Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe
Formula 1 Emilia Romagna GP

Tearful Vettel ‘finishing Senna's job’ with Austrian flag tribute at F1 Imola

An emotional Sebastian Vettel said waving the Austrian flag during his Imola Formula 1 demo run was a way to "finish the job" of Ayrton Senna's planned tribute to Roland Ratzenberger.

Sebastian Vettel waves the Austrian and Brazilian flags after driving Ayrton Senna's McLaren MP4/8

This month marked the 30-year anniversary of Senna's fatal accident at Imola on 1 May 1994, which came the day after Austrian Ratzenberger lost his life in a crash.

The death of Ratzenberger, which itself followed a serious practice accident for Senna's compatriot Rubens Barrichello, shook the Williams driver to the core at the time.

In the wreckage of Senna's crashed car, marshals found an unfurled Austrian flag that he intended to wave on the cool-down lap as a tribute to the Simtek driver.

With the blessing of the Senna family, four-time world champion Vettel organised an elaborate tribute to both Senna and Ratzenberger, which included a demo run in the Brazilian's 1993 McLaren MP4/8, which Vettel owns.

Waving both the Brazilian and Austrian flags during the run, Vettel said it was a way to "finish the job" that Senna had in mind.

"Obviously, the Brazilian flag was clear, because it was something that he used to do after the races," Vettel explained.

"But I know the same story [about the Austrian flag Senna had prepared]. I was thinking about it, whether it's the right thing to try and finish the job.

"I don't think it will ever be finished, it's not about finishing, but trying to just make people remember.

"It felt very special when I got the flag out and very special when I got both of them out. It was a very special and very meaningful weekend for me."

Sebastian Vettel drives Ayrton Senna's McLaren MP4/8

Sebastian Vettel drives Ayrton Senna's McLaren MP4/8

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Vettel, who retired from F1 at the end of 2022 after a 15-year stint with BMW, Toro Rosso, Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin, said his tribute run provoked "one of the strongest emotions" ever in his career.

Asked if the demo, which was greeted enthusiastically by the Italian tifosi, left him teary-eyed, Vettel replied: "Yeah, definitely.

"It's difficult to put in words, I think it was one of the strongest emotions I felt behind the wheel despite being alone on track and not even racing.

"Incredible. When I got the flags out, the people... it was so powerful. 

"I'm happy that I had the courage to address my idea and invite the Senna family. And I only got positive feedback.

"The compassion he had, the courage he had to speak his mind. Pushing education, trying to fight poverty in his country.

"In many ways, he was ahead of the game as a person of that time, but also as a racing driver in particular.

"And therefore it's a very important and powerful story to share, especially with young drivers coming up."

Be part of the Autosport community

Join the conversation
Previous article 10 things we learned at the 2024 F1 Imola Grand Prix
Next article Aston Martin F1 upgrades may have made car "difficult to drive"

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe