(Motorsport-Total.com) – Riccardo Patrese drove his last Formula 1 race at the 1993 season finale in Australia. The Italian no longer found a cockpit for 1994, but did not officially end his career at that time – even though he was already 40 in April. In fact, it would have almost made a comeback a few weeks after his 40th birthday.
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“It was very difficult for me to watch the others start the season and to have to stay at home myself. At the beginning of 1994 I had not yet decided that [der Formel-1-Abschied] was forever and ever, “recalls Patrese in the podcast ‘Beyond the Grid’ of the first months of the year.
“Because I had the idea that I might want to go back again, I went to Williams in Imola – just to say hello and offer to test for you,” reveals Patrese, who drove for Williams between 1987 and 1992 and said, “I knew they had trouble with the passive car.”
“Active suspension was banned at the end of 1993. I was the last driver to drive a passive Williams, the FW14 from 1991,” recalls Patrese, adding: “I thought maybe I could help them get the car back to get there because the 1994 car wasn’t very good. “
Patrese actually just wanted to test
“Senna had a problem with Schumacher at the Brazilian Grand Prix before Imola,” recalls the Italian. Senna had dropped out in the first two races of the season, which Michael Schumacher won in the Benetton. Before the third race in Imola, he was already 20 points behind the future world champion and was under pressure.
“So I had this idea in mind to test again and I knew that they like me and appreciate my work. I figured if I was quick I might get a chance at Williams as Ayrton’s teammate in 1995. I went so go and make Frank [Williams] and Patrick [Head] the offer. They were thrilled, “said Patrese.
“Then we talked to Ayrton, and he was also enthusiastic. That was on Saturday afternoon, after training,” Patrese reports and adds: “I said goodbye to Ayrton and said to him: ‘I’ll see you at the next test!’ Then he said: ‘I’m looking forward to working with you.’ It was very kind words. “
“I went home and saw the accident on TV on Sunday,” recalls Patrese of Senna’s fatal accident at the Imola race. “It immediately occurred to me that you might not need a test driver anymore, but a racing driver,” he reveals and reports: “I met [beim nächsten Rennen] in Monaco with Williams. “
How Senna’s accident changed everything
“Frank wanted to talk to me if I still want to come back now that they need a racing driver,” recalls Patrese. At the time, however, he had doubts. “I didn’t sleep well in the two weeks after the accident. I didn’t feel comfortable getting into this car,” he admits.
“When it looked like I should really replace Ayrton, I no longer felt comfortable with the situation. Ayrton was the best driver in the best team. If that happens to him, it may happen to me. And I had survived many years in Formula 1. Maybe I’ll sit in tomorrow and something will happen to me, “explains Patrese.
Photo gallery: How Imola changed the safety of Formula 1 forever in 1994
The accidental death of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger in Imola in 1994 changed the Formula 1 world forever. Security is becoming even more important and the first measures are being implemented almost immediately. With illustrations by Giorgio Piola, we look at how Formula 1 cars are made safer after the two accidents.
“I had too many doubts. I didn’t know that before. So I decided to let it go. So I called Frank and said to him: ‘It’s better if you look for another driver. For me it was the one Formula 1 and racing. ‘ He asked if I was really sure. But I was sure. I didn’t have a good feeling, “said Patrese.
“I hung up the phone and that was the end of my Formula 1 career,” explains the Italian. Senna’s Williams cockpit shared David Coulthard and Nigel Mansell until the end of the 1994 season. In fact, Patrese returned in 1996 for a test in the then-current Williams FW18. However, he never contested a Formula 1 race again.