Charles de Gaulle was wrong.
Brazil is a serious country, it's just that Brazil takes some things more seriously than others.
Football (Soccer) for one thing.
Formula One racing for another.
The most well-attended funeral in Brazilian history wasn't for an ex-head-of-State, or for a princess of the Brazilian Royal House, or for an assassinated President.
It was for this guy:
He drove racing cars.
And some people say he drove them better than anyone who ever lived.
On May 1st, 1994, while leading the field in the San Marino Gran Prix, Ayrton Senna's car hit a retaining wall at 135 miles an hour. A piece of the right front wheel catapulted back into the cockpit and struck Senna on the helmet. His head was driven back against the headrest. Multiple skull fractures resulted. He was airlifted to the hospital at Bologna, where he was pronounced dead. Later, the cause of the accident was determined to be a failure of the steering column.
When going through the wreckage, the examiners discovered a furled Austrian flag. Senna, who fully intended to win the race, had planned to wave it on his victory lap to honor Roland Ratzenberger...
...killed in the qualifying round of the previous day when his car struck the outside wall at 196 miles an hour.
The Austrian was the penultimate driver killed in a Formula One race.
Senna was the last.
A million people turned out for his funeral.
And, today, more than a decade and a half after his death, people still go to his last resting place to heap flowers on his grave.
Senna is honored by Brazilians not only because he was a great sportsman, but because he was an excellent human being who left most of the proceeds of his merchandising to charity.
And he is deeply missed.
Leighton - Monday