Ratzenberger remembered with fondness
Saturday 24 April 2004
The small helmet-shaped pin badges, with their red and white stripes, are subtle, but they are apposite reminders that there is as much resolve here in the paddock at Imola to remember Roland Ratzenberger as there is Ayrton Senna.
In a black weekend matched only by the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps in 1960, when Stirling Moss crashed very heavily in practice, breaking his legs, and British racers Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey died in separate race accidents, the deaths of Ratzenberger and Senna here 10 years ago shook motorsport to its core. But inevitably there has been a tendency for the quiet Austrian, who was killed when his Simtek crashed in qualifying on the Saturday, to be overshadowed.
The tall, curly-haired racer with the unusual name typified the spirit that makes men race cars. Without access to lots of money, he painstakingly parlayed his talent and determination into drives in Formula Ford, Formula Three and Formula 3000 before success in international sportscar racing at last helped him to graduate to Formula One in 1994. Three years earlier his plans to race with Eddie Jordan's graduate team had foundered when his sponsor withdrew at the last minute, and then with the little Simtek team he failed to qualify first time out for the Brazilian race, but finally he achieved his life's ambition to race in the big league in the Pacific Grand Prix at TI Aida.
Ratzenberger was delighted simply to be on the foothills of the major league. His infectious smile and sense of humour helped him achieve the rare status of a man without enemies in the paddock. Everyone liked him.
The pin badges were made specially by his close friend, the photographer Keith Sutton, in memory of some similar badges that Ratzenberger had handed out to check-in staff at the airport on the way home from TI Aida. He had been delighted when they had recognised him as a Grand Prix driver and upgraded him to first class.
"Whilst Roland would never have compared his talents to Ayrton's, I believe his desire and enthusiasm for the sport he loved were the match of anyone else in the paddock," Sutton said. "He showed that determination and hard work could allow you to fulfil your dreams." Ratzenberger was chasing his dream when fate reached out for him, but, a decade on, his friends remember him as fondly as they do Senna.
Robin van Persie to Fenerbahce: Manchester United striker 'agrees to personal terms' with Turkish side
Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs posts bizarre video of his Miami holiday being invaded by an iguana
Women's World Cup 2015: England secure third place as they beat Germany in extra time with penalty by Fara Williams
Arsenal transfer news: Gunners will only consider 'astronomical offer' from Atletico Madrid for Santi Cazorla
Why is it that there’s no women’s team at Manchester United? - Michael Calvin
- 1 Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
- 2 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 3 Right to die: Belgian doctors rule depressed 24-year-old woman has right to end her life
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 German man found living with 300 rats in tiny apartment
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll