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Ayrton
15 years after,F1 still misses you.


May 1st 1994, Mugello Race Track. I remember the moment as if it was yesterday. I was at a Porsche Club Race, the drivers were ready to align for the start when the news from Imola arrived in the paddock. Ayrton Senna crashed at the Tamburello corner in Imola on his Williams and died. I remember the atmosphere and the goose bumps going through my back and the tears on most of faces, including mine, for the loss of the best F1 driver this century has had. Some drivers refused to start their race and on the podium there was no celebration by the winner. The day before another F1 driver Ratzenberger lost his life on the same circuit. It was one of the most terrible weekends in F1 history.

Senna streaked through the sport like a comet, an other-worldly superstar whose brilliance as a driver was matched by a dazzling intellect and coruscating charisma that illuminated Formula One racing as never before.

He drove like a man possessed - some thought by demons. His ruthless ambition provoked condemnation from critics, among them Prost who accused him of caring more about winning than living. When Senna revealed he had discovered religion Prost and others suggested he was a dangerous madman who thought God was his co-pilot. "Senna is a genius," Martin Brundle said. "I define genius as just the right side of imbalance. He is so highly developed to the point that he's almost over the edge. It's a close call."

Even Senna confessed he occasionally went too far, as was the case in qualifying for the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, where he became a passenger on a surreal ride into the unknown. Already on pole, he went faster and faster and was eventually over two seconds quicker than Prost in an identical McLaren. "Suddenly, it frightened me," Ayrton said, "because I realised I was well beyond my conscious understanding. I drove back slowly to the pits and did not go out anymore that day."

He said he was acutely aware of his own mortality and used fear to control the extent of the boundaries he felt compelled to explore. Indeed, he regarded racing as a metaphor for life and he used driving as a means of self-discovery. "For me, this research is fascinating. Every time I push, I find something more, again and again. But there is a contradiction. The same moment that you become the fastest, you are enormously fragile. Because in a split-second, it can be gone. All of it. These two extremes contribute to knowing yourself, deeper and deeper."

His death has left an emptiness that F1 drivers and passionate still feel after 15 years.

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