Newey: What happened that day, what caused the accident, still haunts me

Adrian Newey stilled pained by the incidents at Imola in 1994

Adrian Newey still pained by the incidents at Imola in 1994

Nearly two decades have passed since Ayrton Senna died at Imola driving a Williams penned by Adrian Newey, and what happened on the 1st of May 1994 still pains Formula 1’s most successful designer.

“What happened that day, what caused the accident, still haunts me to this day,” Newey told BBC Sport.

He added, “I guess one of the things that will always haunt me is that he joined Williams because we had managed to build a decent car for the previous three years and he wanted to be in the team he thought built the best car – and unfortunately that ’94 car at the start of the season wasn’t a good car.”

Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994

Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994

“Ayrton’s raw talent and determination…he tried to carry that car and make it do things it really wasn’t capable of,” revealed the Red Bull design guru. “And it just seems such a shame and so unfair he was in that position. And then, of course, by the time we did get the car sorted, he wasn’t with us any longer.”

The cause of the accident at Tamburello in 1994 was caused by either a steering column failure or by driver error, of which Newey is adamant: “No one will ever know.”

“The steering column failure, was it the cause, or did it happen in the accident?” asks Newey.

“There is no doubt it was cracked. Equally, all the data, all the circuit cameras, the on-board camera from Michael Schumacher’s car that was following, none of that appears to be consistent with a steering-column failure. The car oversteered [when the rear tried to spin] initially and Ayrton caught that and only then did it go straight.”

Ayrton Senna embarks on his final lap before tragically losing his life in an accident on lap six of the 1994 San Marino GP

Ayrton Senna embarks on his final lap before tragically losing his life in an accident on lap six of the 1994 San Marino GP

“But the first thing that happened was oversteer, in much the same way as you will sometimes see on a superspeedway in the States – the car will lose the rear, the driver will correct, and then it will go straight and hit the outside wall, which doesn’t appear to be consistent with a steering-column failure,” ventured the Englishman.

Of Senna the man, Newey recalled, “There was an aura about him, something that’s difficult to describe. He most certainly had a presence.” (GP247)

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