The eighth anniversary of the death of Ayrton Senna is upon us.
Since that crash, many changes have been made to Formula One car design to improve safety. Some say those changes have destroyed the spectacle. This begs a question: if Senna had survived the crash would those safety regulations be in place now?
As fans will know, Senna was killed not by the impact with the wall, but by a piece of suspension that pierced his helmet, and skull. If that hadn’t happened, Senna would have walked away.
In the 10 years prior to May 1, 1994, there were several crashes, some more violent than Senna’s, which the driver survived: Allot in Mexico, 1988; Berger at Imola, 1989; Donelly at Jerez, 1990. The threads running through these accidents are kerbs that were too big, run-off areas that were too small, car designs that saved lives.
If Senna had stepped out of that wreck, people would have praised the strength of the car. But he died, and no matter what the circumstances were for the car leaving the track, the first thing safety experts looked at was how to slow the cars down.
If you look at it sideways, F1 safety is what it is today because one piece of suspension killed one of the greatest racing drivers of all time, in an accident which, under normal circumstances, he would have survived. But if the cars had been left alone, and the circuits improved, would the racing be closer today?
I am, Yours etc, John O’Rourke, Northern Ireland