Ayrton Senna’s 20th anniversary

Ayrton Senna - Williams F1 - 1994

Twenty years ago today, the world of Formula 1 lost of one of it’s greatest sons; Ayrton Senna, in what can only be described as an horrific and explosive impact when his car ploughed into the concrete retaining wall on the outside of Tamburello corner on the Imola race circuit.  Viewing that awful footage at the time has engendered in many people a kind of “JFK moment” if you will i.e, when we recall the experience, we can all remember exactly where we were and who we were with when it happened.  Recalling those dreadful moments somehow catapults us back to that time and triggers the same terrible feelings and emotions combined with the constant disbelief of how those horrendous moments played out as the world watched on and prayed.   20 years on, and Senna’s legacy to the world of motor sport (and the world in general) continues to endure with each passing year.  Over the next number of days, many fitting tribute events will be held all over the world to mark the 20th year of his passing and today I read in the Guardian newspaper a very insightful article by Oliver Brown and among other things he talks about the hotel where Senna spent his last night (a couple of miles from the circuit) becoming something of a shrine;  suite 200 in the Hotel Castello to be precise.  Over the years I’ve made and painted a number of pieces featuring Ayrton Senna and one in particular comes to mind today after reading that article.   The piece depicts Senna preparing for the Imola race and at the same time contemplating the loss of fellow racer Rolad Ratzenberger who was also tragically killed the day before in qualifying for the same race.  The story goes; that Senna carried a small Austrian flag inside his race suit during the race with the intention of raising it at the finish in tribute to Ratzenberger.  This fact only became known after Senna’s crash, and more particularly when the medical team removed Senna’s race suit in hospital.   Senna by all accounts was a very private person and it appears he planned this tribute to Ratzenberger without discussing it with anyone.   My depiction of Senna (in miniature ) shows him in the Williams garage just before the race with the Austrian flag laid out before him, but this is just how I imagined it happening and it could have happened somewhere else.  As with Senna, the legacy of all the “greats” does over time, become reinterpreted and rediscovered by later generations giving rise to a rich tapestry of stories and images which furter underpins their legendary “grateness”.   By all accounts, Senna was a very troubled man in the 24 hours before the Imola race, so if I was to reimagine the scene of him preparing his tribute to Roland Ratzenberger now, perhaps it would be set in suite 200 of the Hotel Castello?

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