The Year Chicanes Ruined Formula One

Getty Images: The Spanish Grand Prix in 1994
Getty Images: The Spanish Grand Prix in 1994

1994 was a depressing year for Formula One. During the third round of the season, the world lost Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at the San Marino Grand Prix. At the very next race, Karl Wendlinger’s had a big crash and the FIA asked for series of track safety modifications. This basically means they asked the tracks to add ridiculous chicanes to slow the cars down before all of our favorite corners.

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I guess when you lose two drivers and almost a third in the first few rounds of the season, you need to take drastic measures. If you have time to only check out one chicane, look at Spa at 1:26 in the video. It’s almost hard to believe.

Illustration for article titled The Year Chicanes Ruined Formula One
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The cameras in 1994 were almost as bad as the chicanes. Sorry about the poor quality video and screengrabs, but it was 23 years ago.

Most of the changes were removed the following year for obvious reasons, but in 1994, chicanes ruined Formula One.

And yet we complain about the lack of passing today.

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DISCUSSION

Last week I lost my keys. Found them two days later. We didn’t “lose” Senna, he died. There’s a finality to death we don’t like to face, still, it is the ultimate honesty. Perhaps, if we write directly about the death of racers and eschew euphemisms, we might end up saving lives, lives of people we love.

I used to follow racing, in my younger days. You could say 1994 was my peak year. It ended with Senna. I cried for days, and still I tear up when I think of him. Still, he died as he lived - we should all be so lucky.