Ayrton Senna, Williams, 1994

Newey gives new insight into Senna’s death and why he feels guilty over it

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Adrian Newey has described in new detail the changes made to Ayrton Senna’s Williams prior to his fatal crash during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, and why he feels “guilty” about his death.

Adrian Newey, Williams, Interlagos, 1994
Newey designed Senna’s 1994 Williams
Newey, who was the chief designer of the Williams FW16, has given his views on the crash before. Now in his autobiography “How to Build a Car”, published this week by Harper Collins, Newey has given further insight into the circumstances surrounding the crash and the changes made to Senna’s car before it.

According to Newey, Williams initially suspected the crash was caused by a failure in the steering column, which had been modified on Senna’s car. However they changed their minds after viewing onboard footage from Michael Schumacher’s car, which was following Senna when he lost control. This showed Senna’s car initially broke traction at the rear instead of the front, which would be consistent with a steering failure.

Senna’s steering column had been modified in an attempt to improve his driving position. Newey drew up the plans to reposition the steering column and reduce its diameter at one point. He described the changes as “two very bad pieces of engineering” which “Patrick [Head] and I were responsible for”.

Following the crash Williams conducted tests of their steering column design. They found that despite the reduction in diameter and a fatigue crack on the shaft, the column was still functional.

Nonetheless Newey says he still feels “guilty” about the crash. “I was one of the senior officers in a team that designed a car in which a great man was killed,” he said.

“Regardless of whether that steering column caused the accident or not, there is no escaping the fact that it was a bad piece of design that should never have been allowed to get on the car.”

Senna had failed to score points in his first two races with Williams, who were struggling with an uncompetitive car. Newey says he feels Senna was pushing the car beyond its limits to make up the for the shortcomings in his design.

“What I feel the most guilt about, though, is not the possibility that steering column failure may have caused the accident, because I don’t think it did, but the fact that I screwed up the aerodynamics of the car,” he said.

“I messed up the transition from active suspension [in 1993] back to passive and designed a car that was aerodynamically unstable, in which Ayrton attempted to do things the car was not capable of doing.”

“Whether he did or didn’t get a puncture, his taking the inside, faster-but-bumpier line in a car that was aerodynamically unstable would have made the car difficult to control, even for him.”

Newey also revealed his scepticism over the subsequent trial over Senna’s death instigated by prosecutor Maurizio Passarini.

“I will always feel a degree of responsibility for Ayrton’s death but not culpability” Newey said. “The fact that the [Roland] Ratzenberger case had been so easily swept under the carper left me suspicious that Passarini’s principal motivation might be personal glory and notoriety.”

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  • 68 comments on “Newey gives new insight into Senna’s death and why he feels guilty over it”

    1. I can’t even begin to comprehend how tough its must be for Newey to grapple with the complex emotions related to Senna’s death. I commend his courage putting forth this explanation.

      1. Something I’d never spotted. The fact that there was no drawn out, exhaustive inquiry into Ratzenbergers death just a day before? I remember at the time reading something about how Italian law made no provision for death as a result of a sporting accident so Senna’s was being investigated under criminal law and someone had to be to blame. The witch hunt against Williams team members was ridiculous.

        1. Much as I agree there should have been an investigation, I think Ratzenberger was a driver error

          1. Indeed; while the fatal crash itself was a due to the front wing failing on the car, this failure was caused by a driver error a lap or so before. Ratzenberger’s crash should definitely have been investigated more, but it’s causes were much clearer than in Senna’s crash.

            1. @Shepardcomander
              4th November 2017, 14:10

              I watched that race live and senna was taking one of the fastest corners at that time flat out and the bottom of the car momentarily lifted from the bumps the cornering speed of inexcess of 190 mph and with Shumacher chasing behind the blame actually lys with the FIA for removing Active Suspension in which the car would of taking the corner with no problems Senna even wrote to the FIA saying he felt they made an error b4 the season started

          2. Same as Senna really, did you hear Ratzenberger say “you wouldn’t believe the things I have to do in that car” during practice, both were pushing unstable cars beyond there limits in trying to be competitive at a time when electronic aids had been banned, although Schumachers car was apparently still using it but had a computer system that wiped it clean at the end of each race so it appeared legal.

