A race weekend plagued by tragedy. Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger both died and this new footage uploaded by a spectator, Thomas Gronvold, captures some of the emotion in the pit-lane before the race, after Ratzenberger’s death. It is generally chilling in the context of the upcoming death of Ayrton Senna.
Spectator footage like this is incredibly rare, and helps to document historical sporting events such as the San Marino Grand Prix of 1994. Today, the coverage is so intense that almost every microscopic angle is covered. In 1994, F1 coverage in the UK was restricted to a TV package called ‘Grand Prix’ that was commentated over by the irreplaceable Murray Walker, who would also rely on a ghost commentator to relay timings from the actual race venue. The ghost commentator for the 1990’s was Joe Saward, who still runs a great f1 blog.
The intro from the 90’s is cutting for its time, and it’s easy to spot the similarities between the intro to ‘Grand Prix’ and the glossier coverage of today:
Given the rise of personal recording devices in the present day, coverage of each race weekend gets almost 360 coverage en masse, whilst pre-smartphone, spectator coverage was fairly scant. The new footage shows Senna embracing Ron Dennis before heading off to the garage. It shows the Brazilian driver taking off from the grid for the last time in a roar of engines.
The BBC coverage that previews the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix is also chilling in the context of what happens in the upcoming race. Senna is clearly uncomfortable in the interview:
The new footage from Imola is completely raw, and manages to capture the pre-race feeling quite well, whereas the BBC at the time would have understandably had to keep the show going, with some sympathy to Ratzenberger’s death, but with a job to do too.