Senna crash

In the weeks after Senna's crash, reports circulated in the Brazilian press to the effect that moments before impact the Williams' two front wheels were pointing in different directions, as if a tie rod or suspension part had failed.

As the following frames show, the conclusion is not without some foundation. These images were downloaded using the CINECA site's video player (which provides slightly better image quality than the more commonly seen mpeg file) and may be therefore verified as unaltered.

In the first photo, as the car leaves the track, the front wheels appear normal. They are roughly the same profile and color, suggesting the light is being reflected similarly from them, as one would expect.

In subsequent images, however, the left wheel becomes considerably darker and more round than the right, as if it is now pointed inward at an extreme angle while the other remains nearly straight.

In some tapes, both front wheels appear to be turned inward in snow-plow fashion as the car nears the wall. While videos can be deceptive, the RAI master copy would be revealing.

Court proceedings have focused on the steering column, which does indeed appear to have suffered a fatigue failure, but the outcome is in no way certain.

Prosecution experts will claim the failure caused the crash; defense experts will maintain that though there is fatigue, the final break was a result of the impact.

Both sides will claim the same photos and evidence support their positions.

Whether metal fatigue was the actual cause remains unknown. There have been a number of crashes at Tamburello, all caused by mechanical or tire failure.

For those dependent upon the English-speaking press for their information, however, facts, photos and analysis available in other countries (and The Senna Files) are conspicuous in their absence.

Only in that type of environment can rumors like the one suggesting Senna became unconscious or passed out exist.

Renault telemetry, including the frame which the CINECA site says is from the moment of failure, shows that is impossible.

That particular sampling is actually moments afterward, but the conclusion is inescapable. Senna has diagnosed the problem and is braking so hard that the car is decelerating at a near-maximum -3.75g's.

He is clearly conscious and attempting to control the car.

The simple fact is that no one stands to gain anything in the Senna trial, but many have much to lose…

© 1997 Rick Miller

Senna Files