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Senna death still haunts Newey

Red Bull Racing designer Adrian Newey admits that he cannot exorcise memories of Ayrton Senna's death at Imola in 1994.
With a lot of attention focusing on the new film celebrating the life and career of Ayrton Senna, it was perhaps natural that the media would eventually want to speak to the man whose path only briefly crossed that of the Brazilian, but who was as badly affected by his death as anyone.

Since that fateful day at Imola in 1994, Adrian Newey has gone on to become one of the most respected - and successful - designers in F1, but the Briton reveals that Senna's accident almost resulted in him turning his back on the sport altogether.

"Both Patrick Head and myself separately asked ourselves whether we wanted to continue in racing," confessed Newey - who admits that he may not go to see Senna when it is released in the UK next month as 'it would not be an easy thing to do' - in an interview with The Guardian newspaper. "Did we want to be involved in a sport where people can die in something we've created?

"For the whole team, it was incredibly difficult. I remember the day after the race was a bank holiday Monday, and some of us came in to try and trawl though the data and work out what happened. They were dark weeks. The little hair I had all fell out in the aftermath – so it changed me physically [too]. Was the accident caused by something that broke through poor or negligent design? The honest truth is that no-one will ever know exactly what happened.

"There's no doubt the steering column failed, and the big question was whether it failed in the accident or did it cause the accident? It had fatigue cracks and would have failed at some point. There is no question that its design was very poor. However, all the evidence suggests the car did not go off the track as a result of steering column failure."

Senna's death resulted in both Head and Newey being charged with manslaughter in the Italian courts - a process the current Red Bull Racing designer admits was 'a depressing annoyance and extra pressure' - but he insists that it was not that which made him question his involvement in the sport.

"It's the self-searching rather than the accusations that really matter," claimed Newey, who continues to ponder the cause of the accident. "If you look at the camera shots, especially from Michael Schumacher's following car, the car didn't understeer off the track. It oversteered, which is not consistent with a steering column failure.

"The rear of the car stepped out and all the data suggests that happened. Ayrton then corrected that by going to 50 per cent throttle, which would be consistent with trying to reduce the rear stepping out and then, half-a-second later, he went hard on the brakes.

"The question then is why did the rear step out? The car bottomed much harder on that second lap, which again appears to be unusual because the tyre pressure should have come up by then. [That] leaves you expecting that the right rear tyre probably picked up a puncture from debris on the track. If I was pushed into picking out a single most likely cause, that would be it."



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Ayrton Senna (BR), Honda Marlboro McLaren MP4/5B. Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, 07/05/1989.
Ayrton Senna (BR), John Player Special Team Lotus. Monaco Grand Prix, 11/05/1986, Monte Carlo.
Ayrton Senna (BR), John Player Special Team Lotus 98T. Monaco Grand Prix, 11/05/1986, Monte Carlo.
Ayrton Senna (BR), Honda Marlboro McLaren. San Marino Grand Prix, 17/05/1992, Imola, Italy.
Ayrton Senna (BR), Rothmans Williams Renault FW16, on his qualifying run. San Marino Grand Prix, 01/05/1994, Imola, Italy.
06.05.2011- Friday Practice 1, Adrian Newey (GBR), Red Bull Racing , Technical Operations Director
27.11.2016 - Race, Start of the race, Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB12 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H and Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H
27.11.2016 - Race, Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing RB12
27.11.2016 - Race, Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing RB12 leads Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
27.11.2016 - Race,Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H  leads Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB12
27.11.2016 - Race, Felipe Nasr (BRA) Sauber C34 and Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing RB12
27.11.2016 - Race, Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB12 leads Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H
27.11.2016 - Race, Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB12
27.11.2016 - Race, Start of the race, Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren Honda MP4-31 off trach and Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing RB12 spins
27.11.2016 - Race, Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB12 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H
27.11.2016 - Race, Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB12 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H
27.11.2016 - Race, Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing RB12
27.11.2016 - Race, Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB12 leads Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H

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mkraizrool - Unregistered

May 18, 2011 11:27 AM

Thanks for this article and Adrian's analysis. I've never seen a clear answer for what happened and this stacks for me. I'll be watching the Senna film when it comes out.

Mark _

May 18, 2011 2:26 PM

Regardless of what caused him to lose control it should have been a survivable impact. The cause of death was a freak accident. Given that, it is a shame that the knee jerk reactions have done so much to nueter so many tracks.



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