Spirit of Senna in the air

Subdued tributes at Interlagos to Brazil's late world champion

When the Class of '95 had their picture taken yesterday in the pit lane at Interlagos, it was without their head boy. For the first time in 12 years Ayrton Senna was not part of the annual ritual shared by the 26 drivers who will contest the Formula One world championship, writes Richard Williams.

At Interlagos this time last year, Senna took pole position in his first race for the Williams team, a combination expected to cruise to the championship. But when he spun off while chasing Michael Schumacher, no one suspected that he had just said farewell to his home circuit.

Some European visitors were perplexed by the low-key nature of So Paulo's homage to their local boy at yesterday's Brazilian Grand Prix. Remembering the awe-inspiring displays of collective grief at his funeral last year, when a large proportion of the city's 15 million inhabitants took to the streets to greet his coffin as it rode through the concrete canyons on the back of a fire engine, and when more than 200,000 people queued to file by his mortal remains in the July 9 Palace, that was understandable. But the people clearly believed that the funerary lamentations had satisfied their need for overt displays of grief, and yesterday's remembrances were of a different and more discreet kind. You could have spent all week in the city's streets of So Paulo without seeing or hearing a single reference to Brazil's greatest sporting hero since Pel.

As the drivers waited on the starting grid, a man in a replica of Senna's Marlboro driving suit and yellow crash helmet sat in the front row of the grandstand, a few yards away from the car on pole position, Damon Hill's Williams. But this was not an example of posthumous ghoulishness: that man, in that outfit, turned up every year to greet Senna, and his continued presence - for this one year, at least - seemed appropriate. He was also prominent among those who led a chant for Hill, Senna's last team-mate. When the Englishman turned and waved to the crowd, the cheer seemed to say that they wanted him to win for their late hero.

That was not to be. Nor was there success for Rubens Barrichello, the 24-year-old Paulista who is Senna's designated successor. "Rubinho" lasted only seven laps, but he did so in a helmet cleverly incorporating Senna's design into his own, the work of the renowned Sid, Brazil's master helmet painter.

There were banners around the circuit - "Thank you, Senna", "Farewell, Senna", "Senna Vive" - and one trailed around the sky behind a light plane: "Sempre Senna". The drivers toured the circuit on a truck, each waving a Brazilian flag, as Senna used to do in victory. And Frank Williams wore a small replica of the yellow helmet on his sweater.

But perhaps the most profound memorial to Senna was to be found in an unnoticed moment yesterday morning, when Gerhard Berger - his former team- mate and great friend - went up to the race director and asked for an extra tyre barrier to be positioned at the outside of a fast left-hand bend around the back of the circuit. Berger was the most experienced man in yesterday's field, starting a grand prix for the 164th time, and he is now the senior figure in the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, revived last year following Senna's death. The GPDA exists to monitor safety precautions, and every life saved by its activities will constitute a tacit memorial to the great man.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music
Arts and Entertainment
Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
music
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"