It’s a chilling video because Senna’s death is like JFK’s death and it is just as confusing. We know so much now and yet so little. The entire English-language broadcast of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix is available on YouTube, and even with the aid of helicopter shots and expert commentary, it’s terribly unclear. Only in retrospect did we realize that Senna had died on the spot. Only later did we all see the blood.
Only a man who’d raced through Formula One’s blood-drenched glory years realized it in real time, as recalled in Dylan Jones’s article
“The last 96 hours of Ayrton Senna”: But before the marshals could get to Senna and the first medical car had reached the scene, his head moved forward in the cockpit and unknowing viewers were encouraged that the champion was intact. Another man, sitting thousands of miles away in Balcarce, Argentina, knew different. Five-time world champion, 82-year-old Juan Manuel Fangio knew the outcome when he saw the spasm, the sign of a massive head injury. He switched off his television. He said later: “I knew he was dead.”
A few hours later, we all did.
Photo of Ayrton Senna’s Williams by Pascal Rondeau/Allsport
And if you didn't get a chance to see "Senna" when it was on Netflix for a day, see it this summer. It's a must for any gearhead. Great footage, great storytelling, and a huge range of emotions. It made me remember how dangerous motorsport actually is and how fortunate current drivers are to have such safe cars. That they survive half the crashes now is nothing short of a miracle.