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The after-effect of Imola and the positives to take away - An alternative look at the remembrance of that fateful weekend

Published by Lukeh

Following 1994, the last few days in April continue to bring a regular amount of sadness to Formula 1 fans year after what transpired during the San Marino Grand Prix of that year. This was of course this race that brought the untimely deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna across a very dark weekend for the sport.

Every year we remind ourselves of these events with much sadness but I feel that an argument can be raised to view this weekend in a different light and that is one of positivity for how much of an impact this had on changing the sport and the implications of safety that were changed forever following these events.

Focusing on the future

Obviously my point is not to celebrate the passing of two drivers and I appreciate the delicacy of this post – I must make it clear that this is far from my point. However you can look at what happened with a positive light. These events served as a reminder that no one is immortal in Formula 1 and that safety is utterly paramount, and year upon year fans remind themselves of that. We all know how talented Senna was but that shouldn’t take away the fact that, just because Ratzenberger wasn’t as successful, that his death comes as part of the package for how much things have changed since then and how much of an impact it had on the sport.

This is partly why I feel we shouldn’t be looking back with sadness and upset constantly year after year. Of course there is a need to remember these drivers but at times it seems Formula 1 continues to look towards the past when we should be focusing on the future.

Or, if we do insist on looking back, concentrating on how the sport has learnt from certain events over time. Part of the problem is humanity itself chooses to look back at death and remember it as a milestone. Each year we focus on the deaths as their anniversary passes, which seems like a weird word to denote such an event really, as anniversaries have the connotations of a celebratory event which is obviously not the case. Yet despite this I can’t help but think that there should be more focus on the impact they have had which has led to a tremendous amount of change and emphasis on safety and the amount that F1 can be positive and proud of because of what it has learnt.

Hamilton attaches the HANS device
Hamilton attaches the HANS deviceCredit: Allianz SE

Over the past two decades the safety in the sport has been completely transformed into something that remains dangerous but with much greater satisfaction that the drivers are in the best hands and technology to make sure we don’t experience another weekend like that. Look at Robert Kubica’s crash in Canada in 2007 - watching it live, many feared the worst for the devastation it brought but he was walking within minutes.

As terrifying as that was, to see someone walking away from that so quickly was staggering when there has been far less over the years leading to worse consequences. This kind of progress is the kind of thing we should be celebrating following the events of 1994 instead of feeling sorrow for what we’ve lost. Whilst I appreciate it’s hard to celebrate anything from that weekend we should be thankful that the tragic events that transpired allowed Formula 1 to wake up and realise work still needed to be done.

Encouraged and enforced

The reason I felt like mentioning this too is because every year we see a vast amount of remembrance posts whether it be on social media websites, blogs, websites, and so forth and each year we say the same thing remembering these drivers but never mention the after effect of what happened and what the FIA did to make a real change for the sport. Each year it brings a wave of sadness attached to it for obvious reasons. Further to this it also seems fascinating to see people mention that F1 is too safe – what is too safe?

Safety in numbers
Safety in numbersCredit: Allianz SE

When can we be too safe when a sport so notorious in its history for death makes leaps forward in offering safety in all aspects whilst still maintaining a high quality of entertainment and competitive sport? The danger that comes with such a sport means it can never be too safe and I, for one as a fan, am thankful for the changes that have been encouraged and enforced from the likes of Sid Watkins and Max Mosley since what happened in Imola.

So Formula 1 is dangerous and Formula 1 will always remain dangerous – as your tickets will always tell you, motorsport is dangerous. Drivers still get injured and the risk remains prevalent as it always will. Yet as with everything else in the world Formula 1 learns and that’s exactly what has happened and continues to happen. Every so often a major event happens that proves the always improving safety of the sport, whether it be Massa’s shocking Hüngaroring accident or Pérez’s shunt at Monaco, time upon time we’ve had opportunities to see how the sport has progressed since then and that is something to take away, something to be positive about and something to focus on since 1994.