        2. The cynic in me believes someone might have checked whether Simtek had enough money to be worth attempting to criminally investigate, decided they didn’t, and moved to focus on the case where winning might involve the lawyers getting paid at the end. Remember that Italian criminal investigations often take years. Nobody wants to be the person who ordered a case to go ahead against an entity that went bankrupt during the pre-trial phase.

        3. The accident that killed Wolfgang Von Tripps at Monza was under investigation for a couple of years, ultimately as it was with this accident, the law let go of Clark and Williams respectively, I just think you could call it bureaucratic yet zealous though not wrongful.
          Why was I so sure people would come up with the Benetton witch hunt instead. Traction control or not, it’s not like they won the 95 title as well, now with Renault power even quicker, you just look at those 2 Benetton’s the rear wing and the front wing and nose and you can see designs that are still in use today.

      2. Yes agree takes a lot of courage to do this!

        On the other side one can almost feel the amount of guilt he and everyone involved in setting up that car felt !

    2. He doesn’t need to feel guilty for not providing a superior car to that of the Benneton.(Newey has stated several times his main regret in his career was not designing Senna the ‘car he deserved’ as recently as last year)
      If anything the Benetton staff should feel guilty that Senna knew they were cheating and would be difficult to catch. He was troubled enough by it that he even turned to Prost.

      Contrary to the views of Schumacher fans at the time and since, Hill did a good job as did the Williams team who were working hard to catch Benetton at times.

      1. tgu (@thegrapeunwashed)
        3rd November 2017, 20:21

        +1 this is my view too. If Benetton were running traction control (and Senna was convinced they were), then he was trying to keep pace with a quicker car – and this would have been especially important after a safety car period when tyre pressures were dangerously low. I wonder whether members of the Benetton team feel guilty? Newey certainly should not.

        1. @thegrapeunwashed, I suspect that, because it would undermine the heroic narrative that people want to create around Williams that year, nobody seems to have asked the question as to whether the Williams FW16 was entirely above board either given Newey’s notoriety for pushing the boundaries of the regulations, or just completely breaking them altogether. Why are the questions only asked one way – is it because people might be uncomfortable with the response they might get if they asked the same questions of others?

          1. I too agree that Newey shouldn’t feel guilt, but obviously that isn’t something he can just be told not to do. He couldn’t possibly have known what was about to happen.

            As to whether or not the FW16 was entirely above board, I would have thought that there would have been enough people shocked and furious at Senna’s death, that they would have investigated and found anything like that out, as in…I didn’t think there was a ‘heroic narrative’ about Williams as much as anger and urgency for answers, although I also know the car was impounded. Mainly I recall the shock and sadness of it, and the rumours flying, and utter frustration at illegal MS/Benetton still out there rubbing it in our faces (even though I know everyone within F1 including them was also shocked and saddened).

            1. Stop accusing Bennetton of cheating when it was never proven, this is a convenient excuse for Williams becoz as Newey said they stuffed up the transition to normal suspension. Senna also found it hard to believe how fast Schumacher was in a full race. No one realised how good Schumacher was at that time, however the passage of time now tells the facts about his speed. Did he cheat in 95 and from 2000-2004?

          2. There’s a difference between Newey pushing boundries to questionable levels than Flavio & Symonds tampering with sealed equipment and hiding illegal systems

            1. Ya that’s true too.

            2. @robbie illegal systems, like third pedals… Now seriously, the latest worst thing besides playing with safety cars (and there’s more teams it was not only Renault that did it) is what BAR did with the fuel tanks back in 05.
              Like Sumedh said, Benetton has nothing to do with this subject.
              Honestly safe car or not, easy car to drive or not, as Newey points out the video shows the car loosing the rear, that’s what I see as well, Senna lost the rear of the car corrected it and hit the wall quick and on a very bad angle, he passed away and that’s the 2nd of the 2 big tragedies that weekend.

