There are some sports stars whose lustre remains undimmed long after they have vanished into the ether.
It might be 25 years on May 1 since the late, great and charismatic Ayrton Senna lost his life in a horrifying crash during the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola in 1994.
But even now, his achievements are undiminished, whether among the bossa nova brigade in Sao Paolo or in the wider sphere of those who love Formula One.
Hyperbole creeps into sport too readily these days. The term “genius” is employed too frequently. And it’s simplistic to be sentimental about those who have died too soon.
But ever since I spoke to Viviane Senna and learned about the wonderful work which she was doing – in the footsteps of her brother – for the underprivileged in her homeland, I’ve been struck by how Senna was one of the few competitors for whom the normal rules and regulations didn’t apply.
She told me: “Of course I miss him. But he is still with me. I have the memories in my heart. He wanted to make a difference, but not just in a racing car.
“When he came home to Brazil, he knew there were many who needed his help. So he helped them as best he could.”
That statement explains why there were so many stunned and incredulous faces on that terrible weekend for Grand Prix when two men perished.
The first was a little-known but talented Austrian youngster, Roland Ratzenberger, who was killed during qualifying; the second was a Brazilian whose name had become as synonymous with F1 as his compatriot, Pele, with football.
Nobody could quite believe it when the multi-world champion was involved in a dreadful collision at Tamburello which propelled him and his car into a concrete wall.
Astonishingly, despite the sadness and despair which was etched on the faces of those who attended to the stricken driver, the San Marino Grand Prix was allowed to continue, even though it was obvious that one of the greatest competitors the sport had ever known had suffered mortal wounds.
Eventually, more than four hours after the incident, came the news which everybody had dreaded and which cast a veil of tears over the world of sport.
Senna, gifted, mercurial, a hero in his homeland and throughout the globe, but also a mass of contradictions was dead at the age of just 34.
That whole Imola meeting resembled a bad dream for many of the participants. On the Friday before the main event, Rubens Barrichello, Senna’s young protege, crashed heavily and missed the GP.
Within 24 hours, Ratzenberger’s car span out of control at 195mph and became airborne before colliding with a wall and finishing on the inside of the Villeneuve curve.
Soon enough, it emerged he had not survived and Senna’s agitation was palpable. His friend, the long-serving neurosurgeon Dr Sid Watkins, advised him to withdraw from the race, so the pair of them could go fishing.
But, despite Senna’s anxieties over the state of the circuit and his grief at the demise of a colleague, he could not bring himself to follow Watkins’ suggestion.
It was in his blood to push himself to the nth degree and recover from adversity and, oblivious to the evidence that he was not quite the force of old, he was determined to stem the charge of the new kid on the block, Michael Schumacher.
It was a fatal decision on his part, rendered more poignant by the fact that he and his former rival, Alain Prost, arranged a meeting on the Sunday morning, where Senna lobbied the Frenchman for support for improved safety.
The two men agreed to join forces at the next race on the calendar in Monaco. It was one date which was never kept.
The veteran TV commentator, Murray Walker, described Senna’s death as “the blackest day for Grand Prix racing that I can remember”. Tens of thousands of his fans stood in silent homage across Brazil and the build-up to his funeral was on a par with the passing of a pontiff or president.
The Italian police launched their own painstaking investigation, while the FIA announced a series of new safety measures for Monaco, and the competitors reformed the GPDA. In February 1995, a 500-page report was handed over to prosecutors, which suggested that a steering column had been the cause of Senna’s demise. But, as with so many other aspects of the tragedy, this was disputed and the arguments dragged on.
Ultimately, nobody ever made a film called “Clark”. Or “Stewart”. Or even “Fangio”.
But when “Senna” came out in 2010, everybody knew the subject matter and it was a resounding box-office triumph. It is a cliche to claim anybody is bigger than their sport, or it is in the majority of cases, but Senna was so much more than just a multi-millionaire in the fast lane.
Even as he pocketed huge earnings, he invested much of it into the Ayrton Senna Institute in his homeland which continues to support and succour to tens of thousands of youngsters in Brazil.
The centre is now run by Viviane and she told me about the motivation behind the foundation; it was her brother’s concerns about the disparity between his riches and the endemic poverty which plagued his country.
“He wanted to make a difference,” she added. “And we have to keep working to make that happen.”
It was a sign that, in many respects, Senna was as close as we’ve come to witnessing a secular saint in a racing car.
He once said: “Many times, I find myself in a comfortable position and I don’t feel happy about it. So I have an enormous desire to go further and further, to travel beyond my own limits.”
There are shades of Icarus in that remark. And nobody has ever forgotten him either.