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IMOLA, ITALY - OCTOBER 29: The Ayrton Senna tribute is pictured during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on October 29, 2020 in Imola, Italy. Red Bull Racing (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

30 years after Imola 1994, Vettel and Verstappen hail Ayrton Senna

IMOLA, ITALY - OCTOBER 29: The Ayrton Senna tribute is pictured during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on October 29, 2020 in Imola, Italy. Red Bull Racing (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

The spirit of Ayrton Senna always hangs over Imola but particularly this weekend as Formula 1 pays homage to the Brazilian great 30 years on from his death at the Italian circuit, including modern greats Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen hailed his fellow triple F1 world champion in his own way by equalling Senna’s 1988-89 record of eight successive pole positions on a sunny afternoon at the track near Bologna.

“It’s 30 years since he passed away at this track. So, of course, very pleased to get pole here. And in a way it’s a nice memory to him,” said the 26-year-old Dutch driver, whose father Jos made his F1 debut in that 1994 season.

“He was an incredible Formula One driver, especially in qualifying laps as well,” pointed out Verstappen.

Senna still ranks third in the overall list of most F1 poles, his career 65 surpassed only by seven-times champions Lewis Hamilton (104) and Michael Schumacher (68).

Verstappen is now on 39 top spt starts and fast catching up. He also equalled a record set by Senna’s French arch-rival Alain Prost in 1993, that of seven consecutive poles at the start of a season.

There are lingering Senna reminders everywhere at Imola

A message of thanks from Ayrton Senna (BRA) McLaren fans who were pleased to see him stay in F1, albeit on a race-by race basis, and go on to take arguably his greatest ever victory in the only GP to be held at Donington. European Grand Prix, Donington Park, England, 11 April 1993. BEST IMAGE

The top three finishers on Sunday will also have a reminder on the Imola podium, with a special jereboam of sparkling Ferrari Trento wine to be sprayed and later auctioned in aid of the Senna Foundation.

A faded picture on a grandstand and flowers and tributes left by devoted fans at SEnna’s statue near the track and behind the wall where he crashed. He was 34 years old.

Four-times champion Sebastian Vettel is doing laps in Senna’s 1993 McLaren and has involved teams and drivers in other activities remembering the Brazilian and Austrian Roland Ratzenberger, who died that same weekend.

F1 drivers ran around the track on Thursday and gathered for a moment of silence at the Tamburello curve, fixing padlocks with #Forever Senna branding to other tributes on the fence. They were also asked to wear Senna fireproof balaclavas over the weekend.

Vettel: Closest I got to Ayrton was a Friday practice at Hockenheim

senna vettel hamilton drivers f1 imola

“What I particularly valued about him, much later on,” recalled Vettel. “Was that he was not only one of the best racing drivers ever but that he also showed compassion and support for the often difficult social problems and poverty that affected his home country.”

“The closest I got to Ayrton was watching a Friday practice session from the grandstands at Hockenheim during the German Grand Prix. Sadly, I never had the chance to meet him in person,” said Vettel.

Fans and politicians had already gathered on the May 1 anniversary at Imola, some carrying the Brazilian flag before a minute’s silence. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)