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Ayrton Senna’s Tragic Death on the Track Changed Formula One Forever

Ayrton Senna is a racing legend and, for many years, was the face of Formula One racing.

Senna was a record-setting driver who thrived regardless of the weather conditions or who he took on in a race. Tragically, Senna passed away far too early in a car accident.

Nearly 30 years after his death, Senna’s legacy — and the impact his death had on racing — lives on forever.

Ayrton Senna is among the greatest Formula One racers of all-time

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There is only one way that someone can make a list involving the best Formula One racers and not include Ayrton Senna. Said list would need to have a disclaimer that Senna can’t be included.

That’s what Senna meant to the racing world. It would be like leaving Michael Jordan off a list of most dominant basketball players. A Brazilian driver, Senna all bullied the competition during his 11 years in Formula One.

Senna won three Formula One champions and totaled 41 victories in 162 entries. His rival with teammate Alain Prost is among the greatest between two individuals in sports history.

From 1988-93, Senna and Prost were responsible for five of the six Formula One World Championships.

Senna passed away in an accident in 1994

Formula One legend Ayrton Senna died in a racing accident in 1994.
Formula One legend Ayrton Senna died in a racing accident in 1994. | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

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Ayrton Senna had just turned 44 when the tragic events of May 1, 1994, arrived. Racing at the San Marino Grand Prix in Italy, Senna suffered fatal injuries in a horrific crash.

Senna’s car was going 191 mph when it left the track and hit a concrete wall at 145 mph. He sustained fatal skull fractures, brain injuries, and a ruptured temporal artery in the accident.

Although he officially died at Bologna’s Maggiore Hospital, Italy said he died four hours earlier when his car hit the wall.

Senna wasn’t the only racer who passed away during the San Marino Grand Prix. Austria’s Roland Ratzenberger died during qualifying after he suffered a rupture in the aorta and a basilar skull fracture.

Formula One was never the same after Ayrton Senna’s death

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The deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger had a lasting impact on Formula One racing.

Formula One worked to implement better helmets, as well as the Head and Neck Support. The HANS prevents “rapid and excessive head movement during accidents,” according to The National.

Cars have been safer and the cockpit has been opened more to prevent drivers from being trapped inside. Formula One also added more medical staffers and revamped the tracks.

The 26-year anniversary of Ayrton Senna was on May 1. Formula One’s official Twitter account, as well as other F1 figures, paid tribute to the legend with a hashtag: #SennaSempre, or “Senna Always.”

“Reflecting on the life of a racing hero, champion and friend as we mark 26 years since we lost Ayrton Senna. Always in our hearts. #SempreSenna,” tweeted McLaren F1’s Twitter account.