            3. BigJoe, presumably you will also say that McLaren must have had an illegal car then – under pressure from the press, Ron Dennis admitted in an interview at the Brazilian GP that year that the ECU for the MP4/9 still had the code for traction control on it, but claimed that it had been “disarmed”.

              I find it interesting that you just instinctively jump towards attacking Flavio and Symonds instead – a lot of people want to hate them and cast them in the worst light possible whilst simultaneously wanting Williams to be “whiter than white” in order to hold them up as the heroic team battling against the evil wrongdoers at Benetton.

            4. What’s this got to do with McLaren.
              I like Flavio and Symonds but they were both banned from the sport for cheating and set fire to Jos Verstapppen due to illegal tampering.

              Let me repeat. Newey has nothing to feel guilty about compared to Benetton. He’s not a cheat.

            5. BigJoe, there is a rather clear point to bringing up McLaren, which was to demonstrate that you are holding teams to rather different standards – McLaren had components on the car which were the same as Benetton, and indeed in some ways McLaren cheated even more than Benetton that season (people often gloss over the fact that McLaren’s gearbox was ruled to be illegal and had to be removed from the car for the latter part of that season), yet you seem to not care about their actions because it doesn’t give you an opportunity to condemn those that you want to hate.

              As an aside, whilst you complain about the refuelling fire with Jos, we know that multiple teams had reported significant issues with fuel leaks and near misses when refuelling before the season had begun, even when the refuelling rigs were being used correctly.

              There are reports that Arrows, Ferrari, McLaren, Jordan and Lotus had all reported to the FIA that the fuel rigs had been leaking fuel whilst training their operatives to use the refuelling rigs in pre-season training, even with the fuel filters being fitted in place.

              There are also contemporary reports in Motorsport Magazine that the FIA issued a mandate to remove the filters after Jordan and Lotus reported there had been accidents in pre-season testing, and they also questioned why, after the accident in Hockenheim, Intertechnique suddenly withdrew every single refuelling nozzle and reissued new nozzles with a modified fuel valve, with Intertechnique never offering any explanation to the teams why they needed to change the design of the fuel valve.

              Are you prepared to say that the likes of Jordan and Lotus should have been punished for illegally tampering with the fuel rigs as well? Do you not have questions when five other teams had reported that, even in pre-season testing, refuelling rigs were leaking fuel and suggestions that the valve design was defective? Or will you just brush the question to one side because it is inconvenient to your world view that only Benetton behaved in that way?

              Frankly, it feels a bit too much like people want to paint the events of that time with rather broad brush strokes – they want a team that they want to laud in the shape of Williams and in the figure of Hill, and they want a villain that they can condemn in the shape of Benetton and Schumacher. The whole situation looks far messier and harder to tell who exactly was in the right when you look more closely at things, and suggests that nobody was entirely in the clear.

      2. I don’t agree with this. Benetton should feel guilty, but for cheating the rules, not for Senna’s death.

        No amount of cheating from a rival warrants that a team or driver compromise on the safety of a car. Williams/Senna did not knowingly compromise the safety of the car. It was a freak set of circumstances that led to Senna’s death. Benetton’s cheating did not lead to Senna’s death.

    3. the protracted legal affair allowed the car to be impounded in Italy for a fair length of time in bologna. its always been rumored that the car was often visited and …”looked at”

      1. …and destroyed due to “an advanced state of deterioration” upon return to Williams.

        Circumstances around this entire event point to some kind of cover up.

        1. Michael Brown (@)
          4th November 2017, 1:38

          Also when Williams was given the car’s black box (by regulation, the FIA is supposed to get it) and erased the data on it after claiming it was unreadable.

          1. @mbr-9
            That’s a metropolitan legend. Data were actually recovered from the car and the telemetry was used later in the trial , there were many ECUs embedded recording data one of them was for Renault. That’s the one that was “carefully destroyed” after the incident.

