Senna on-track tribute ‘one of the strongest emotions’ felt by Vettel


Sebastian Vettel admitted that Sunday’s tribute laps to Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola left him emotionally overwhelmed inside the cockpit of the great Brazilian’s McLaren.

The 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix wasn't just another race weekend for Formula 1. It was a poignant anniversary, a somber echo of a tragedy that shook the sport to its core 30 years ago.

Ayrton Senna's death at the circuit in 1994 left a gaping hole in the sport, a loss compounded by the passing of Roland Ratzenberger just a day earlier.

The weight of that weekend hung heavy in the air, especially for Sebastian Vettel, a driver known for his respect for the sport's history and its heroes.

Senna's final moments were marked by a heartbreaking detail. In the wreckage of his car, marshals found an unfurled Austrian flag – a tribute to Ratzenberger that Senna had planned to wave during the race’s cool-down lap.

It was intended as a gesture of sportsmanship and respect, a final act of camaraderie cut tragically short.

Determined to honor both Senna and Ratzenberger, Vettel, a four-time world champion himself, spearheaded a moving tribute that began with a group track run on Friday.

The homage culminated in an emotional demo run around Imola in the very car Senna drove in 1993, the McLaren MP4/8 which Vettel now owns.

But the most stirring moment wasn't the roar of the engine or the blur of speed. It was the sight of Vettel, tears welling in his eyes, waving not just the Brazilian flag Senna often used, but also the Austrian flag, fulfilling the fallen champion's unfulfilled gesture.

It was a moment that transcended racing, a testament to sportsmanship, respect, and the enduring power of a memory.

“It's difficult to put in words, I think it was one of the strongest emotions I felt behind the wheel despite being alone on track and not even racing,” Vettel said.

"Incredible. When I got the flags out, the people... it was so powerful.

"I'm happy that I had the courage to address my idea and invite the Senna family. And I only got positive feedback.

"The compassion he had, the courage he had to speak his mind. Pushing education, trying to fight poverty in his country.

"In many ways, he was ahead of the game as a person of that time, but also as a racing driver in particular.

"And therefore it's a very important and powerful story to share, especially with young drivers coming up."


Vettel admitted that he wondered before last weekend’s tribute whether waving the Austrian flag in memory of Ratzenberger was “the right thing”.

"Obviously, the Brazilian flag was clear, because it was something that he used to do after the races," the German explained.

"But I know the same story [about the Austrian flag Senna had prepared]. I was thinking about it, whether it's the right thing to try and finish the job.

"I don't think it will ever be finished, it's not about finishing, but trying to just make people remember.

"It felt very special when I got the flag out and very special when I got both of them out. It was a very special and very meaningful weekend for me."

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