Astrophysics say that a star is not born in a matter of split-seconds, but it takes billions and billions of years for the interstellar dust to bind together to form a stellar cloud and eventually the gravitational force for them to bind towards each other to finally result in a birth of a star.
But in this mortal world, this pale blue dot of limited measure of decades to a lifespan, let alone billions of years, it takes only a split-second for a star to be born.
On March 21st, 1960, a star was born in the shades of Sao Paulo, Brazil. What followed is now fragments of sweet memories for people, or better said ‘fans’, like myself, to savor. And what memories they are!
Albeit his carting career was not as promising as it should have been, given the future accomplishments which he was on course to make, he certainly learned from the experience and nurtured himself to be better and better.
His first win came in the South American Kart Championship in 1977.
Success followed again in 1981 in Europe where he won the British Formula Ford 1600 competition.
The year of 1982 saw him winning yet again two European races in Formula Ford 2000 championships.
His win in the British F3 championship with the West Surrey Racing and the Macau Grand Prix which was instantaneously brought him to the attention of Formula One teams like Williams, McLaren, Brabham and Toleman and finally signing for the Toleman team for 1984 F1 season.
Tough he was pitted with a small team of that of the Toleman in comparison to the big names like Williams, McLaren or Brabham; he didn’t have to wait long for his first points which came in the very second race of that season at Kyalami in South Africa.
But his astounding drive of the season came in a rain drenched Monaco Grand Prix. From 13th on the grid, on a track virtually impossible to overtake, and everyone slipping and sliding in the torrential weather conditions, Senna was coming up fast on race leader Alain Prost by taking out each position up to the second place, one at a time. On lap 19, he had gone passed, at that time, a two time World Champion Niki Lauda and was gaining on Alain Prost. Unfortunately, the race was stopped on lap 31on grounds of safety.
He finished 9th in the WDC standings with 13 points. Next season he moved to Lotus.
Now armed with a decent car, his talents were telling on the race track. On the very first race of the season at Brazil, he scored his first of the 65 pole position. Sadly enough, he had to retire from that race with electrical problems. But he came back strongly in Estoril, Portugal to win under wet weather conditions. He scored a total of 7 pole positions and another race win at Spa-Francorchamps again in the wets. It was evident that in the wets with any car, Senna was unbeatable. He finished 4th on the WDC standings with 38 points.
This season he got a much reliable car and won the closest race ever in the history of F1 where he fought off challenges offered by Nigel Mansell’s Williams-Honda. Defensive driving at its best! He now led the WDC standing which wasn’t to last due to mechanical failures and thus finishing 4th with 55 points.
His long-lasting relations with Honda started from hereon with Lotus’ engine deal with them. He won the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix (first of his 6 consecutive wins at Monaco). He finished 3rd on WDC standings with 57 points. He moved to McLaren alongwith their engine supplier Honda for the next season.
Senna demonstrated his championship winning capabilities in the best possible way when he and team-mate and his only rival in this season Alain Prost won 15 of 16 races and Senna winning the WDC for the first time.
The season of 1989 saw another McLaren juggernaut that took the championship rivalry to Suzuka, Japan, the venue for the penultimate race. Senna was on pole but Prost made a brilliant start. Suzuka, being a circuit with very less overtaking opportunities, Senna had to try something out of the box to take the win and keep his championship hopes alive for the final race at Adelaide, Australia. He tried to take the inside line at the corner but Prost turned into him taking both of them out knowing that the championship is his in the process.
While Prost abandoned his car immediately after that, Senna kept going after he received a push from the marshals, which debatably is legal since he was judged to be in a dangerous position. He had to pit to change his car’s nose cone which was damaged and Alessandro Nannini of Benetton took the lead by 4.8 seconds. Senna rejoined with 5 laps to go to the finish and reeled in Nannini. Senna overtook him at the same corner with the same out-braking maneuver he tried on Prost and won the race. But thanks to the politics played by Prost and his fellow countryman and FIA president of that time, Balestre, Senna was disqualified giving Prost the WDC of 1989. Prost moved to Ferrari with his WDC for the 1990 season while Senna stayed back at McLaren.
Similar to the prior season, but only the other way round, this time Prost needed a win to keep his championship hopes alive at the same venue, Suzuka. Senna qualified on pole and was given the choice of starting on cleaner side of the track with Prost on second position. Again Balestre intervened and reversed the decision. Senna swore revenge. He took out himself and Prost on the very first corner resulting in the win of his second WDC title.
Senna won his third and final F1 World Championship in 1991. 1991 was arguably the Brazilian’s greatest season in Formula One. Senna won seven races, and kept out of trouble for the entire season.
