Twenty years have passed already since that tragic 1st May of 1999, when the “Grim Reaper” ripped out the life of that amazing Brazilian driver that was Ayrton Senna.
Minardi Team – a springboard for many champions – should have hosted the last great season of Ayrton. Yes, Senna and Gian Carlo Minardi have always been tied by a sincere friendship and mutual esteem, whose origins are rooted before the arrival in F1. The first to reveal Ayrton’s will to end his career in the World Championship driving a Minardi has been his father, Milton Da Silva: “After the fifth World Championship Title, Ayrton would have joined the team of Faenza. Unfortunately, the destiny has prevented him to do so”. Ayrton and his father often “sought refuge” in the Faenza motor-home to dine with a good typical meal from Emilia-Romagna (the region where Faenza is based). Gian Carlo Minardi comments: “If the father had not revealed this story, it certainly would not have come out from me. It would have been just as cheating on a friend”.
The first contact with Senna came in 1982, with the Brazilian involved in Formula Ford and Minardi in F2 with his team. “Paolo Barilla noted him, driving in Kart races, and during the Hockenheim weekend invited the young Senna for a dinner at the hotel. I offered him up to 50 million of Lire to join us in F2, but Ayrton politely refused”. Already in those years, Ayrton had clear ideas on his route, which included winning the first title in Formula 1 World Championship in 1988. “He thanked me very kindly as I was the first to offer him some money to drive, rather than asking him for. Since that day, in conjunction of F2 and Formula Ford races, Senna came back again in our motor-home to dine with us, keeping a good relationship with us”.
Once arrived in Formula 1, Senna and Minardi and continue a positive exchange of ideas both inside and outside the paddock. “I often received his calls from Brazil and we talked on the phone for several hours. During the GP he often came to dine with us ‘secretly’. At the beginning of 1993, due to an almost worn relationship with McLaren, he had decided to join us and drive for Minardi, but I convinced him to avoid such a risky choice, giving the existence of an open contract with his team. After this episode, he signed the famous ‘1 million dollars per race’ contract: perhaps that year he played his most beautiful and fierce season”, the manager of Faenza goes on.
“The last exchange of ideas took place in Aida, fifteen days before Imola’s tragic event, when he asked my opinion on some facts and episodes that were occurring in his life, inside and outside the paddock”.
Only the cruel fate prevented Senna to keep his promise made to Gian Carlo a few years before, that could have changed the history of a small but glorious team: with its 21 years of Formula 1 and 340 GPs, Minardi Team has contributed to write a good slice of the history of this sport, playing as a springboard for drivers like Alonso, Fisichella, Trulli, Webber, Martini, Genè, Morbidelli, Nannini and many others. “History is not made by ifs and buts, ‘what could have happened’ actually counts nothing. Certainly, with Ayrton Senna in our team, relationships with various technical suppliers would have changed… With His experience and charisma, the Team could certainly have had a non-predictable evolution. Every time we met he reaffirmed his will to join us: this mere thought filled my heart with pride”, Minardi underlines.
From 1st to 4th May, Imola will celebrate the memory of Ayrton Senna e Roland Ratzenberger; the Minardi ’94 of Martini e Alboreto will be part of the tribute exhibition. Also, the colours of Team Minardi by Pastina&Friends will animate the “Memorial Senna Kart 2014”, an endurance race of 7 hours.