Remembering Senna: The Drivers

With May 1 marking 20 years since Ayrton Senna was killed at Imola, the current field of F1 drivers offer their memories
Remembering Senna: The Drivers

With May 1 marking 20 years since Ayrton Senna was killed at Imola, the current field of F1 drivers were asked about their thoughts on Senna and their memories of the day he died

Lewis Hamilton

When I was a kid I had all the books, all the videos, he was the driver I looked up to, way before I even started racing. He kind of inspired me to even be a driver and of course, on the day of his passing, his death was... it was very difficult for me to show my emotions in my family so I went off to a quiet place and it was very difficult for several days to really... your hero's gone. But an incredible legend; you can still learn things from how he approached racing and how he drove. You like to think that one day you may be recognised as someone that was able to drive similarly to him.

Fernando Alonso

He was an inspiration. I remember some of the races that we could see in the news in Spain, because we didn't have the TV coverage of Formula One, but yeah, I remember I went to school - on my book, I didn't have (pictures of) girls, obviously I was too young to have girls on the book but I had Ayrton there and the same in my room. I had a big poster of Ayrton and even my first go-karts were in the colours of Ayrton's McLaren because my father also liked him. It was a very sad moment. I know there is something happening at Imola in Italy in the next weekends and I intend to be there, just to be close on this unfortunately important day.

Jenson Button

I was fourteen years old, still very young obviously but I was racing in Italy that weekend, karting, I had just started racing there so it was a massive shock. Basically the kart meeting was over as soon as we heard the news from Imola. A horrific day for everyone but sometimes it takes something like that - a terrible tragedy - to really change the sport for the better and in terms of safety for us guys, it's had a very big impact.

Sebastian Vettel

Memories are difficult because obviously I was seven years old, but it's one of those things - a couple of events in your life that happen - where you exactly remember where you've been and what you've done. I remember that I was watching television with my father and obviously as a child you don't really understand what's going on but just by the reaction of my father I got to understand that it was very serious and a big loss for Formula One.

I think only later on and in the last couple of years I managed to understand how big the loss was for the sport because I got to work with people who used to know him and work with him. I think he was a big inspiration up to this day now. He was the reason why my father decided to follow Formula One. Then a couple of years later the first German started to be really successful in Michael, and for me when I was growing up Michael was the one I was looking up to simply because he was German and we started go-karting. I got to know him very early as well so I would say in my case it was more Michael I was looking up to. But later on I understood more about Ayrton, how he was as a driver but as a person as well. I think it's a real shame that he died so early and is not around anymore.

Romain Grosjean

I think it was the first or second year that I was starting to watch Formula One and of course it was Prost and Senna when I started watching in '94. I remembered that Sunday, I was watching the race with my Dad and I didn't understand what exactly was going on and why the race was stopped and it was so long. And then, well, I found out a little bit later and of course, Ayrton has been part of the sport... Again, I started watching Formula One when he was fighting with Alain, I think it was a great era and they were fantastic drivers.
Felipe Massa

Senna had a great influence in motorsport in general. He really helped the sport in Brazil and influenced the desire of people to always have a Brazilian driver representing the country. In my case it was not him that made me want to be a driver. For me it was my father. When I was go karting, I was about 13 years old and Senna had already died, I wanted to be a driver because I wanted to be like my father. I watched F1, but it was not F1 that made me want to be a driver. I wanted to be on track with my father, to be there with him.

Senna was amazing for Brazil, of course not only him but all the other drivers we had as well. I think that in his time motorsports were better treated in Brazil, in terms of sponsorships, the way the federation looked at it and also in terms of support categories. Ayrton helped a lot with that. When I started racing, I remember that in all categories we had a Brazilian driver racing, winning.

Of course I remember the day he died. I was in Botucatu, was watching the race and actually the impact was not that big when he crashed because he shook his head and it did not look so bad. I was not very impressed. But then it would not come out of the TV, and the news came slowly. And then it was a shock, it seemed that we had lost a piece of our country.

My only contact with him has changed the way I behave now. I've always been a fan of his, even after what happened, I keep cheering for him. I cried so much when he died, I did it for a week, at home, in school... It?s a shame, but that was the experience I had. It hurt, but I've learned.

I met him at the Ilhabela Yacht Club one night, my family had a house there and he showed up at the restaurant with a woman, on a boat. I was about eight, nine years old, and people said at the restaurant that it was Senna. So I got a pen, a piece of paper, me and two children, and we asked for an autograph. And he said no.

I don?t know if it was because of the woman who was with him, I'm not sure what the reason was. But it was a difficult day for me, I was upset because he was like a God to me. I was really sad but I learned a lesson that day. I became an F1 driver and today many people want my autograph and it is almost impossible for me to say no, especially if it is a child. Sometimes it is hard, you're running, you're busy, but I always do my best to please everyone.

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