Lewis Hamilton has conceded to being provided with a "harsh reminder" of the death of Ayrton Senna after undertaking his track 'walk' at Imola ahead of this weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Formula 1 is returning to the fabled venue for a two-day weekend, ending a 14-year hiatus, with Hamilton due to compete in his first grand prix at a circuit where his hero Ayrton Senna lost his life in 1994.
While Hamilton has previously raced at Imola, in GP2 in 2006 and the 2002 Formula Renault Eurocup, the fact he will be making his F1 debut at the track represents a poignant moment in his career.
"Watching a grand prix here was always special, obviously the history of 1994. It's something I'll always remember," said Mercedes driver Hamilton, who toured the circuit on a motorised scooter.
“I went around [on Friday] and it was a really special lap just seeing this historic track, passing the harsh reminder of where Ayrton crashed.
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“It is very surreal still for me when I go to places, when you drive through the tunnel in Monaco or you drive at the British Grand Prix, where you know that the greats in the past had raced at those places.
"The fact earlier on I was in an area where 26 years ago Ayrton was here doing what he loved, as I am, in one way it’s heartwarming to know that I was able to be here and do what he was doing."
Recalling the moment he heard of Senna's death, Hamilton added: "I remember that day, I was racing at Rye House in karting. I was helping my dad fix the car, changing a wheel, I think, helping to do the bolts up on a rear wheel of my Kadet kart.
"I don't know how he got the news but someone had told him Ayrton had died, and I remember I had to walk away from my dad because my dad would never let me cry in front of him, so I had to go to a different place and it was not so easy.
“But I remember trying to channel that sadness into my driving, and I think I won that weekend. But the following weeks were very tough.”
Given the dramatic backdrop at Imola, that at least offered some positive feelings for Hamilton ahead of this weekend.
"What I was really impressed with were the surroundings. It's a beautiful place, a beautiful part of the country," enthused the six-time F1 champion.
"I remember when I first came to Italy to race and I was 13. It was so much different from the scenery in the UK.
"I remember that feeling, that first time, and I've not felt that in a long, long time. Going around the track it was really reminiscent of my first days of when I was racing in karting here, just reminded me of the love that I have for Italy."
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