Michael Schumacher wept after he drew level with Ayrton Senna in the record books and cut Mika Hakkinen's lead in the drivers' championship to two points by winning Sunday's crash-marred Italian Grand Prix.
The 31-year-old German delivered the result the vast army of Ferrari fans wanted, winning for the first time in six attempts since the Canadian Grand Prix in June. But his triumph was overshadowed by tragedy.
Organisers of the Grand Prix confirmed that fire marshall Paolo Gislimberti, 30, had died in first aid following serious injuries after being hit in a multiple collision on the opening lap of a 53-lap race that ended with a track invasion.
The first lap crash saw six cars removed from the fray, resulted in the race running behind a Safety Car for the opening 11 laps and reduced the field from 22 starters to only 12 by halfway.
Schumacher came home, after leading from pole position and only dropping to second for three laps during the pit stops, a comfortable 3.8 seconds clear of title leader and defending world champion Mika Hakkinen of Finland in a McLaren Mercedes-Benz.
But his emotional success was eclipsed by the black news after the terrible accident at the second chicane on the opening lap when, in a cloud of debris, flying wheels and uncontrollable cars, the fire-marshall was hit and fatally injured.
The accident was triggered by the two Jordan cars driven by Heinz-Harald Frentzen of Germany and Italian Jarno Trulli colliding as the crowded field approached the chicane.
The chicane had been heavily revised -- like the first chicane where an earlier accident claimed three cars on the same lap -- to improve safety standards this year.
They careered out of control into the rear of the Ferrari driven by Brazilian Rubens Barrichello and gathered other cars into the confusion of the multiple collision.
These included Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa's Arrows car, which barrel-rolled before somersaulting to a halt in the run-off area, and Briton David Coulthard's McLaren.
Incredibly, none of the drivers were injured, but it is believed that Berti, 30, was hit by a flying wheel.
The tragedy prompted dark memories of the black weekend at Imola in 1994, when the San Marino Grand Prix was hit by the deaths of Austrian Roland Ratzenberger and Brazilian Ayrton Senna, as Schumacher led the slowing field round the circuit behind the Safety Car.
The accident at the first corner, where Schumacher had feared indisciplined actions by his colleagues could have sparked a major accident at the start, involved the two Saubers driven by Finn Mika Salo and Brazilian Pedro Diniz and Briton Eddie Irvine driving a Jaguar.
Irvine was knocked out of the race and his team mate Briton Johnny Herbert was one of the casualties at the second chicane from where he was able to limp back to the pits and retire with only three wheels remaining on his car.
After the race, Schumacher was unable to speak about the meaning of his victory when asked questions in the routine live television news interviews. "I am happy, so happy," was all he could say before breaking down.
Hakkinen also passed up the opportunity to speak to Schumacher's younger brother Ralf Schumacher, who finished third for Williams ahead of Dutchman Jos Verstappen in an Arrows, Austrian Alexander Wurz in a Benetton and Brazilian Ricardo Zonta in a BAR-Honda.
Schumacher later admitted he felt immense relief at claiming his 41st career win, to level with Senna, leaving only Frenchman Alain Prost ahead of him in the record books on 51 victories.
It was Schumacher's sixth win this year for Ferrari and his third in six years for the Italian team in front of their marauding armay at the Italian Grand Prix.
At the end, before most of the cars could complete their last lap, the crowd invaded the circuit. Several fans climbed 10-metre high mesh-wire fences and hung from them dangerously in actions that will certainly add to the poor reputation of the Monza circuit for crowd control.
The tragedy, the accidents and the track invasion will almost certainly result in severe sanctions from ruling body FIA, once the drama of Sunday's race is all confirmed and digested.