Fresh flowers adorned the sculpture, white predominantly, roses and lillies.A few early arrivals had made their way to the clearing in the copse behind the Tamburello corner that would later throng with thousands paying their respects.Photographs were taken, interrupting the early perambulations of walkers and joggers making routine yards through the bucolic woodland of the Aqua Minerale Parc adjacent to the circuit.
As part of the 20th anniversary pageant to commemorate Senna’s passing the Circuit di Enzo e Dino Ferrari opened its gates to any who wanted to share the same asphalt where Senna and Ratzenberger breathed their last.
Apart from any symbolic association that might attach to the ambulance there was nothing at the Villeneuve turn that would hint at the tragic episode during qualifying for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix when Ratzenberger’s life was extinguished against a concrete wall.
Tamburello on the other hand was awash with Senna tributes; letters, flags, photos, drawings bearing largely Italian script: Ayrton Senna sempre con me (always with me) or sempre nei nostri cuori (always in our hearts).
There was a mention for Ratzenberger in the afternoon service from Gerhard Berger and Kimi Raikkonen, but more out of politeness and racing proximity.
Ratzenberger was not in the minds of those joined to the sport through their passion for it rather than deed.
As the clock struck 9am the first rubber went down, the whine of stressed tyres destroying the stillness enveloping the scene.
This would be a day of full-on noise pollution as well as awed reflection.
One Senna devotee, Sonja Becker, whose brother Jorn is an aerodynamicist with the Sauber F1 team, journeyed through the early hours from Zurich to pay her respects. After races he would wait for the analyses, the times, the figures. It was Senna that triggered his interest in Formula One.
He now runs his own team in junior categories in Germany as well as his work for Sauber.