“He was a wonderful man. He had a really nice, wicked sense of humour. You could always have a laugh and a giggle with him.” Johnny Herbert on Roland Ratzenberger.
Roland Ratzenberger tragically lost his life during qualifying for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. The violent accident which broke his neck sent shock-waves through the sport, Ratzenberger being the first fatality in a Formula One car since Elio de Angelis in 1986 while testing in France, and the first death at a race weekend since Riccardo Paletti in 1982.
While the Formula One paddock mourned the passing of a popular (if not so well-known) driver, approximately 24 hours later, Ratzenberger’s death would be largely over-shadowed. During the race itself the following day, Ayrton Senna also suffered a high-speed accident and died shortly after. Given Senna’s status in Formula One and the sporting world in general, Monday’s papers largely forgot about Ratzenberger, instead choosing to focus on the equally untimely passing of someone the general public may have heard of.
It is often said that when Senna was extricated from his Williams, he was clutching a furled Austrian flag, his intention to honour his fallen comrade on the final in-lap.
We will never be allowed to forget what happened on 1st May, 1994. But equally so, we should never forget what happened the day before.