal crash is widely considered one of F1’s most tragic incidents

He was pronounced dead hours later.

Ratzenberger’s own crash has been somewhat forgotten to the annals of time due to Senna’s tragedy, but there was an even more forgotten third crash at Imola which turned out to be one of the darkest grands prix in F1 history.

Rubens Barrichello suffered one of the biggest crashes of his career at the circuit during Friday practice, hitting a kerb at the Variante Bassa corner which launched him into the air.

Despite his car rolling several times, and Barrichello being rendered unconscious, the Brazilian was largely unhurt and returned to the meeting on Saturday with only a broken nose and a plaster cast on his arm to show for his crash.

Ratzenberger and Senna were not so lucky.

The latter’s death began three days of national mourning in Brazil, and an estimated three million people lined the streets of Sao Paulo, Senna’s hometown, on the day of his funeral.

Formula One’s finest were at the funeral to pay tribute to Senna, with Alain Prost, Jackie Stewart and Damon Hill acting as pallbearers.

Barrichello, Senna’s protege, also carried the coffin, later revealing he was still suffering the after effects of his own crash.

Amnesia had set on which caused Barrichello to forget a large portion of the period after the Imola tragedy – including his role at the funeral.

“I don’t remember my crash at Imola,” Barrichello said in 2016. “I was trying to make my name. I thought I could do that, and tried.

“But my car didn’t physically support what I thought was possible. And I had a huge crash.

“I came back to Sao Paulo, Ayrton Senna had died – and even God was good to me because I had a certain amnesia. For a month, I forgot many things.

Barrichello acted as pallbearer but has no recollection of Senna’s funeral

“I do not remember carrying Ayrton’s coffin. I do not remember. I see the pictures, but I don’t remember.”

That dark 1994 weekend in Italy proved to be a major turning point in F1’s approach to safety, with Jules Bianchi’s crash at the 2014 Japan GP – which led to his death the following year – the sport’s first fatality since the deaths of Ratzenberger and Senna 20 years prior.