Remembering F1 Driver Roland Ratzenberger Who Tragically Shared the Black Weekend at Imola With Ayrton Senna

Published 04/30/2022, 3:54 PM EDT

If you’re an F1 fan, the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix will always be a horrific event for you. The infamous Grand Prix will always be remembered for taking away not only the gifted Ayrton Senna but also Roland Ratzenberger. Ratzenberger was the other driver who breathed his last at the circuit almost 3 decades ago.

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That black weekend at Imola saw both Ayrton and Roland meet their terrible fate that no F1 fan would want to see again. The San Marino race not only took one of the brightest stars of the sport, but also gave reasons to implement safety precautions more than ever.

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Roland Ratzenberger was an Austrian motorsport driver who competed in the likes of Japanese Formula 3000, British Formula 3000, Le Mans 24 Series, and Formula 1. The Salzburg-born driver got his F1 seat at an uncharacteristic age of 33 when he joined the new Simtek team in 1994. The San Marino race would’ve been his third race in his career.

As the San Marino Grand Prix proceeded, Roland went off the track at Acqua Minerale chicane. After suffering a minor hit, the Austrian driver decided to carry on after checking the car as per his capacity. However, the Simtek driver didn’t know that the hit damaged his car’s front wing. As he drove the car, he lost control after the front wing broke and crashed against the wall at around 315 km/h.

What happened to Roland Ratzenberger after the accident?

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Roland Ratzenberger was taken to the medical center situated inside the Imola circuit. Soon after, the Austrian driver was airlifted to nearby Maggiore Hospital in Bologna. The doctors there announced him dead upon arrival. The Simtek driver suffered many serious fatalities that included a Skull fracture, blunt trauma, ruptured aorta, etc.

Ayrton Senna‘s death the following day overshadowed Roland Ratzenberger’s death as the brilliant Brazilian hit the unprotected wall at 211 km/h. As the Marshalls examined Ayrton’s car, they found an Austrian flag. Senna, most probably, brought the flag with him to pay a tribute to Roland.

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Ratzenberger became the first driver to lose his life in a Grand Prix after Riccardo Paletti in 1982. He also became the first driver to lose his life in the car after Elio de Angelis in 1986. With this, the sport lost two bright stars on a single race weekend. No wonder why the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix is regarded as one of the most horrific race weekends in F1.

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Sabyasachi Biswas

370 articles

Sabyasachi Biswas is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports. He has completed his Master's in Mass Communication and Journalism from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Sabyasachi is an ardent Red Bull and Max Verstappen fan and has been following the sport for over a decade now.

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