The death of Formula 1's most compelling performer on a bleak weekend at Imola overshadowed practically everything else that happened in grand prix racing during the 1990s. Ayrton Senna's appeal transcended nationality, reaching multitudes otherwise indifferent to motor racing, and the mystery of his fatal accident attracted worldwide attention.
The removal of the Brazilian's body from the wrecked Williams FW16 at Imola in 1994 was supervised by Sid Watkins, F1's safety and medical delegate. Sixteen years earlier, in 1978, Watkins had been the head of neurosurgery at the London Hospital when Bernie Ecclestone offered him a job, through which attitudes to driver safety would be transformed.
The unnecessary death of Ronnie Peterson following a first-lap crash at Monza in Watkins' first year accelerated the creation of new protocols that ensured expert medical treatment could arrive at the scene of an accident immediately and without obstruction. A medical car and a fully equipped helicopter became part of the grand prix scenery.