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The Senna legend lives on...

IMOLA, APRIL 25. In an emotional gesture to honour former team-mate and friend Ayrton Senna, retired Austrian driver Gerhard Berger donned his helmet and drove three laps of the Imola circuit in one of Senna's old cars before the San Marino Grand Prix on Sunday.

Senna suffered fatal injuries in a crash here 10 years ago, just a day after the death of Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger.

Berger drove the black Lotus in which Senna won his first Imola pole in 1985. Strapped to the cockpit was a Brazilian flag with pictures of Senna and the yellow helmet he wore.

Berger, driving at a steady pace, waved to the crowd then posed for photographers after completing the laps with Senna's sister Viviane and his nephew Bruno.

On Saturday, the main grandstand at Imola was named after Senna.

Dream begins...

Jenson Button's first pole position at the San Marino Grand Prix was also the first for Honda in 12 years.

The last time Honda started first was at the Canadian GP in 1992, where its driver was Senna, the Brazilian champion remembered at Imola on the 10th anniversary of his tragic death.

Italian media conceded on Sunday that the young British hopeful could cause problems for Ferrari favourite Michael Schumacher, who has started 2004 with a clean sweep of three victories in as many races.

Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, which usually dedicates its coverage to Ferrari, carried a front page colour photo of Button grinning, holding an index finger up to indicate his pole. ``Button, the dream begins,'' the Gazzetta headline said.

Inside, the paper carried the title ``Yes, even Schumi can make mistakes,'' while another picture showed 24-year-old Button celebrating his pole with his Australian girlfriend.

Button's father, a car mechanic, named his son — with a slight spelling change — after his favourite car, a ``Jensen.''

Culinary delight

F-1 drivers stick to carefully planned diets as they seek glory on the international racing circuit. A shame indeed at Imola, which enjoys a position at the centre of one of Italy's most renowned culinary regions, Emilia Romagna.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Formula One circuit can sit back and enjoy, with hotels and restaurants around the tranquil town of Imola bursting at their seams.

Outside the luxurious team trailers with their built-in restaurants, Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo used his hand to outline the nascent belly on recently retired Austrian driver Gerhard Berger.

Visitors can also sample the local cuisine. Sausages fry at sandwich stands while stalls dominated with Ferrari merchandise also sold commemorative two-bottle packs of local red and white wine. — AP

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