        2. Some people imagine cover-ups everywhere, regardless of evidence.

    4. The whole saga over Senna’s death is a disgrace to the Italian justice system. Personal glory is an understatement in my view. It made me sick at the time and still does now.

    5. I hope Santa will take note of my updated list with Newey’s book on it.

    6. According to Newey, Williams initially suspected the crash was caused by a failure in the steering column, which had been modified on Senna’s car. However they changed their minds after viewing onboard footage from Michael Schumacher’s car, which was following Senna when he lost control. This showed Senna’s car initially broke traction at the rear instead of the front, which would be consistent with a steering failure.

      I’ve watched that clip over and over… and over… and over again and maybe I’m blind or something, but I’ve never ever seen the rear losing traction first. I just didn’t.

      Can someone point me towards perhaps a better resolution video?

      All I saw on YouTube was a car that was turning on a constant radius and suddenly went straight.

      1. You and me both brother. Maybe they had better source video. But I don’t seen any oversteer at all.

      2. Ah, nevermind, it doesn’t show from Schumacher’s onboard, but a slight oversteer moment does show on Senna’s own onboard footage.

        1. I thought, although this might not be the most recent info after the dust settled on the whole tragedy, that after the restart the tire pressures were that low from cold tires that his car bottomed out on the bumps around that high speed turn and that’s how he lost control. So not so much just the back end stepping out but the whole car being unsettled and shooting straight off.

          1. @robbie, the problem is that nobody has ever been able to fully explain the situation, with multiple different competing theories as to what exactly happened at the time.

            Some have suggested the cold tyres meant the car was bottoming out, though never adequately explained why the Williams in particular would have been so strongly affected by that.
            Newey has always said in the past that he does not know for certain what happened, but has said that he thinks a puncture was the most probable cause, whilst other drivers consulted at the time (Alboreto, for example), suggested that there had been a mechanical failure on the car and suggested a possible suspension fault.

            Syd Watkins and Damon Hill, meanwhile, have both said that they think that Senna was just pushing far too hard and made a mistake (Hartstein, who was in the medical car at the time, has said that Watkins had been watching how Senna was driving and, moments before he did crash, had said “He’s going too fast – he’s going to crash”, believing that Senna was driving recklessly hard in the circumstances).

            It is not helped by the unresolved question of why Williams were allowed to access the loggers first and without external supervision of what they were doing, and whether the loggers did in fact hold data that might have provided more clarity one way or another. Williams have always maintained that the data on the loggers could not be read, but there have long been allegations that Williams tampered with the loggers before returning them to the investigators.

            There is long standing confusion over the condition of the loggers, with Fabrizio Nosco, the technical expert who removed the loggers from the car, stating the external casing was scratched but the loggers were otherwise intact when he removed them, whilst Bernard Duffort, an electrical engineer at Renault, stated that they had impact damage by the time that he received them.
            Furthermore, rather than saying that the data was inaccessible, Duffort stated that there was no data at all on the loggers by the time that he received them, leading to accusations that Williams had intentionally wiped data from the loggers before handing them over.

      3. Agree ..the car never lost traction while was on track..not rear nor front..it just straighten up 320kmh flat out turn..But let’s give Newey and everyone involved peace of mind..

        1. I think Newey has been trying to come clean. First, I feel he was the ONLY big name at Williams who GENUINELY felt guilty and terrible for what had happened, and for all the spin that followed. Seems like they were not on the same page and ultimately he left the team when they were on top of the world again (and as we see later, a huge chunk of that – if not the majority – was all Newey).
          Then in 2014, he pretty much hinted in an interview that the official Williams “cold tyre” theory was bs. He also implied we would never know. It’s interesting that he talked in a way that gave me the impression he knew a lot more, but couldn’t really say. He also held short of implicating the faulty steering column.
          And now he goes into more detail and I feel he is practically implicating the steering column in more detail, but being very vague about a lot of things. I think these are all hints for us to understand once and for all, that it was the steering column. However, it wasn’t his idea to shorten it, but the actual work that was done, particularly the extension tube. I’m pretty sure Newey was busy with other things than overseeing the improvised modifications down to the every in the “manufacturing” process, since there are enough engineers in the team that would deal with this.
          To summarize what I’m saying, it wasn’t so much Newey’s fault, but he is the one who actually feels bad about everything. And now he is hinting about the real cause.
          And btw, the Imola-spec FW16 wasn’t nearly as bad as the car from the previous two races. Senna was happy with the setup for the very first time.

