Ayrton and Roland, 30 years on

Born 105 days apart in 1960, they died on the same black weekend, 34 years later.

Brought together through grim fate in a sport that had been running on luck, Roland Walter Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna da Silva took very different trajectories to the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

With three World Championships to his name, Senna had the talent and gravitas to be compared to Fangio and Nuvolari, and the fame and popularity more befitting a Diego Maradona or a Boris Becker than a racing driver.

Of course, it had been a tough start to the year for Senna. The Williams FW16–devoid of the technical wizardry that had been banned ahead of ‘94–was tricky to drive, and Senna entered the weekend with a 20 point deficit to Michael Schumacher, the German hot shot on the way up.

The pressure was on.

Roland was just happy to be there. After years as a journeyman, racing everything, everywhere—Le Mans, Bathurst, British touring cars, and most notably in Japan—the popular and charismatic Austrian had finally secured his spot on the grid with the fledgling Simtek team.

Ayrton and Roland lived at opposite ends of the grid, but became united through tragedy; their deaths leaving an indelible scar on the face of Formula 1.

It’s often said on social media, ‘don’t forget Roland’.

There is no chance of him being forgotten.

If anything, the anniversary of Imola ‘94 is commemorated even more with each passing year, a reflection of those two remarkable men and impacts of their deaths that continue to reverberate to this day.

We remember them both.

Scott Russell

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