Ayrton Senna would have ended his Formula 1 career at Ferrari had he not died at Imola 20 years ago today, president Luca di Montezemolo revealed.
“He wanted to come to Ferrari and I wanted him in the team,” Montezemolo told the Ferrari website www.formula1.ferrari.com in a tribute to the Brazilian who won his three titles with McLaren.
Senna had just moved to Williams and was in only his third race for that team when he crashed and died during the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola on 1 May, 1994.
Montezemolo said he and Senna had met at his home in Bologna on the Wednesday before that race and the driver had told him he appreciated Ferrari’s stand against the use of electronic aids that he felt did not allow his skills to shine.
“We spoke for a long time and he made it clear to me that he wanted to end his career at Ferrari, having come close to joining us a few years earlier,” said the Italian.
“We agreed to meet again soon, so as to look at how we could overcome his contractual obligations at the time. We were both in agreement that Ferrari would be the ideal place for him to further his career.”
The venue at which Senna lost his life is set to be the focal point this week of commemorations marking the tragedy’s 20th anniversary. The Imola circuit is being opened to the public from today through to Sunday.
Roland Ratzenberger, the Austrian driver who died the day before Senna in a crash on the same track during qualifying, will also be remembered.
Past and current figures from F1 are set to be present for a series of events, from which a part of each day’s proceeds will go towards the Ayrton Senna Institute’s charitable works.
Around the Imola site – where the paddock and pits will be open and people will be able to either drive, cycle or travel on foot around the track – there will be a commemorative ceremony, as well as exhibitions and talks, including a presentation on safety in F1.
Meanwhile, Formula 1’s cash-strapped smaller teams want to see real evidence that the sport is fighting for their survival when bosses meet today to discuss how to proceed after scrapping plans to impose a cost cap.
The meeting, at Biggin Hill airfield south of London, has been called by the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) to “clarify the means to achieve a substantial F1 team cost reduction”.
All 11 teams, the FIA and commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone are due to attend.
It comes in response to a letter from Sauber, Force India, Caterham and Marussia that angrily questioned the decision to jettison plans, previously agreed unanimously by all teams, for a cost cap in 2015.
The move had been agreed by the F1 strategy group, which excludes the smaller teams, and the FIA’s Formula 1 commission.
FIA President Jean Todt, a former Ferrari principal, announced at this month’s Bahrain Grand Prix that cost-saving measures would have to come through regulation changes rather than any imposed cap.
The Frenchman said he understood all six teams in the strategy group did not believe a cost cap was viable and were opposed to it.
Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley, who has warned in the past that teams could be forced out of the sport without a more level financial playing field, said he would reserve judgment about the meeting.
“We have to give a certain amount of courtesy to the FIA for arranging the meeting and let’s listen to what they have to say first. To try and pre-empt anything would be inappropriate,” he said. “We want clarification as much as anything else.”