Formula 1 | Brazil pays tribute to Ayrton Senna 30 years after his death

(Rio de Janeiro) Thirty years to the day after the death of Ayrton Senna, Brazil paid tribute on Wednesday to one of its greatest idols, a source of national pride whose aura is comparable to that of “King” Pelé.

Fans of the three-time Formula 1 world champion (1988, 1989 and 1991) flocked to his grave in a cemetery in Sao Paulo (south-east), his hometown, where he was buried in 1994, at the age of 34, after his tragic accident at the Italian circuit of Imola.

Hundreds of people placed flowers, photos and Brazilian flags on his tomb, under a gigantic tree, AFP noted.


Riders took to the Interlagos circuit in Brazil to pay tribute to Ayrton Senna.

Like every year since his death, a foot race is organized on the Interlagos circuit, also in Sao Paulo, where he won twice at the end of his career, in 1991 and 1993.

In Imola, a ceremony was held in his memory and that of the Austrian Roland Ratzenberger, who died a day before the Brazilian in another accident, in the presence of the foreign ministers of Brazil, Austria and Italy.

Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said in an interview with AFP that Ayrton Senna “was one of the best of his time, probably the best”. “He was a flamboyant and attractive pilot,” he said.

Programs paying tribute to the man who gives his name to many streets in Brazil have multiplied in recent days on local televisions.

A traveling exhibition entitled Me, Ayrton Senna da Silva – 30 years old opened its doors on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro, after passing through several other Brazilian metropolises.

In this exhibition, visitors can hear the pilot’s voice recounting the defining moments of his life and career using artificial intelligence.

On the splendid Copacabana beach, an emblematic site of Rio, many walkers take their photo as usual in front of the bronze statue of the pilot, which immortalizes him with his arms raised and brandishing a Brazilian flag.

Among them, Joao Paulo Bertoloni, 30, who was a baby when Senna died.

“I didn’t get to see him live, but my family was always a fan of his. My father, my grandparents… Everyone talked to me about Senna. At the time, Brazil stopped on Sundays to attend its races,” says this business leader.

“A guy like us”


Thierry Santos cries in front of a photo of Ayrton Senna in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Marilane Mattos, 66, remembers perfectly the moment she saw the Imola accident live on television on 1er May 1994.

“It was horrible, it still makes me sad today. But I prefer to remember the good times (…). He was a simple guy, a guy like us,” she confides, after a selfie in front of the statue in Copacabana.

Beyond sporting exploits, the legacy of Alain Prost’s great rival remains alive in Brazil through the Ayrton Senna Institute, which was recognized in 2004 by UNESCO for its educational projects intended for children from disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“Ayrton always said that if you wanted to change things, you had to start with education,” said Viviane Senna, Ayrton’s sister and president of the institute, in a video recently posted on social media.

Founded six months after the pilot’s death, the institute says it has benefited some 36 million students in 3,000 Brazilian cities.

For the Brazilian writer Ernesto Rodrigues, author of the biography “Ayrton, the Hero Revealed”, Senna left his mark because he “restored self-esteem to Brazilians” at a time marked by political and economic crises.

When he won his world titles, Brazil was just emerging from a military dictatorship and experiencing a period of hyperinflation.

“His legacy has been largely preserved. He gave his name to important avenues throughout the country. Every time his name is mentioned, it gives Brazilians a lot of pride,” concludes the biographer.


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