Read an extract from the exclusive Alan Henry Tapes, in which Ayrton Senna talks to Alan Henry and Denis Jenkinson about overtaking on one of the most famous corners in Formula 1.
One of the foremost specialist writers of his or any other generation, Alan Henry was a regular contributor to Motor Sport and its one-time weekly sibling Motoring News, as well as a prolific author, editor of Autocourse and Formula 1 correspondent of The Guardian – to cite but a few of his credits.
His family recently contacted Motor Sport and asked whether we’d like to listen to some of the cassette tapes still stored in Alan’s old office, with a view to using some of the content and bringing his work to the attention of readers who might have missed him the first time around. We are proud so to do, to perpetuate the memory of a greatly valued colleague who was also wonderful company.
ALAN HENRY: I’d like to ask about that connection, when you are focusing on a car that’s 300 metres away. Say you’re coming down the hill here at Eau Rouge, on a qualifying lap, and there’s a slower car. D’you find yourself almost taking Eau Rouge without looking at the corner because you’re looking at the car?
AYRTON SENNA: No. If you do that then you will for sure be at a lower level. If you see a car, you have to be able to determine instantly…
AH: Whether he’s going to be through and up the hill or not?
AS: Yes. Once you’ve determined that, it’s not going to affect you at the critical place so you just forget it, like it isn’t there, so you can commit yourself completely as though you are there on your own. You come back to your own world and don’t let anything external affect your feelings. It’s instant reaction, again – judgment and reaction. It’s far away so you might not even be able to make a very accurate speed judgment, but you just put it away. Once you get to the other car, it doesn’t matter because you know it’s not going to be in a critical part of the track.
DENIS JENKINSON: Then comes the anticipation, because your brain has absorbed it and thought, ‘In three corners I’m going to catch him, in the wrong place…’
AS: Yes, but there’s a difference between qualifying and the race. In qualifying, in that situation, even with your best judgment you think, ‘It’s going to be just on the limit to get through without having to disturb myself.’ Then it’s a question of commitment, whether you are really into everything or 90 per cent into it. That is going to affect your performance. In a race it’s a completely different thing, because then you’ve got to have such an instant reaction. When you see a car, you have to know immediately which car it is – normally you have a feeling about the performance and know how quickly you’re going to get to the car, or how much time it’s going to take for you to judge and where you’re going to get to it. At that stage you should push a bit more to get there before a critical point where it’s going to cost a second or two, or it’s not worth pushing because you’re always going to use your material a little bit so you carry on at the same pace. It’s very relative. Which car? Which driver? And it also depends on the condition of your own car.