FIA president Jean Todt says the greatest legacy of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger is the pursuit of safety seen in F1 since their deaths.
With Ratzenberger's death during qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994 – the first fatality at a grand prix in 12 years – being followed by Senna's fatal crash during the race a day later, there has not been a driver death at a grand prix in the 20 years since. Paying tribute to both drivers, Todt said the improvement in safety since that weekend at Imola is now clear to see.
“The untimely deaths of these two superb sportsmen served as a wake-up call for all of us and perhaps the greatest legacy of Ayrton and Roland is that in the wake of that tragic weekend in 1004, the pursuit of safety in motor sport, in all its forms, received greater impetus than ever before,” Todt said. “Indeed, the high range of improvements made over the past two decades are among the most significant seen in our sport.”
Having referenced more stringent crash tests, improvements to barriers and new helmet standards among other areas of progress, Todt said crashes in the years since Senna and Ratzenberger died highlight the dangers but also the steps made to protect drivers.
“The hard work has paid off. Formula One has not suffered a driver fatality since 1994. Cars and circuits are now safer than ever before. Even in the event of violent accidents such as those that befell Michael Schumacher at Silverstone in 1999, Robert Kubica in Montreal in 2007, Felipe Massa in Budapest in 2009 and Mark Webber in Valencia in 2010, and others, the technologies Formula One has instituted have ensured that such horrific incidents are survivable.”
And Todt said it is through such improvements that Senna and Ratzenberger should be remembered and celebrated 20 years on from their deaths.
“This, then, is the lasting legacy of the two men whose achievement we celebrate today. Both were committed, passionate and determined competitors but while memories of their great races, their thrilling victories and their glorious championships will never fade the sad truth is we can no longer reach out and touch the men who gave us those memories.
“We can, however, touch, talk to and laugh with the countless drivers, on the track and the road, whose lives have been saved thanks to the improvements in safety brought about the loss of Ayrton and Roland and for that we owe them both a profound debt of gratitude.”