Lewis Hamilton has felt a lifelong connection to Aytron Senna and attributes his own driving style and success to his early years of watching the three-time world champion on television.
Thursday marks 20 years since Senna lost his life following a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix, with fans and Formula One drivers past and present paying tribute to the Brazilian and also to Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger, who was killed at the same track on April 30, 1994.
Imola is being opened to the public from Thursday through to Sunday, with a parade taking place to mark the lives of both Senna and Ratzenberger, while talks on how safety measures have improved in the sport have also taken place.
It is testament to the measures implemented since May 1, 1994, that Senna, who was 34, remains the last driver to die over the course of an F1 weekend.
And for Hamilton, who leads the current drivers’ championship having won three of the opening four rounds of the 2014 season in his Mercedes, Senna holds a special place in his development.
“A lot of the way I drive today is inspired by the way I saw him drive,” Hamilton wrote on his online blog.
“It was the fact that Ayrton Senna was just an out-and-out racer that was most important to me.
“I can really identify with that. It’s exactly how I feel I am. That’s why I feel I have had that connection with him since I was a kid. People say I have an aggressive style and sometimes I don’t think that is all just me.
“I think it’s partly because I watched Ayrton Senna when I was young and I thought ‘This is how I want to drive when I get the opportunity’. And I went out there and tried it on the kart track. And my whole approach to racing has developed from there.
“I remember the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix 20 years ago when he crashed and it was very difficult for me to show my emotions in my family so I went off to a quiet place.
“I was only nine, and it was very difficult for several days to really understand the magnitude of what had happened... Your hero is gone.”