• September 15 down the years

Senna leads home a field of champions

What happened on September 16 in Formula One history?
Aryton Senna won six Grands Prix for Lotus between 1985 and 1987 © Sutton Images
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1985
Ayrton Senna won the Belgian Grand Prix and the next four places were taken by former or future world champions - Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Keke Rosberg and Nelson Piquet. The race itself had been postponed from June after the Spa circuit disintegrated in practice. On this occasion Senna showed his brilliance in the wet, moving clear of the field as the rain fell in the second half of the race, securing the 75th win for the Lotus team.

2001
Italian racing driver Alex Zanardi suffered a huge crash while racing in the Cart series in Germany on this day in 2001. Lucky to survive the crash, Zanardi had to have both his legs amputated. Astonishingly, he was back racing again within two years. Zanardi drove in Formula One for Jordan, Lotus and Williams, but the highest Formula One race finish was only sixth at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 1993. In 2006 he returned to the cockpit of a BMW Sauber F1 car at Valencia and completed several laps with a hand-operated throttle and brake on the steering wheel. Afterwards he said: "Of course, I know that I won't get a contract with the Formula One team, however having the chance to drive an F1 racer again is just incredible."

1888
The birth of one of Italy's early motorsport heroes, Antonio Ascari, in Bonferraro. Starting out as a mechanic, he took on an Alfa Romeo franchise and from graduated into driving. In 1923, in his fifth Targa Florio in 1923 he finished second, and a month later won at Cremona in a brand new Alfa Romeo P2. In 1924 he came within three laps of winning the French Grand Prix in 1924 but did take the Italian event and finished the season as one of the leading drivers. In 1925 he began with a start-to-finish win at the Belgian GP but soon after was killed while leading the French GP. His son went on to become a leading driver, winning the World Championship twice before he too was killed driving, also at the age of 36

Helle Nice in her Bugatti 35 C © Getty Images
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1881
Born on this day in Milan, Ettore Bugatti went on to become a leading designer and manufacturer between the wars. He set up his own company in 1910 and turned out high-quality sports and racing cars in quantity at affordable prices. In its time, his Bugatti Type 35 was the world's leading racing car, winning hundreds of events but neither he nor his firm recovered from the deaths of his wife and son in 1939. His reputation was dented when he was imprisoned after World War Two and charged with collaboration, and he died in 1947.

2002
Rubens Barrichello led a Ferrari one-two at Monza ahead of Michael Schumacher and the man he replaced at Ferrari, Eddie Irvine. In the end it was a comfortable victory for Barrichello but coming out of the first corner he was third behind Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya in the Williams BMWs. Ralf led early on despite gaining an advantage when he cut the chicane but was soon ordered to move over and let the faster Williams of Montoya through. It could have been a controversial decision with team orders still fresh in the memory after the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, but Ralf's engine than blew and he retired. Montoya lost position to Barrichello and another to Schumacher before he retired with a chassis problem. However, he received no sympathy from the partisan crowd that invaded the circuit after their beloved Ferrari finished comfortably in the lead.

1916
Swiss driver Toni Branca was born. Starting only three grands prix between 1950 and 1951, Branca only managed a career best of tenth. Branca died in May 1985 at the age of 68.

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