Senna’s championship hopes faded where he admitted title defeat in a car that was nowhere in comparison to the race pace of that of his championship rival Nigel Mansell’s FW14B. But, Senna rode the wind of fate and victories at Monaco, Hungary and Italy to finish 4th on the WDC standings. With McLaren’s inability to provide him a race winning car, Senna was without a contract for the 1993 season.
McLaren succeeded in securing a customer engine deal from Ford which was inferior version of the ones supplied to Ford’s factory team, Benetton. Senna agreed to drive for McLaren on a race-by-race basis but eventually staying for the entire season. His final display of brilliance in the wets was demonstrated again at a rain soaked Donington Park where he overtook 5 cars on the very first lap and won the race. He won his final visit to Monaco to round off a six wins’ streak at that circuit. He took the lead despite McLaren’s inferior engine ahead of Prost’s Williams-Renault and Schumacher’s Benetton-Ford. Sadly, that wasn’t to last. Prost took back the lead and won the 1993 WDC. Prost retired from F1 as Williams had already signed Senna for 1994 season.
In 1994, what would be his last season in F1 and his tragic untimely demise at the cursed circuit of Imola, Senna drove for the Williams-Renault team. Of death I would not speak in this article, as this has been an amazing experience of discovering a breath-taking individual named Ayrton Senna da Silva.
Senna was empowered by talents pioneered by him onto the race track such as wet weather driving skills, qualifying magic where he pushed himself to the edge and more often over the brink.
Wet weather driving skills
The following instances were a few of his courageous driving in the wets. Words are too less to describe these moments.
1984 Monaco Grand Prix
1985 Portuguese Grand Prix
1993 European Grand Prix
Defensive driving skills
I recall of witnessing two such occasions that I will share where Senna fought off his rival (Nigel Mansell, on both occasions) to take the race win.
1986 Spanish Grand Prix (closest finish ever)
1992 Monaco Grand Prix (with a far more inferior car)
As illustrated by the fact that he had 65 pole positions from 162 races which was recently surpassed in 2006 at San Marino by Schumacher on his 236th Grand prix appearance. The following is his quote of his experience from 1988 Monaco Grand Prix qualifiers.
“…the last qualifying session. I was already on pole, then by half a second and then one second and I just kept going. Suddenly I was nearly two seconds faster than anybody else, including my team mate with the same car. And suddenly I realized that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel. Not only the tunnel under the hotel but the whole circuit was a tunnel. I was just going and going, more and more and more and more. I was way over the limit but still able to find even more.
Then suddenly something just kicked me. I kind of woke up and realized that I was in a different atmosphere than you normally are. My immediate reaction was to back off, slow down. I drove slowly back to the pits and I didn’t want to go out any more that day. It frightened me because I was well beyond my conscious understanding. It happens rarely but I keep these experiences very much alive inside me because it is something that is important for self-preservation.”
Character in and out of the car
Senna was driven by emotions. For him, the love for sport was more than the fear on the perils involved with it as he would admit in a documentary (Ayrton Senna – Racing in my blood).
“The harder I push, the more I find within myself. I am always looking for the next step, a different world to go into, areas where I have not been before. It’s lonely driving a Grand Prix car, but very absorbing. I have experienced new sensations and I want more. That is my excitement, my motivation.”
On the track he was a daunting and formidable opponent who was ruthless yet passionate. Off the track, none came as humane and compassionate as Senna. He was known for his close relationship with Gerhard Berger and the two played practical jokes with each other. Gerhard had said “He taught me a lot about our sport, I taught him to laugh”.
His concerns for his fellow racers were demonstrated in Spa 1992 on the Friday practice session. Erik Comas crashed heavily at the flat-out Blanchimont sector. While other drivers passed the wreckage at high speed, Senna jumped out of his car, ran across the race track dodging oncoming traffic to switch off the electrical system on Comas’ car thus preventing a fire and assisting the unconscious driver.
In 1994, on the ill-fated San Marino, the very race that would claim his life, Senna was extremely concerned about fellow countryman, Rubens (He scaled the hospital wall to visit him when prevented to do so by the hospital authorities!)
On the same race weekend, Saturday he was very concerned and shocked after the death of Roland Ratzenberger’s death on his Simtek-Ford. (On his own accident, Dr. Sid Watkins found an Austrian flag in Senna’s Williams’ cockpit, which Senna intended to fly on the victory lap of that race).
After his death, it was discovered that Senna had donated millions of dollars to children’s charities, a fact that during his life, he had kept a secret.
source: © sennafan.blogspot.com