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Newey: I feel responsible for Ayrton’s accident

Formula 1’s pre-eminent designer Adrian Newey revealed that the fatal accident suffered by Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994 still haunts him and admits that he feels responsible for what happened on the day when the sport was robbed of its biggest star.

The circumstances of Senna’s accident on that fateful 1 May, in a nutshell, on the second lap after the restart of the race, with Senna leading Michael Schumacher, Senna’s car went straight at the high-speed Tamburello corner, and after slowing from 306 kph to 211 kph, the Williams FW16 hit the concrete wall.

He remained in the cockpit of his car, motionless, as medics led by Sid Watkins treated him. Shortly after the race finished the Brazilian was proclaimed dead.

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In a candid interview with BBC, Newey said, “It has been very difficult, it’s been 23 years ago now but it still feels very immediate and raw when I talk about it, I must admit. It was… it’s silly because up until that day I never thought that somebody could be seriously injured or die in a car that I had been responsible for from a design point of view.”

“Very sobering experience and I think the biggest thing is the sense of loss, it was…. you know a silly accident that… that had these tragic circumstances, tragic results and we lost a great man.”

“Ayrton was… people talk about people having an aura and it’s difficult to quantify why. But Ayrton had an aura about him and when you were with him you knew he was someone pretty special. Still think if he was alive today, probably he would be president of Brazil or something like that, so it’s such a shame.”

“Ayrton was a great competitor, a fearsome competitor and at Williams we had managed to produce the best car for the last two or three years, so when Ayrton joined us he joined us as a competitor moving to the team which he thought would have the best car for 1994.”

“We had a big regulation change from active suspension to passive and that put very different aerodynamic requirements on and I messed up. I didn’t understand the new… or what that entailed and so the car was aerodynamically unstable with its passive suspension.”

“So Ayrton was overdriving a car that wasn’t really capable of delivering the performance he was trying to extract from it.”

“So in that sense, I do feel responsible. On that day he was absolutely determined to win that race to kick-start his championship, having dropped out of the first three races.”

“I still think that was one of the biggest contributors, his determination as an incredibly determined competitor to get the win that day was part of the cause of the accident if you like,” concluded Newey.