2004 will be the tenth anniversary of the death of Ayrton Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix, and as Imola approaches memories of the great man are inevitably coming to mind. Austrian F1 rookie Roland Ratzenburger also lost his life the same weekend but, naturally, with Senna's achievements it is the Brazilian who claims the attention.
"When I heard what had happened I was completely lost," reflected Michael Schumacher of that tragic weekend. "It was the very first time I had been confronted with death in my sport. To be honest, I thought those things were in the past and wouldn't happen any more."
"After Imola, I doubted for quite a while if I even wanted to go on racing. Ayrton was a great loss to the whole of motor sport. He was an inspiration not only to me, he was a symbol for the sport because he gave so much to it."
Ron Dennis, team principal of McLaren, with whom Senna won his three world titles, told reporters Ayrton was fully aware of the dangers. "He lost his life doing something he was passionate about and it was his life to the exclusion of many things that other drivers and individuals enjoy," said Dennis. "He knew he wasn't invincible. He knew his limits, he knew the danger, he accepted the danger."
Rubens Barrichello, who was close friends with compatriot Senna, said during the Bahrain GP weekend: "I think ten years is to commemorate someone who was very special, so in a way, for me, he has always been present. It's not that I think about him every day but being a Brazilian and living the emotion of being a Brazilian, you live with Ayrton Senna every day."
Alain Prost, who had some notorious on-track battles with Senna said he was the only driver he ever respected. Ayrton's former teammate Gerhard Berger put into words the disbelief that greeted the news of Senna's death: "He was the one driver so perfect that nobody thought anything could happen to him."