Ayrton Senna has been gone for 18 years, but memories of the great Brazilian are still present in many lovers of this sport.
A man who many did not like, but everyone respected him as a great fighter and excellent driver. On the 1st May 1994, on the Imoli circuit he drove his last race in the world of octane. That day at 2:17pm, driving at 280km/h he hit a concrete wall exiting the Tamburello corner. At 6:40pm the doctors pronounced him dead. The fact that an Austrian flag was found in his cockpit proves what kind of man he was, because he wanted to dedicate the win to the Austrian Ronaldo Ratzenberger, who dies a day earlier at training.
– That day will come. It can be today or in 50 years time. One day it will certainly come – said Senna, about death. Unfortunately, that day came too early.
It all started in Sao Paulo
Ayrton was born on 21.03.1960 in Sao Paul, as the son of a wealthy father, who soon discovered his passion for automobiles. He got his first cart automobile aged only four, and he entered carting competitions from thirteen. Starting positions were drawn out of a hat back then, and the Brazilian drew number one on his first race. Aged seventeen he won the South American championship in carting, and in 1981 he decided to go to Europe, where he drove the British Formula Ford 1600 and wins that championship. Two years later he was tested for Williams, Brabham, McLaren and Toleman, and in 1984 he entered the world of Formula 1.
He debuted on 25.03.1984 before his fans in Brazil, in a car of the very bad Toleman, only to win his first point on his second race in the South African Republic, on the Kyalami circuit. On the fourth race of the season, Monaco, Senna started to turn into a legend. Rain was falling, Senna started 13th, but during a race which many consider impossible for overtaking even on a dry circuit, the Brazilian managed to reach second place by the 19th lap. Because of the impossible conditions, the race was stopped during the 31st lap, he remained second, and since then he has had the nickname rain man. It was his first podium, and at the end of the season, he finished ninth on the ladder of drivers. Even though he had a three year contract with Toleman, he started negotiating with Lotus, where he relocated in the next season.
In Lotus an explosion of talent was expected. He gained his first pole position in front of a home crowd, but he did not finish the race due to a breakdown on his car. He had to wait until 21.04.1985 and rain in Portugal’s Estorila. Despiter the fact that he finished most qualifications in first place, he only won once, in Spa-Francorchamps, allegedly with rain during the whole race. The second season in Lotus was better, he took the lead in the overall standings for the first time after Spain, when he took the win by only 14 thousandths of a second in front of Nigel Mansell. He did not have good luck, so he again finished the season in fourth place.
In the last season in Lotus, he finished third in the total rankings, and we will remember that year because of the first of six wins in a row in Monaco.
Entry into McLaren and a battle with Prost
In 1988 Senna decided to race for McLaren, where his team mate was Alain Prost. In that season, both of them won 15 out of 16 races, and the Brazilian took his first title thanks to the system of the competition. This was because only 11 races has points, whilst the other five were characterised as races for prestige.
Their conflict reach a peak after the race in 1989 when in Suzuki, Senna needed a win to defend the title and did everything he could on the track to get it, but after an attempt to overtake, both of them ended up in the sand. After that the race ended bad, the Brazilian managed to return to the pitt, get back on the track and win the race. However, FIA took those points away from him, and Prost took the title.
In 1990, Suzuki was the deciding factor again, also between those two. In the first corner there was a crash which meant the end of the race for both of them, but this time, Senna took the title. It is because of that way of doing anything to get a win, and no relationship with his team colleagues, most fans did not like him.
A year later there are great changes in the world of Formula 1. Senna joins Gerhard Berger, Prost goes to Ferrari, Honda decides to leave Formula 1, and Renault made a real return. This all did not bother Senna who came to his third, and it turned out his last, title.
McLaren starts to fall, it can not be competition to Williams, Senna becomes unhappy because he has to drive a non competitive car and wants to leave, because his main aim was to be the best, and he could no longer be that here.
Williams and the fatal Imola
In 1994 he gets what he wished for, and signed up for Williams, but everything did not go as planned. The weekend came in Imola. On training on Saturday the young Austrian Ratzenberger died. On Sunday the 1st May, 1994 in an interview for the French TV station TF1, he decided to bury the hatchets with Alain Prost. Half an hour before the race he was visited by the Brazilian journalist, Jaime Brito.
– He did something that I had not seen up until then. He circled around the car, looked at the tires, and looks very suspicious.
The race started at 2pm, in the first corner there was a crash between Pedra Lamy and J.J. Leht, the safety car came onto the track, and fifteen minutes later it left. Two laps later with a speed of 280km/h, Senna hit a wall exiting the Tamburello corner. The cause of the crash is still not known, and the Williams team ended up in court because of alleged carelessness in preparing the car. He left behind a pregnant girlfriend, Galistea. That day, Senna did not want to race.
– He told me that he did not want to race tomorrow, I told him not to. He only said that he had to, that was his job – said Galistea.
Senna went into legend, he drove live nobody before or after him. In every moment he wanted to win, and always acted like that on the track. However, the fatal 1st May came.
source: © dalje.com