Gian Carlo Minardi: Interview with the Formula 1 legend…

Gian Carlo Minardi is a person who had a great impact on Formula 1. He was and still is respected by many. The legendary owner and chief of the Minardi Team shares his memories of Ayrton Senna and talks about today’s Formula 1 in the exclusive interview for

May 1 marks the 25th anniversary of Senna’s death. Mr Minardi, what are your memories of Ayrton Senna? Can you share with us what was he like as a person?

My relationship with Ayrton Senna began in 1982 when I offered him to join my team and compete in Formula 2. Ayrton approached me and explained his plans. But first, he thanked me for offering him a steering wheel without asking for money in exchange. He already had a plan that would lead him to the title of the World Champion in the 1988 season, which was also realized. Since that day a strong bond was formed between us, a bond beyond the relationship between the owner of the team and the driver. It was a relationship between two friends, both enthusiastic about this sport, who exchanged many opinions, I gave him many tips, until that cursed day of May 1, 1994. We had a wonderful relationship.

Ayrton Senna: Conspiracy theories

A well-known anecdote says that Ayrton wanted to end his career in your team. Have you ever wondered what kind of a season this would be?

First of all, I was very honored when Ayrton told his father and some of his friends that his intentions are to win five World Championships, which was back then considered the greatest achievement, to reach for Fangio’s record. Then, when he would be noted as one of the greatest in history, he would come to help raise the importance of my team. But unfortunately “if” and “but” do not help us much. Anyway, this was his expression of respect and trust, which was interrupted by that May 1. It would be a great honor for me. I believe Ayrton would keep his promise but I repeat, “if” and “but” do not write history.

Let’s go to the present. What is your opinion on satellite teams and how do you see in the long run their ability to be constructors?

In the 2019 season, we saw a lot of teams in the second league, which are almost cloned from the first league cars. It is clear that as a former constructor I do not see this in a positive light, for several reasons. First, the meaning of the word constructor and, consequently, its intellectual property is reduced. Then, new staff, new engineers and new mechanics will probably no longer be trained, because all attention would be focused only on the main team. Consequently, this is so great degradation that the competitions could no longer be called the World Championship among the constructors. As far as I know, the Concorde Agreement is still very far from being accepted.

How do you see the new generation of drivers? Do they have the chance and time to grow, like it used to be, or come into Formula 1 prematurely and have an overwhelming desire to prove themselves?

I think the world has changed. When I started my story in Formula 2 and later Formula 1, we always worked with young people, but young people then were 19 and 20 respectively. Today they start when they are 15 years old and one day, at 17 they are already formed and have certain experiences, they have already achieved a lot, so they can be offered to teams and at 20 are extremely mature as we see in some, most of which Leclerc stands out. I see this youth extremely positively because all sport has adjusted the standards down to age, and many things have changed, and consequently, automotive has also adopted, although in automotive it also depends heavily on other factors that do not have a relationship with the specific abilities of an individual driver.

How do you see the arrival of many drivers with famous names in Formula 1?

Positively, but by the time they themselves can handle this pressure, which the surname carries with itself. Unfortunately, we are working in a profession where only a stopwatch is the one who decides who can come, who can stay and who can become a champion. A good example is Mick Schumacher, in which I admire that he can control the pressure that his surname brings. He is a driver, as well as others with important surnames, for which he now shows that he is doing well, but only the future will tell if he can reach the level of his father. Schumacher is also such an example where I am not convinced that his comparison with his father is beneficial.

Thank you very much, Mr. Gian Carlo Minardi, for your time that we have been able to realize this interview for Racing Elite/ Portal

Simon Jazbec

Claire Williams: It’s not pleasant to hear: “Your father is a murderer”

On the 25th anniversary of the death of legendary Ayrton Senna, Claire Williams revealed an unpleasant experience when she was approached by a stranger who blamed her father, Frank Williams, for the death of one of the best drivers in the history of Formula 1.

Three-time Formula One World Champion Ayrton Senna died on 1 May 1994 after his car crashed into a concrete barrier while he was leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Italy.

Claire Williams told Press Association Sport about how the tragedy affected her family.

“A year after the tragedy a stranger came to me when I was in a pub and said, ‘Your father is a murderer.’ I do not know how he even knew who I am. Frank never spoke of this, as this is not part of his personality. He is not a man who would take the therapies or need long conversations. Frank holds it in himself, however,  Ayrton has been a god in our house for many years or decades. Frank has always wanted to have him in Williams. His desire was fulfilled, but everything ended in the worst possible way.”

