Tuesday, 29 April 2014

San Marino 1994 - The weekend that changed Formula One forever Part 2


Qualifying for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at the Imola circuit started out like any other Saturday session however everyone's minds were still on the horrendous accident that Rubens Barrichello suffered during practice the day before. 

On Saturday 30th April, Banbury based Formula One team MTV Simtek Ford were taking part in their third qualifying session as a constructor with Australian David Brabham and Austrian Roland Ratzenberger behind the wheel of the car. The team was founded by Max Mosley, who just prior to the Grand Prix in San Marino was elected as FIA president. The team was co-founded by Nick Wirth.

Ratzenberger had only one race start to his name prior to the San Marino Grand Prix and that was at the previous race the Pacific Grand Prix. The Austrian finished the race in eleventh place albeit five laps down. However it was Simtek's best result that season as at the previous race in Brazil, David Brabham finished the race in 12th place. Unfortunately Ratzenberger failed to qualify for the opening race.

Shortly after the start of Saturday qualifying, the Simtek of Roland Ratzenberger went out on track to start his session. The Austrian crashed extremely heavily at approximately 190 MPH and sadly succumbed to his injuries. 

Following the event's of qualifying the day before the Simtek team decided that the best thing to do was to honor the memory of Roland Ratzenberger and took part in the race. Ratzenberger's death was the first driver fatality in Formula One since the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix when Italian driver Ricciardo Paletti, taking part in only his second Formula One race was killed at the start of the race while driving for Osella-Ford.

The Simtek Formula One Team stayed in the sport for the remainder of the 1994 season however the team folded following the 1995 Spanish Grand Prix.

Following Ratzenberger's crash qualifying was immediately red flagged however when it resumed Williams Renault's Ayrton Senna who had struggled in the first two race's of the season managed to put his FW16 on pole position for the San Marino Grand Prix on Sunday 1st May. Heading into Saturday night following the events of that day no one in Formula One could have known what was going to unfold the following day.

©Ben Johnston 2014

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