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Stefano Domenicali

F1 boss looks back on tragic moment Senna: '100,000 people were suddenly silent'

April 30 and May 1 mark the 30th anniversary of the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna during the Grand Prix weekend at Imola. On Wednesday, both drivers will be remembered there and Formula One boss Stefano Domenicali will also be present. The Italian looked back on the tragic weekend in 1994 with RacingNews365.

Ayrton Senna 1994
Interview
To news overview © XPB Images

Despite the busy F1 programme, Stefano Domenicali will make time on Wednesday to attend the memorial for Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger in Imola. Only then will the F1 boss fly to America to be present at the Miami Grand Prix.

"It was immediately clear to me that I was not going to miss this memorial in any case," Domenicali replied when asked in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365 about the special day at the Imola circuit.

"In my view, it is very important for F1 to be present at the memorial and I represent F1 at this time, so that's why I have to be there. Senna's death has played a big role in history, for F1, the FIA and me personally as well, because I am from Imola. Therefore I must and will be present at the memorial, there was no doubt about that," were the clear words from Domenicali, who can still remember Senna's horrific crash like yesterday.

"I was present during the race in which Senna died and what has stayed with me most from that day; is the silence that fell. All of a sudden 100,000 people were silent. It was like being in church. Everywhere, not just in the paddock, but everywhere people fell silent. Everyone who was there immediately felt as if something very strange had happened," Domenicali looks back on a moment he now knows has historically changed a lot in motorsport.

"Not only that Sunday, but that whole weekend, was tough. The death of Ratzenberger, the crash of Rubens Barrichello on Friday, the crash at the start; it was a weekend that ultimately changed a lot. Now 30 years later, that weekend still seems like a weekend that took place yesterday. Imola will therefore forever be associated with that moment, one of the most tragic moments in the modern Formula 1 era."

"Safety was addressed afterwards, but this moment also had a great impact for the track commissioners. All these people who put so much time into their passion, they do this for others and not for the money. You do this because you love this sport and that is also something that we should not forget from that moment. Because without these people we are nowhere," says Domenicali, keen to emphasise from his own background, having begun his career in motorsport by volunteering at the track at a young age.

Domenicali: 'I always admired Senna'

After Senna's crash, things have also changed for marshals over the years to make their jobs safer as well. So in Imola, many of the marshals and volunteers will be present during Senna's memorial.

"Senna's impact in terms of safety has been tremendous. After his death, the FIA made major changes that have made the sport safer. So Senna's legacy in that has been enormous. So on one hand it is annoying for Imola that people will always be reminded of this tragic moment, but on the other hand from a historical perspective the incident is huge. It will always make us remember what changed afterwards. Therefore, the legacy of Senna will always live on."

During Wednesday's memorial in Imola, politicians from Brazil and Italy will also be present. Something that shows that the Brazilian has had a huge impact on many people even off the track.

"We don't need to create a saint, but Senna was a great human being both as a driver and as a person. He was who he was and that's also why so many people loved him. Behind the visor, you also always saw in Senna's eyes a driver who was fighting as hard as he could.

"He did everything he could to be the best in Formula 1 and he was able to give a lot back to his compatriots in Brazil. I know that in those weeks leading up to the fateful Grand Prix, Ferrari also really did everything possible to bring Senna in in 1994," Domenicali says. He visibly recalls many different memories at once of the 1994 race weekend and the impact Senna had on other people.

"I also have to think about Senna's memorial at the circuit. I'm from there and I really know everything there, but what leaves a lot of impression is Senna's memorial. There are always people there and there are always new items that people leave behind. Flags, stickers, letters, always you see items from people back there. It seems like Senna's passing was yesterday and that's something that always impresses me very much. Nobody else in modern Formula 1 has left this legacy."

Senna also made a big impression on Domenicali personally: "I always admired Senna. After all, he was very straightforward, he was simply who he was and I liked that. Especially because he was that even in difficult moments. Even when he had a big fight with his teammate, with his team boss and with the then FIA president, he always stayed who he was. He didn't shy away from anything.

"I mean in those times, with those personalities, then he certainly had to have felt strong inside. Otherwise he couldn't do that battle and that's why that moment also shows that he wasn't just talented, he was a personality. That's why I admired him. Because drivers can look very assured behind their visors, but at the same time they are human beings, with fears and problems just like everyone else has. So the personality that he was, that's something I admired," Domenicali concluded.

Remembering Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna 30 years on RN365 News dossier

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