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Vettel drives Senna's car at Imola in emotional tribute

German Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel drives four laps of honor in the  the 1993 McLaren car of the late Ayrton Senna, who died 30 years ago in an accident in Imola, during the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit. Hasan Bratic/dpa

Former world champion Sebastian Vettel drove the 1993 McLaren car of the late Ayrton Senna on Sunday as part of tributes marking the 30th anniversary of the death of the Brazilian Formula One great.

Vettel drove four laps at Imola's Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in the MP4/8 car in which Senna had won his 41st and last race and which is now in his possession, with the writing "Forever Senna."

Three-time world champion Senna, then at Williams, died in a crash on the Imola track in the 1994 grand prix, the day after Austrian Roland Ratzenberger also crashed and died there.

Vettel, a four-time world champion who retired from F1 in 2022, waved a Brazilian and Austrian flag during his laps amid plenty of applause from the fans.

"Now it is my car, it used to be his. It is so emotional," said Vettel after a few doughnuts and parking the car in front of the main stand.

"It is an unbelievable moment to commemorate Ayrton and Roland, so emtional."

Senna's nieces Bianca and Lalalli shed a few tears as Vettel called the 1994 events "a very dark and tragic" weekend for the sport.

"It's been very emotional, very happy at the same time. Sebastian did such a tribute and to be here 30 years later, it has been amazing, mixed feelings, but amazing. I thank Formula 1 and Sebastian for making that true," Bianca told Sky TV.

On Thursday, Vettel had organized that all drivers jogged around the 4.909-kilometres course in commemorative shirts and stopped at the Tamburello turn where Senna had crashed to his death at high speed.

The tragic weekend sparked a major safety overhaul in the sport, such as mandatory head and neck protectors and later the halo crash protection system.

German Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel drives four laps of honor in the  the 1993 McLaren car of the late Ayrton Senna, who died 30 years ago in an accident in Imola, during the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit. Hasan Bratic/dpa
German Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel drives four laps of honor in the the 1993 McLaren car of the late Ayrton Senna, who died 30 years ago in an accident in Imola, during the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit. Hasan Bratic/dpa
German Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel drives four laps of honor in the  the 1993 McLaren car of the late Ayrton Senna, who died 30 years ago in an accident in Imola, during the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit. Hasan Bratic/dpa
German Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel drives four laps of honor in the the 1993 McLaren car of the late Ayrton Senna, who died 30 years ago in an accident in Imola, during the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit. Hasan Bratic/dpa
German Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel drives four laps of honor in the  the 1993 McLaren car of the late Ayrton Senna, who died 30 years ago in an accident in Imola, during the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit. Hasan Bratic/dpa
German Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel drives four laps of honor in the the 1993 McLaren car of the late Ayrton Senna, who died 30 years ago in an accident in Imola, during the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit. Hasan Bratic/dpa