It’s been a quarter of a century since you’re gone. Things have changed, others have come, your rivals have grown old, but you have remained the same and unchanged. But how to explain who you are, someone who has 18 today or maybe 24? The biggest, the fastest, or the god on earth?  Many confuse what you were with what you meant to him. Your victories were theirs, the success of the rigid world through your eyes.

Someone who has not experienced you and knows about you only what the older brothers told him, will find it hard to understand. On the track, I have never cheered on you, even though you’ve been driving for “my” team Lotus. This is where an important dividing line is hidden because you are not just a driver, but you were, you are, and you will always be, just a human being. Your exceptional humanity is something that is unjustly ignored by many.

Battles with Alain were often on the edge of the rules and perhaps even over. We all remember “lessons” you gave to young Schumacher and Irvine, but few remember that Mansell has also raised you half a meter above the ground because you were too “ambitious”.

When you stopped in the middle of the track and helped Eric Coma to stay alive, I was sure that you would have done the same thing if Alain Prost was in his place. I believe that even if you hated him so much, you would never have done anything to regret it.  The legend says that you went to the last race with an Austrian flag in your pocket in order to honor a deceased colleague. To someone, you actually did not even know, a rookie, but someone who was close to you.

It’s hard to explain to someone who never experienced you how great man you were. Although it’s been a quarter of a century, you’ve stayed here somewhere with us, just like Ronnie, Gilles, Jimmy and everyone else. What makes this great and unforgettable is exactly this immense humanity with all the positive and negative sides. If you like it or not, nobody can dispute your legacy. If anyone asks me who Ayrton Senna was, I will repeat your sentence, the one that best describes you, you as a human being. Ayrton Senna was a man who knew that the second one is only the first loser.

Simon Jazbec

Ayrton Senna: Conspiracy theories

Yes, Some of the biggest names in the music industry are passionate fans of Formula 1. From their passion over the world of moto-sport, some great songs were created…

In the following article, we will reveal some of the songs which have been inspired by the F1 racing. We have selected some of the most famous musical works from various genres that are in one way or another connected with Formula 1.

The first story that came to my mind happened at the Australian Grand Prix in 1993, where Ayrton Senna took to the stage during the Tina Turner concert. It’s hard to say which of them had more fans, but Tina admitted that Ayrton was simply the best for her and dedicated her song to Simply The Best.

Senna was inspired by many musicians, including Italian singer Lucia Dallo. He dedicated his poem Ayrton, in which he wondered about the meaning of races, about meaning, and about the day that god told him in a curve that he should close his eyes and rest. Dalla is known for deep, deliberate poems about celebrities. Among his hats is, for example, the poem Nuvolari, in which he conveys the myth of Taziri and his almost superhuman power, attributed to him by the then media. I think that these are two masterpieces written by someone who was really passionate about racing.

The songs about Ayrton are far from over. In 1994, the acid jazz band Corduroy released an album Out of Here, which included a recording, with the simple name Ayrton Senna. In the song we hear the South American rhythm and the vocals of Brothers Addison. Although the song is less known, it is definetly worth listening.
Among the most famous pop songs about Formula 1 is certainly a track by Robbie Williams, Supreme. In the video of his song he is fighting for the title of world champion with Jackie Stewart himself. The song is catchy, the video is a little funny, but as a whole the idea is brilliant and the installation of historical and studio recordings is also excellent.
Jackie Stewart also performs in the video for the song “Faster” by George Harrison. Song, where we also have the opportunity to see a multitude of original racing tracks from the late 1970s. Former member of the Beatles group was a big enthusiast of Formula 1 and a loyal Peterson fan. He paid all the profit from the record to the Gunnar Nilsson Foundation to fight cancer. George had an interview with an Italian journalist, with an artistic name, Red Ronnie. He asked him, from where the idea of this name was. The journalist explained that he was named Red because he was redheaded and Ronnie was after Peterson. Harrison and Red Ronnie became very good friends imediately. There is also a video interview, in which Harrison explains what happened in Formula One in 1978 with such a passion and compared drivers with rock’n’roll celebrities.
At the end of the 1990s, Danish-Dutch duo, known as DJ Visage, released a clip called Formula. The title may not say much to many, but most of F1 fans have already heard this song. In fact, he became better known as Schumacher’s song. In the following years, several remixes of this track were created, as Schumacher’s glory was at its peak at the time.
Finally, another song, which is not directly related to Formula 1, but has true racing vibe. In 2000, Mark Knopfler, former boss of the Dire Straits group, released the song Speedway at Nazareth, which talks about life on American races. The inspiration for creating this ballade is supposedly given by his personal friend, Stefan Johansson. Knopfler and Johansson met in 1986 at the Austrian GP when he drove for Ferrari and stayed in touch even when Johansson continued his career in the US.