          1. I agree steering wheel as well and he feels as if someone died under his command which is true if that is what happened.

      4. That’s because the car doesn’t really lose traction. Senna’s onboard also doesn’t show any opposite lock, but instead a desperate attempt to steer left. Tamburello was not the kind of place you could push a car to its cornering limit anyway, however, the mechanical stress there was significant because of the long high-speed bend combined with the bumps.

      5. Oversteering in Tamburello corner as it was is quite unthinkable. there is one video on board – which in fact was cut before the impact and this is very curious – that shows a yellow button on Senna steering wheel. if you follow the trajectory of this button, you’ll see that this button has a very weird trajectory and very different than normal, if you compare with the same button’s trajectory from other laps, it is clear something weird happened to that steering wheel.

        what this video looking at yellow button:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToxLp5Zvft8

        then watch this:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B3sXTQM_Uk

        What do you think?

        1. If the rear lost grip even slightly then there would be quite a bit of movement in the steering wheel. The video footage unfortunately reveals very little apart from that something went wrong.

        2. The footage wasn’t cut. This was 1994 technology, it wasn’t capable of streaming in real time like we can do today. Video was buffered for a couple of seconds before it was transmitted, the reason why we don’t see the impact is because the car was destroyed before the rest of the footage could be transmitted and broadcasted.

    7. I have to be honest, I’ve always felt like the car initially oversteered, Senna corrected the back end stepping out and at this point the column suffered sheer failure… mainly due to the seemingly completely straight trajectory the car took when leaving the track. Hearing these sincere comments from Newey just reinforces this, but even if this were true (which it certainly might not be), I do not think he is responsible for Senna’s death.

      F1 always pushes the limits, whether it is in the factory or in the minutes before a race start. This sometimes leads to glory and sometime to failure, but that is the nature of pushing things to the limit. As soon as F1 doesn’t do this, it is no longer F1. Senna was incredibly unfortunate, and it’s sad for Newey he still feels some guilt, but one could also blame the track, the way the 94 regs were brought in, etc. It was a series of events that led to the crash. I do feel bad for him though… he always seemed a genuine guy in a paddock full of Bernies and Flavios.

      1. @john-h I agree.
        not entirely sure if the steering columns did fail before impact but sure it’s movement looked strange from the onboard reportedly that was how it was designed perhaps that’s just their defence but nevertheless that was not a good design Newey admits it. Newey debates the whole culpable vs responsible dichotomy. Responsible, of course not, culpable, of course not but Senna did drive Newey’s design so surely as Newey explains the car was not particularly good or predictable and either way it means it’s partly responsible for the crash and so is Newey, though not culpable.

    8. Newey design faults or not. Senna would have without doubt won the WC in 94, 95, 96 and 97 with an unreachable pole record.

      1. I disagree, senna would’ve been 30 points behind schumacher before monaco whether he died or not in san marino accident.

        I heard the argument senna is much better than hill, hill got so close, he’d have won.

        I wouldn’t say, cause if schumacher had a more serious rival like senna, I doubt he’d have done what he did at silverstone and wouldn’t have scored 3x 0 points due to it.

        He likely would’ve still lost his belgium victory, but I doubt senna was good enough to overcome the initial advantage.

        You could see it like current hamilton = senna and current verstappen = schumacher, he maybe wasn’t at senna’s level, but not much under, he had the skill to keep him behind with a 30 points headstart.

