Formula One's darkest weekend: Imola 1994 Revisited
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Sunlight bathes the Italian countryside on a calm Saturday afternoon. Crowds pile into the packed grandstands, mechanics awash with anticipation. An engine roar can be heard, Qualifying for the Third round of the 1994 Formula One World Championship at Imola had roared into life. Just under an hour later, medical officials surround a blue and yellow MTV Simtek Ford Formula One machine. The events of Formula One’s darkest weekend had begun. Although an extreme talent in Sports cars, Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger was taking place in only his third Formula One grand prix when disaster struck. Flying through the fast left hander at Tamburello, pieces of debris can be seen flying off the Simtek Ford that the popular Austrian was at the wheel of. Just ten seconds later, unable to stop, Ratzenberger makes contact with the concrete wall at the Tosa Hairpin at around 195mph, fracturing his skull and causing severe head injuries. Despite attempts to revive Ratzenberger – broadcast live on International television on that Saturday afternoon – by the on-track medical team, led by F1 doctor Professor Sid Watkins, the Austrian died later on that evening in a local hospital. It was the first death at a Formula One event since Ricardo Paletti in 1982. Sunday morning at Imola was a sombre mood. Ratzenberger’s team-mate David Brabham took the decision to race for the memory of his team-mate and lined up at the start at 14:00 local time for what was to be the first European race of the season.
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