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Senna celebrated in Brazilian GP 25 years after his death

Senna celebrated in Brazilian GP 25 years after his death

With little at stake in the Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend, the Formula One race in Sao Paulo is an opportunity for fans to remember and celebrate local favorite Ayrton Senna, 25 years after his death.

Lewis Hamilton _ a big fan of the legendary Brazilian driver _ and his Mercedes team have already clinched the driver and team titles this season, with second places for Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari, respectively.

A Brazilian television helicopter painted in the green and yellow colors of Senna’s helmet has been flying around the Interlagos circuit since Thursday. Signs on the track say “Obrigado, Senna” (Thank you, Senna) as part of a social media campaign to raise funds for the children’s institute that bears his name.

Three-time F1 champion Senna died after an accident at the San Marino Grand Prix in May 1994. His McLaren car will be on the track before Sunday’s race. Bruno Senna will drive and brake to take the Brazilian flag from a racing agent, as his uncle did after winning in Sao Paulo.

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Many of the 60,000 expected for the race will sport T-shirts and flags with Senna’s image. With no Brazilian drivers on the grid, local commentators are focusing on the charismatic driver who won the championship in 1988, 1990 and 1991.

Six-time F1 champion Hamilton will once again wear a helmet that pays tribute to his childhood idol. Hamilton has been asked about his relationship with Senna in every interview and press conference in Sao Paulo.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who has four championships, is also paying tribute to Senna, wearing a green and yellow armband. Vettel visited Senna’s institute, which focuses on educational projects for poor children.

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Hamilton has won the Brazilian GP twice, including last year, and Vettel has won it three times.

Fans on the track, such as Elton Campos, 37, said on Saturday they will support Hamilton because it is clear that the Briton adores Senna.

“Initially I didn’t like him very well because Hamilton prevented (Brazilian) Felipe Massa from winning the championship here in 2008,” said Campos, who wore a cap that said “Senna forever.”

“But Hamilton respects Ayrton a lot, he really loves him and now we Brazilian fans feel like we should return the favor.”

The commemorations began a week ago at a sponsored event when two-time champion Emerson Fittipaldi drove Senna’s 1985 Lutus through the streets of Sao Paulo, bringing some fans to tears.

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Senna drove that same car to win his first F1 race at the Portuguese GP.

“I don’t know what to say, it’s too many emotions, too many memories,” Fittipaldi said with tears in her eyes after hugging Senna’s sister, Viviane.

Veteran journalist Flávio Gomes, who covered Senna in F1, says the driver would not necessarily agree with all the attention.

“It gives the impression that Senna was the only good thing Brazil produced in Formula One,” Gomes said. “Six drivers have won races. Two others, Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet, have won titles. Reducing the Brazilian history in F1 to Senna is very unfair. And I think he would not agree either. AP

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