The 1994 San Marino Grand Prix was the third round of the 1994 Formula One Season. Held at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on May 1 1994, the event is known as one of the darkest weekends in Formula One history, due to accidents which claimed the lives of Roland Ratzenberger and 3-time World Champion and polesitter Ayrton Senna. Qualifying on Saturday was also marred by a major accident involving Rubens Barrichello in which the Brazilian was lucky to escape with his life. According to the Senna movie, Senna talked to Barrichello after the crash happened.
the atmosphere at Williams here at Imola is very very professional and very very determined indeed. They are not happy with the performance of their car in the first two grand prix. They felt that certainly the outcome of the first corner shunt, they thought that Senna could win in Japan, they are determined to make sure he does win here at this weekend". John Watson.
The full entry list is outlined below for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix:
Friday practice Edit
John Watson would note "slightly disappointing for Benetton and for Ford that they didn't get the kind of performance from this revised Zetec VR engine, Michael Schumacher is checking the car all around the circuit".
Williams were still struggling with the handling of their car, Damon Hill ending up in the gravel at Rivazza.
Friday Qualifying Edit
It was a jovial start to Friday qualifying, Allard Kalff noting "it looked cold this morning, but the weather is warm, clear, dry and about 27°" ahead of the start of the first qualifying session. The first car out of the pits was the Sauber of Karl Wendlinger. The Sauber's hoping to maximise their track time after reliability problems had reduced their running during the practice sessions.
Wendlinger going on to set the initial benchmark with a 1:25.854. However his time was subsequently bettered by teammate Frentzen who set a new benchmark with a 1:24.033. Wendlinger then dropped to third when Morbidelli's Footwork also went faster. Most of the smaller teams were maximising their track time in the early moments of qualifying. Behind Wendlinger, Martini, Bernard, Fittipaldi, Panis, Blundell, Gachot, Ratzenberger, Belmondo and Herbert had all set times.
The first of the front runners to enter the track was the McLaren of Martin Brundle. Brundle's opening lap put him fourth fastest, John Watson noting "not bad for an opener" to which Kalff further noted "equalling his time he did this morning". Brundle was subsequently joined on track by the Ferrari of Larini and Schumacher's Benetton. Larini set an impressive lap time to take the provisional pole time away from Frentzen.
However Larini's pole time would not last long, Schumacher quickly took the provisonal pole time with a 1:22.564, further underlining the performance of his car. John Watson noting "I just wish we could see into the Williams pit, I'm quite sure Damon Hill, Ayrton Senna, Frank Williams and Patrick Head are glued to their monitor. Because this is the man that has haunted them all year". The second Benetton of Lehto had also impressed on his first flying lap to take the second fastest time of the session.
Watson would note "that time of Schumacher, exactly one second slower than Senna achieved this morning. Schumacher you can see how hard he is trying, right over the kerbs at Acque Minerale. And now his principal protagonist, Ayrton Senna". Senna had opted to enter the track in response to his chief rival's opening time. Senna could be seen to be immediately on the pace, Allard Kalff noting his "fighting spirit" whilst John Watson further added "well I've got a feeling that this is one of those laps that Senna over many years has managed to just drag out of a car. And this is in my view Senna at his most committed and most serious". Senna immediately took the provisional pole time away from Schumacher with a 1:22.430.
Almost immediately after Senna had set his pole time, his compatriot and friend, Rubens Barrichello, who was on an out-lap for Jordan, lost control of his car at the Variante Bassa. Barrichello had been launched into the air, and whilst still being airborne had slammed into the barriers in a full side-impact. Barichello's car rebounded off the barriers, flipping upside down.
It was immediately evident that Barrichello had suffered a severe accident, the red flag being brought out whilst Doctor Sid Watkins and the medical care quickly arrived at the scene of the accident. Barrichello had been knocked unconscious where he was left struggling to breathe due to blood flow from a cut on his face. Dr Watkins quickly got an airway into him, the medical team extracting him from the car and taking him to the medical centre.
