Updated May 18th, 2024 at 10:39 IST

F1 marks 30th anniversary of Senna's death at Imola as Lando Norris tries to follow up Miami win

Formula One arrives at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with a look to the past — it's 30 years since Ayrton Senna's death — and the future prospect of tougher competition for Max Verstappen and Red Bull.

McLaren driver Lando Norris of Britain sits in his car during the second free practice at the Dino and Enzo Ferrari racetrack in Imola, Italy | Image: AP
Advertisement

Formula One arrives at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with a look to the past — it's 30 years since Ayrton Senna's death — and the future prospect of tougher competition for Max Verstappen and Red Bull.

Drivers joined a memorial run around the Imola track on Thursday evening to mark the anniversary of three-time champion Senna's death in a crash during the 1994 race there.

Advertisement

Senna was a childhood hero to many, including seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who was nine in 1994, and is a part of F1 history for the 13 current drivers who were not born when he was killed.

Drivers wore shirts in Senna's helmet colors of yellow with blue and green stripes as they gathered around a memorial at the Tamburello corner where he died.

Advertisement

The Brazilian and Austrian flags were laid out in memory of Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, who was killed in a crash in qualifying one day earlier.

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who retired from F1 in 2022, organized the memorial event with the Senna Foundation and will drive the Brazilian great's 1993 McLaren car in a demonstration during the race weekend.

Advertisement

NORRIS' NEXT STEPS

For Lando Norris, it's back to work after the thrill of taking his first F1 win at the Miami Grand Prix two weeks ago.

Advertisement

The McLaren driver said Thursday he didn't sleep the night after the Miami race as he partied with the team and friends. He then headed off to spend two days playing golf at Augusta National, home of the Masters.

“I scored my best day of golf that I had, which was even better than a win, almost,” the British driver said.

Advertisement

Norris said he was surprised by McLaren's pace in Miami but warned it doesn't mean the team can match Verstappen's dominant Red Bull team consistently yet, let alone fight for the title.

"I think we’re still too far behind," he said. "But we’re not a mile away. We’re talking one or two tenths (of a second) a lap at this point between being ahead in qualifying and being able to stay ahead in the race, versus being behind and just not having what it takes."

Advertisement

FERRARI'S FUTURE

Expectations are always high when Ferrari races in Italy, and the team is aiming to give its passionate “Tifosi” fans something to cheer.

Advertisement

Red Bull is still the team to beat, though, even though Carlos Sainz Jr. won the Australian Grand Prix for Ferrari in March when Verstappen's brakes failed.

Ferrari has been inconsistent this year, doing well at some tracks like Miami and poorly at others like China.

Advertisement

“I think we’re going to be very track dependent and hopefully Imola is one of those good tracks for us. And we can put on a good show in front of the crowd,” Sainz said Thursday.

What could shake things up next year is if Hamilton, who's replacing Sainz at Ferrari next year, gets his wish of Red Bull car designer Adrian Newey joining him in Italy.

Advertisement

Newey is widely considered F1's greatest-ever designer with 13 drivers’ championships and 12 constructors’ titles. He will leave Red Bull in early 2025, in time to help a rival team build a car for the new regulations in 2026.

Newey said in a recent video interview with his manager Eddie Jordan that he'll take a vacation and “probably go again” with a new team.

Advertisement

“If you’d asked me 15 years ago, at the age of 65, would I seriously be considering changing teams, going somewhere else and, doing another four or five years, I’d have said you’re absolutely mad. And then a few things happened at once,” he said in comments made public Thursday.

Newey was surprised by all the attention: “I never thought it would be big news, to be honest.”

Advertisement

TRACK CHANGES

The Imola track has been slightly modified since F1 last raced there in 2022. Some asphalt run-off areas have been replaced with gravel traps, heightening the “old-school” feel that many drivers love.

Advertisement

It also stops drivers trying to gain time by running wide of the track, a persistent source of F1 controversy. Last year’s race at Imola was canceled because of fatal flooding in northern Italy.

Advertisement

Published May 18th, 2024 at 10:39 IST