        1. Lewisham Milton
          4th November 2017, 0:35

          What if Stirling Moss had made a comeback, now fully recovered from his accident 32 years previously?

        2. Schumacher didnt get a pole until Senna passed away, Prost and Mansell retired. He then got outqualified by Mansell on Mansell’s comeback. He was as good as he was when he raced those, knocking on the door, that’s about it. Senna trounced him in qualifying.

        3. Hill didn’t get close , the re writing of the 94 season is continuous. Schumacher was 5 wins from the first 6 races until Bernie intervened banned Schumacher for 2 races and then took victory away from him at spa Hill was thrashed in 94. In 95 when there was no intervention the real gap was highlighted.

      2. Absolutely- and then perhaps pursued his desire to finish his career at Ferrari…and who knows what that would’ve led to…

    9. Pushing a racecar past its performance abilities to stay with a faster car makes me question the intelligence of that decision.

      1. That is what race drivers do. He wanted to win, and to win against a car that he knew was cheating meant that he had to push harder than the car was really designed to do.

      2. Plus this is how Senna always drove a we all loved him for it.

    10. I recall back when the accident happened, I was 10 & Senna was my childhood hero so I refused to believe the accident was caused due to any mistake on his behalf & brought into the steering column failure theory as soon as I heard it as it was the only plausible explanation to me.

      However as time has gone on & i’ve seen the various angles more, Heard more theories & opinions as well as just gained more knowledge of things as i’ve got older I now fully believe that perhaps due to low tyre pressures combined with Ayrton running the tighter (Much bumpier) line the car bottomed heavily which stalled the diffuser & caused the back end to step out & as Ayrton moved to correct it the car gripped & took him straight to the wall.

      There was all the talk that the movement in the steering column (The focus on the famous yellow button) was proof that the column failed. However to me a driver of Ayrton’s experience & skill would have felt that long before it failed & either reported it via radio and/or slowed down & pitted because he would know better than anyone what the risk of staying out would be, Especially that weekend given Ratzenberg’s death.
      Additionally when you go back & watch the OnBoard from both Ayrton & Damon’s car’s over that weekend, Both cars have the same level of flex in the wheel/column in every session which I believe proves that it was indeed normal & not sign of impending failure.
      Damon Hill’s OnBoard from the Sunday morning Warm-up:
      https://vid.me/qQInE

      Also going back & for the 1st time since that weekend watching the qualifying sessions, warm-up & Full race I noticed things like Ayrton running a tighter line through Tamburello compared to everyone else, I noticed how much bumpier that line was & a few other times through the weekend how much more unstable the car at times looked on those bumps.
      There was an OnBoard replay from Damon Hill’s car of Ayrton’s crash in which he takes the tighter line Ayrton had been running & notice that his car gets really unstable, Interesting to compare this with the video above where he runs his normal wider race line:
      https://vid.me/VH3g7

      And again looking at the various angles & spotting what looks like the back end stepping out as well as hearing that as soon as Michael Schumacher had returned to the pits after the crash his immediate comments were that he saw the rear of Ayrton’s car step out going over those bumps not just on the lap he crashed but also the lap before.

      Finally was something I was reading about some years ago regarding the Williams & how with the active car they had developed a diffuser that stalled to reduce drag (I forget what the conditions that caused this were, I think it was rake angle though) & how it was something they were trying to get to work with the non-active car but had been causing them some of the stability problems that car was suffering from.

      1. Michael Brown (@)
        4th November 2017, 1:52

        @stefmeister Really insightful comment. It’s surely going to be Comment of the Day.

        Regarding the low tire pressures on the restart, I want to ask some questions. Was it limited to Senna’s car, and was it visible on telemetry (if it existed back then)? Was it normal for the tires not to be up to pressure after one lap after the restart on that track?

        Also, the stalling diffuser sounds like something worth looking into.

