Saturday 30 April 1994
After the crash of Rubens Barrichello, twenty-seven drivers are contending for the twenty-six seats available on the grid; two of these are
David Brabham and Roland Ratzenberger, who drive Simtek Ford cars, which have the lowest performances and the fight to avoid
the last place, that would not give the right to take part in the Grand Prix, is close to these two drivers.
The accident of the previous day, even if it ended without serious consequences, left everyone very shocked: the absurd FIA’s regulation of this year remains to be tested.
Today, as Friday, the sun shines on the Imola circuit and on the helmet of Roland Ratzenberger, while he's getting into his Simtek.
Before mounting in the car, in the pits, he repeats several times to his mechanics: "I have to keep control"
On the track, in the five rounds preceding the fatal one, he commits several errors: a contact with
Johnny Herbert's Lotus, and above all, in his fifth lap, he goes off the track at the Mineral Water chicane; however, he manages to control his vehicle and to
close the lap by stopping the chronometer at 1.27.584, which earned him the twenty-sixth place.
Ratzenberger knows that he can do it better, so he decides to take a new lap.
After twenty minutes from the start of qualifications, Roland is on the straight track that precedes the Villeneuve curve at 300 km/h, an
aerodynamic appendix comes off; he tries to steer, but the car is ungovernable.
The Austrian is proceeding about 316 km/h and only seven meters separate him from the wall; the Simtek undergoes a sharp deceleration that starts from the dizzying 301 km/h, then
makes six spin and finally it stops destroyed in the middle of the track, about two hundred meters from the point of impact.
The white and red helmet of the pilot is completely abandoned to itself;
it dangles from side to side according to the evolution of the machine, then tilts left and remains motionless.
Silence falls on the track, on the stands, everywhere. The cockpit is intact, even if in the side there’s a huge hole, which shows a part of the pilot’s body.
Roland Ratzenberger doesn’t move anymore.
Sid Watkins arrives on the track, followed by Dr. Giuseppe Piana and his medical team. Twenty people around what remains of Simtek with
their own specific purpose, while in a ridiculous silence the body of Rolandis extracted from the car and cardiac massageis practiced to him.
Ratzenberger dies instantly because of a sudden deceleration, but if his death would be declared at the time, the grand prix
will be suspended; a huge loss for the "circus".
Ayrton has already earned his 65th pole position, and follows the accident from the monitors in the box,
and his eyes betray the feelings that pass through it. He gets up and rubs his eyes. He remembers the phrase he said concerning the safety in Formula One:
"No one forced us to run, but we are not paid to die"
He cannot sit there without doing anything. He must know and have the situation under his control.
Ayrton exits from the pits, goes on a red Alfa Romeo tothe crash site; then he talks to Sid Watkins while his blue hat hides some tears.
It will be the doctor, many years later to remember that conversation:
"Ayrton was very upset and cried. So I said: Ayrton, listen to me, you've already won three world titles, you're the
fastest man in the world. -I knew he loved to fish and so i said: Why don’t you retire? I’ll retreat, me too,and we’ll go fishing
together. And he answered: Sid, there are certain things over which we have no control. I can’t leave. I have to go on. "
After many years, (in particular after the Villenue's accident in Zolder), Formula One faces a death on the track.
It's' evening and Ayrton comes back to the hotel, "the Castle",
in San Pietro Terme. Suite 200 is his room. A shower is just what he wants, in order to reflect about the day just passed.
Although his mind flies away, his body knows that he must put something in his stomach for the following day.
Together with his Brazilian friends, his brother Leonardo and another friend, the photographer Angelo Orsi, he goes to the
"Romagnola", a restaurant where Ayrton usually dines. The restaurant owner, Paolo Liverani, still retains the receipt.
Ayrton is taken by his deep thoughts; the day is not sure of the lightest. The car goes wrong, his "Rubinho" had a
serious accident, and now Ratzenberger is dead. Last but not least, his brother Leonardo had to come specially from Brazil to bring
him a tape containing the registration of Adriane Galisteu, his girlfriend, while she’s speaking with an ex-boyfriend.
Ayrton decides to return to the hotel alone. Walking can help him to dissolve those thoughts and those doubts that he never had before.
Now, in the room, in his bed he has a chance to rest for a few hours before the grand prix, but sleepiness doesn’t arrive easily.
He decides it would be a nice gesture to expose a flag after the race in honor of the Austrian Roland Ratzenberger, if he wins.
The next day, that same flag, will be found soaked with Ayrton’s blood in his cockpit.
Click to read Sunday, 1st May 1994 !