There was relief in the paddock, there had been fears that Barrichello had suffered severe injury, however as was reported by Allard Kalff, "he has a concussion, got damage to his face, which is what you would expect him to have but he is talking to the doctor". Upon seeing the accident, Senna immediately returned to the pits at the red flag and had rushed to the medical centre to see his friend. Senna was the first person Barrichello saw upon regaining consciousness.
Reassured at Barrichello's condition, Senna returned to his garage to resume qualifying. On the way, he was the first person to bare news of his condition, confirming to reporters "he's alright. He's shocked of course, but he is alright". As the green flag was resumed, Senna led the standings ahead of Schumacher, Lehto, Larini, Frentzen, Morbidelli, Wendlinger, Brundle, Katayama, Martini, Bernard, Fittipaldi, Panis, Blundell, Lamy, Gachot, Ratzenberger, Belmondo and Beretta.
The second Williams of Hill, whom had yet to set a lap, became the first car out on track upon the resumption of the green flag. The Williams continued to look nervous, John Watson observing "again you can see the back end of the car just stepping out at the exit of the corners." As Hill approached the final corner of his outlap, he lost the back end and spun the car around. A concerned Allard Kalff would note, "what worries me is that spin looks very similar to the one he had this morning." John Watson replied by stating "there was at least two occasions on that out lap where the car was very, very nervous. That was the back end without any real warning at all wanting to break away. And as we saw Damon Hill come up to complete his first flying lap, we saw very clearly indeed, the problem Damon Hill has this afternoon, infact he had it this morning as well".
Allard Kalff would comment "who knows what's going to happen next". The statement was immediately followed by a large spin by Brundle's McLaren. Brundle ran wide onto the kerbing at the exit of Rivazza before losing the back end and spinning into the opposing wall. John Watson would comment "that is a very rare thing to see Martin Brundle make an error." Brundle would be forced to exit the car and return to the pits on foot.
The Ferrari of Berger opted to wait a long time before exiting the pits for his first flying lap. However upon entering the track and setting a time, Berger immediately took the provisional pole time with a 1:22.113. The Ferrari's were looking competitive, John Watson noting "there would be no surprise to see a Ferrari on the front row of the grid. I'm not sure if Berger can hold down provisional pole for this session, or for Saturday's session but undoubtedly that is going to be worth a few more thousand people for second day practice and qualifying."
Thereafter the new order read, Berger ahead of Senna, Schumacher, Lehto, Larini, Häkkinen, Blundell, Frentzen, Morbidelli, Katayama, Wendlinger, Brundle, Martini, Bernard, Herbert, Alboreto, Fittipaldi, Panis, Lamy, Hill, De Cesaris, Gachot, Ratzenberger and Belmondo. Only the injured Barrichello, the two Larrousse cars of Comas and Beretta as well as Brabham's Simtek had yet to set a time.
The Friday session had been tumultuous for a number of teams, John Watson commenting "I think the reason we are seeing so many people looking twitchy and nervy is because they are trying to strike the balance between good top speed and the minimum amount of downforce they need for the parts of the circuit like Tamburello which of course is flat out, 190 mph on the exit of the corner, and the quickest cars just reaching 200 mph through the Villeneuve curve".
Schumacher in the Benetton could be seen as one of these drivers fighting the car. Allard Kalff noting, "his car can't be the easiest to drive". However that being said, Schumacher immediately went on to reclaim pole position with a 1:22.015. Thereafter on his follow-up flying lap, Schumacher lost control of the back end of his Benetton at the Tosa hairpin and spun the car around. He quickly righted his car and continued without damage to his car. John Watson would comment "we've seen the front runners have more moments here at Imola than we have at any other point during the year."