        1. Depending on the cars characteristics it could well take more than a lap to get the tyres back up to full pressure. There is a lot of air in the tyres and air is not a good conductor of heat. The tyre itself would get hot pretty quick but it would take time to heat all of the air in the tyre to the point that it is at full pressure. Again, different cars would act differently in this regard, some might heat up quicker and some slower. Also the effect that lower pressure might have would also be dependent on the design of the car. Some cars might well not be affected much at all while others may be wildly unstable.

          You can see this in modern F1 too. Some cars just can’t use particular compounds while being unstoppable on others. Some cars look after their tyres in hot races while others are fine.

      2. Its hard to say what it was, the normal thing is that the steering column failed, but if people give “mist” to this subject, its because they dont want to assume responsabilities. Newey was never man enough to admit he screwed big time and killed a man by his bad solutions. He always points his finger to different theories and bla bla bla.
        The thing is that the car was rapidly returned to williams garage where they manipulated it. It wasnt retained by the police and properly investigated with the black box etc etc.
        The williams team hide all the elements that were suspicious and made the investigation as complicated as possible. And when u do this type of things, u obviously know u done something very suspicious in your car. Nobody will know what they done with the car that killed Senna except them. And they will never admit. Newey always been bla bla bla, this accident affect me very seriously i lost the hair, and bla bla bla. Pure bulls. U went on, and never quit f1 if u were so affected, and never admit any responsability.

        1. What you are saying is pure speculation. There is no evidence of tampering. However the ineptitude of the Italian police certainly does not help alleviate the conspiracy theories as they made so many mistakes it leaves the door open for conspiracies to breed.

      3. Sorry, but if any structure suffers catastrophic sheer failure, you don’t get much warning before it happens.

      4. Thanks for the videos, good stuff. Although I must disagree on the level of steering wheel flexing. It was indeed similar (about 5-8 mm) during the two first races, and all the sessions in Imola UNTIL the lap 7 in the race. That’s when it starts to go wrong in Ayrton’s car. When entering the Tamburello and during the time Ayrton loses control, the flexing is more than 20 mm which is by any standards way too much if the column would be intact. Even a simple beam bending calculation with the steering column geometry, material values and approximated loads would tell you that it was quite impossible to have that amount of flexing if the column was intact (which I suppose it was not).

        I must give credit for Adrian Newey to analyse the accident as much as he does in the book, but unfortunately he does not say anything about the flexing issue. Anyhow, he gives away new information about the “fix” they made on the steering column. The structure is very poor as he says but he also reveals that the tube diameter was reduced because of FIA rules (something about template must pass between the driver and the cockpit). For me it was always mystery why the structure of the “fix” was what it was, but not anymore.

        For anyone interested in the subject, I would recommend Martin Zustak’s book Tamburello. It has all the information what is available.

        http://www.martinzustak.com/tamburello

    11. Regardless of what caused the accident, what caused Senna’s death was a one-in-a-million piece of misfortune in that a piece of suspension entered his helmet. There’s no blame or fault in that. You could replay that accident a million times and have the driver walk away each time.

      It wasn’t your fault, Adrian.

    12. Alberto Sabbatini AutoSprint director (and a friend of Adrian Newey) did have illegal access and for a few minutes to the original telemetry of Ayrton. He explained that data were actually recovered from Senna’s car unlike what is generally known because there were many sensors (ECUs) recording data from the FW16 for the Williams team and for Renault (one of them was destroyed but that’s another story….), and were used later as a one of the main proofs in the trial. The original telemetry was a millimetric sheet that contains simplified data about the car like throttle,steering wheel,speed … He reconstructed what he’ve got and published the document in Rombo magazine back in 1994 and republished it again in 2014 in Autosprint.
      As you can see, the dark blue line represents the torque applied to the steering expressed in Nm, the green line represents hydraulic pressure of the steering expressed in Psi, the two other lines are relative to the speed (blue line) and the opening of the throttle valve(red line)
      At the 11th second, the moment Senna starts entering the Tamburello the blue line is indicating that the speed of the Williams was 306 kph, the dark blue line is decreasing till reaching zero which is an anomaly since Senna is applying a force to the steering (A point). This is explained by the green line which ,after a sudden peak, starts to decreasing till reaching zero (B point).
      Three tenths later(11″3s), Senna reacted to the anomaly and started modulating the throttle by 50% (C point). This is an abnormal behaviour since Tamburello is a flat out corner. The problem persists and 2 tenths later (11″50s) Senna lifts off the throttle and started to brake (red line is zero and the blue line is decreasing) but that wasn’t enough since 1.3s later (at 12″8s) the deadly impact against the wall took place.
      Just wanted to translate for you what looked for me a very interesting article about Senna’s last moment according of course to Sabbatini.
      http://autosprint.corrieredellosport.it/news/formula1/2014/05/02-204325/documento_esclusivo_la_telemetria_di_senna/

