Spanish Grand Prix plans ‘tribute that never happened’ for Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger

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The Spanish Grand Prix has designed a Brazilian-Austrian flag it will display on the podium of its race next weekend as a nod to a poignant tribute that fate prevented from happening.

May 1 is 25 years since Ayrton Senna, widely regarded as the greatest driver in F1’s history, died after crashing while leading in the early stages of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. The day before, Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger had been killed in an accident during qualifying at the Imola circuit.

It was later discovered that Senna had taken an Austrian flag into the cockpit with him, which he had planned to unfurl and wave after the race. It is well documented how reluctant the Brazilian driver had been to race after Ratzenberger’s death, which had affected him greatly.

Organisers of the Barcelona race, which will be the first since the anniversary, want to make that tribute happen and have merged the national flags of both drivers. The winner of the grand prix will display on the highest step of the podium. A similar flag will also be at half mast on the entrance to the circuit. Fans are also being encouraged to interact with the hashtag #thetributethatneverhappened. Replicas will be available for those in attendance to purchase.

It is the culmination of a week of tributes to Senna. On Wednesday, a life-size sculpture of Senna by British artist Paul Oz will be unveiled at Palau Robert in Barcelona. The 160-kg piece has recently been on display alongside some of Senna’s F1 cars at McLaren’s headquarters in Woking. The sculpture will be taken to the Circuit de Catalunya for the race weekend and placed on display behind the main grandstand.

Graffiti artist Axe Colours will perform live during the weekend and paint an image of the driver. Ahead of the race, the grid will host a show, including a human tower built by Castellers de Vilafranca and a dance performance paying homage to Senna.

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