Simon Jazbec

It is perfectly human that when someone important dies we start thinking about it. And sooner or later all kinds of theories come out about what happened especially if they are supported by ”proofs” that came from different sources than the ones officially recognized.

It is perfectly normal that we want our heroes to be a little superhuman and unmistakable so usually, the simplest and easiest explanation is simply not enough. We start searching for the ”truth” or ”our truth” that mostly has no connection with reality.

One of those moments happened on May 1st, 1994. Result of unpredictable circumstances and unlucky actions caused the death of one of the greatest drivers of that era Ayrton Senna. Moments after the tragic impact lots of people started talking about more or less confirmed sources about what ”really” happened and what was the ”real” cause of the accident. There were theories that are still alive today that Ayrton was under heavy psychological stress after the death of Ronald Ratzenberger and personal love issues. But let’s be serious for a moment. Do we really believe that such a great racing driver, a three-time Formula One world champion wasn’t mentally strong enough to overcome that? I am sure that when he put his racing helmet on the left his problems behind. Even if they didn’t share much time together, the death of a fellow colleague driver was more of a motivation for winning than a death premonition.

“There were theories that are still alive today that Ayrton was under heavy psychological stress after the death of Ronald Ratzenberger and personal love issues. But let’s be serious for a moment. Do we really believe that such a great racing driver, a three-time Formula One world champion wasn’t mentally strong enough to overcome that?”

A second, more plausible theory talks about his Williams driving over debris from a previous accident and got a tire puncture. That is possible however do we really believe that such an experienced driver as Ayrton Senna did not notice that? I think it’s almost impossible. More so we were in the era right after the ban of active suspension with all the information about the ride height of a car immediately available in the pits. There however was no sign of any puncture. Some might argue that the team covered something but all that information only confirmed that was a fatality and not a conspiracy.

“A second, more plausible theory talks about his Williams driving over debris from a previous accident and got a tyre puncture.”

And now for the biggest theory of them all, the one about the poorly welded steering column. That column was fixed especially on Ayrton Senna’s request before the race. However, it was fixed in a way that anyone who knows a little bit about racing cars would consider it unacceptable if not offensive. Such modifications are not acceptable even in local lawn mower races and here we are talking about Formula 1. The fact is that the steering column was broken yet it remains a mystery if that happened before or after the crash. The footage from the camera is showing what everybody would want to see, however, the tape stopped when the crucial moment came. The big process in Italy based on that fact found the team guilty yet nobody was sent to prison. And after years of trials what remains is just theories without any strong proof.

After all these theories I dare making my own one. One that is based on simple and possible things that probably happened. I hope that we all agree that Ayrton Senna was a stubborn character, one that drove always on the limit of his car and sometimes even exceeding that limit. His driving style was rather nervous, always searching for the grip of the car. That was a part of him, a part of his greatness. On the other hand, the Williams FW16 had a little flaw. It was an evolution of the FW15C but without the active suspension. Patrick Head and Adrian Newey confirmed that that car had a very narrow setting window and was very prone to change from an oversteer tendency to an understeer one. We also have to keep in mind that  FW 16 had servo-assisted steering which was a new thing in that era. Only with the revisited WF16B the Williams team partially solved that issues and won the constructor championship at the end of the year.

Claire Williams: It’s not pleasant to hear: “Your father is a murderer”

Here I think it is right to mention the words of the closest person to Ayrton in that race and who should know the situation best, his team mate Damon Hill who said that it was a driving mistake and not a strange conspiracy. I hope we all agree about Ayrton Senna being an extraordinary human being and driver however he was not a mythological god. Maybe he really did a mistake and in combination with an unpredictable and nervous racing car, Ayrton Senna found himself in a situation that even he was not able to solve.

Simon Jazbec