      It has to be noted that the whole broken steering column story was revealed by AutoSprint and the images were actually taken by the photographer Angelo Orsi, a very close friend of Senna.
      Orsi was taking photo of Ayrton while he was dying, he figured out later that the photos were shocking and despite desperate attempts of many Magazines to buy the photos (there were also requests from Senna’s family to view the photos) he refused and burned them all for respect to his late friend Ayrton.

      http://autosprint.corrieredellosport.it/news/formula1/2014/04/30-204297/senna_la_vera_storia_dello_sterzo_rotto/

    13. ….even so, racing cars break all the time, they’re prototypes. What killed Senna was F1’s safety regulations of the time.

    14. Senna died due to the impact against an unprotected concrete wall, and the price of SUSPENSION that pierced his helmet.

      He was tragically unlucky, and the disgusting slimeball of a prosecutor who went after Williams without a shred of knowledge of F1 should hang his head in shame.

    15. Senna will always remain the great tragic Shakespearean character of modern Formula 1, and no ‘revelations’ will ever bring him back. His luck just ran out that year. There was nothing to be done.

    16. Adrian, please don’t do that to yourself! We all know it was multiple factors involved in this tragedy and poor engineering is not the prevailing one even if it contributed to the accident in any way. We all forget that during that weekend one more fatality happened as well. The scene was set for tragedy much before. I’d say it was deeply rooted in technical regulations which made cars dangerous to drive. That was the verdict made by Alain Prost at the time after a short test drive. FIA made a huge error and it all started much before. To be more precise it was shortly before Canadian GP in 1993.

    17. This all comes from rating Senna to a god level. Ratzinger was quickly dismissed as driver error.

      But driving god Senna cannot be responsible for driving over the limit, hence lengthy investigations. Reality is always tough for car designer.

      1. That track and in particular that corner was a death trap waiting to happen. Someone has to die, otherwise no improvements would be made. Unfortunately it was Ayrton.

    18. Claud Paccoret
      9th November 2017, 7:35

      What bothers me the most is the fact that Mr. Newey still treat us all, even us in the engineering community, as stupid idiots that we do not understand the science ‘he and only he’ knows.
      He is dishonest to no limit, he hides facts and was possibly one of the thief or responsible of the telemetry disappearance.
      He tries this new conceptual line of ‘unstable aerodynamics’… always in classic style of his own, full of NO details or direct facts.
      He even denies broken steering shaft ? … and he calls it ‘fully operational’ ? What do you not understand of the telemetry ? and the pictures ? anybody ? AutoSprint published that info.

      Please, leave us alone Mr. Newey: you were ignorant of MANY car dynamics design principles, MANY fundamental aerodynamics transient mechanics and like many at the time did not care about driver’s minimum safety.
      You were just better perhaps than the vast mediocrity of aerodynamicists that were designing F1 cars at your time of glory and taking all or most of the credit for the teams victories.

      At this point in time, It would be better if you shut up and get lost.

      I prefer people that are honest and talk straight, even if they did a mistake.. we all do that in engineering, but do not confuse and do not hide information to the young engineers or the engineers of tomorrow.
      After all, soon or later we get to understand mistakes and move on to better engineering only again when we are honest.

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