Watch the Sky F1 exclusive as Adrian Newey remembers Imola 1994 and pays tribute to Ayrton Senna, a great man with an infusive aura
Adrian Newey has opened up on the emotional turmoil following the death of Ayrton Senna in one of his cars, with the design legend admitting he considered quitting Formula 1.
Newey, now at Red Bull, was Williams’ chief designer when the three-time world champion was killed after crashing the FW16 at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, running straight on at the Tamburello curve and into the barriers.
To this day, no full explanation has been provided – with theories ranging from a steering column failure, to a slow puncture, to driver error on a bumpy Imola circuit in a car that was difficult to control.
“The whole Imola weekend was a horrible weekend,” Newey told Sky Sports’ Natalie Pinkham. “23 years later, it still feels quite raw and immediate. It was an extremely difficult time.
“I’d never thought about the question: ‘If somebody was hurt, or worse still, passes away in a car that I’d been responsible for, how would I feel?’. Then suddenly this happens.
“If you’re in that situation, and you don’t question your involvement – if it happens once it can happen again – then you’re a fool. Both Patrick [Head, Williams co-founder] and I separately went through this internal struggle afterwards of: ‘Is this really what I want to be doing?’.
“For me, this has been my life, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do and something I’ve been lucky to end up doing – but there’s a catch there. There was a bit of soul searching to be done.”
Thirteen years of litigation and on-off trials followed, with Newey eventually cleared. “I will always feel a degree of responsibility for Ayrton’s death but not culpability,” he wrote in his book.
Newey has gone on to break F1 records, becoming the only designer to win constructors’ titles with three different teams. But the passing of a man he respected, and a driver he admired even before Senna’s move to Williams in 1994, has always hung over Newey.
“Ayrton was a great man,” he explained. “People talk about somebody having an aura about them – and it’s very difficult to quantify why you would feel that. Is it because of what they’ve achieved, or the personality?
“Whatever it was, Ayrton had that aura where if you were with him or talking to him – his enthusiasm, inquisitiveness and energy was infusive.
“The little time I spent with Ayrton was very memorable. I still think if that hadn’t happened that day, perhaps he’d be President of Brazil now.
“I suppose the immediate thing was the sense of waste.”
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Source: Sky Sports F1