Senna meanwhile had dropped down to third, both Schumacher and Berger having posted faster times. Senna returned to the track in response to Schumacher's pole position time, however he could be seen behaving cautiously on track. Senna choosing to perform an extra exploratory lap after his out-lap to which John Watson explained "looking at Senna on that lap he was not running wide out of corners, he was not doing what you expect when you are fully, fully committed to your pole lap. In a sense, just building himself up, getting a feel for this particular set of tyres. Now this will be the lap where I think he will regain that provisional pole position."
It was clear that Senna was behaving cautiously on track, Allard Kalff further explaining, that until that point "Senna is the only top driver to not have improved on his morning time so far." Senna's following lap was looking much quicker, the Williams easily taking pole position from Schumacher with a 1:21.837. However John Watson believed Senna was still behaving cautiously on track, noting "he's certainly being very very purposeful, but I would say consciously and deliberately staying off the amount of kerb we have seen from others". After taking the pole time, Senna immediately spun the Williams at Tosa corner in a near identical incident to that of Schumacher's earlier spin. John Watson commenting "Williams are probably running more down force than I suspect Benetton are, but probably quite a lot less than Senna would be accustomed to in the first two grand prix's of the year. The margin is just so, so fine."
Soon after, the remaining Jordan of De Cesaris had an incident when he ran wide at the Piratella curve He subsequently damaged the right rear of his car, the tyre rim could be seen falling off the wheel hub of the car. De Cesaris thereafter was forced to pull over at the side of the circuit. John Watson stating "this is arguably the worst day for Jordan Grand Prix since 1991."
The second Williams of Hill had attempted his first proper flying lap, after having botched his first attempt earlier on in the session. Like Senna, Hill was struggling, however the best he could do for his first proper run was to put the car in seventh position. Senna had also entered the track for a third time, he appeared more confident in this run, further improving his pole time down to a 1:21.548. Senna attempted one final flying lap, however wasn't able to better his time. Hill continued to struggle, backing right off at the beginning of his last flying lap attempt.
At the end of the session, Senna led Schumacher, Berger, Lehto, Larini, Frentzen, Hill, Häkkinen, Morbidelli, Blundell, Wendlinger, Katayama, Martini, Alboreto, Brundle, Fittipaldi, Bernard, Panis, Herbet, De Cesaris, Comas, Lamy, Beretta, Brabham, Ratzenberger and Gachot. Barrichello, who would no longer participate in the weekend was in the drop zone alongside Belmondo's Pacific.
Saturday Qualifying Edit
It was a positive start to the Saturday qualifying session at Imola. The camera's caught Jean Alesi, walking around the paddock in plain clothes, waving and smiling to the adoring Tifosi. John Watson noting "Jean Alesi, another injured driver, recovering from his neck injury. He is not wearing the neck brace, I'm sure his doctors will not be entirely happy about it. But he wants to show the people at Imola, to indicate that he is well on his way to recovery".
Schumacher was one of the earliest drivers to attack the track in the Saturday afternoon session. His first lap time saw him improve on his previous best, before making a further improvement on his second flying lap. Schumacher had dramatically improved his time, however he still remained a tenth off Senna's personal best from the Friday session.
There was a lot of activity from the drivers that were sitting at the back of the grid, John Watson commenting "well certainly at the back of the grid, we are seeing reasonable improvements." The Simtek cars had been the first on track, Brabham had improved to twenty third position, whilst Ratzenberger was struggling to improve on his personal best.
Ferrari continued to look competitive, Berger was looking on course to equal Senna's time, however a lock-up at Rivazza lost him time, and he failed to improve on his personal best. Shortly after, Herbert could be seen losing control of his car and spinning at the Variante Bassa.
Hill in the Williams became the first front runner to make a significant improvement, after his first flying lap he had moved up from seventh to fourth on the grid. Hill's second lap saw him shave a few further tenths off his best time, however he still remained six tenths off teammate Senna's best time.
|Andrea de Cesaris||22|
†(DNS) Ratzenberger was killed in qualifying after he qualified in 26th place.
Standings after raceEdit