by Glen Ferris, Oct 7, 2011

As the critically acclaimed, smash-hit documentary Senna comes to DVD and Blu-ray on October 10, Glen Ferris talks to director Asif Kapadia and writer Manish Pandey about the races that shaped the driver into a legend…

1980 Karting World Championship

Asif Kapadia: If you go all the way back to his karting days, there’s a key moment involving the one title he didn’t win which was the Karting World Championship. He won all the titles in Brazil, the Sao Paulo Championship, the Brazilian Championship but that was the one title that he never won in his career and that sort of explains the coda of the film.

Manish Pandey: We should start with the Karting World Championship in 1980 where he lost to Terry Fullerton. He won the first heat, he won the second heat but in the last heat, Terry beat Senna and Senna was furious. I think it’s a particularly important moment in his career but Terry became the only person Senna never managed to beat and that’s something that drove Senna for the rest of his career.

1983 Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix

Manish Pandey: The next big step in his career would probably have been the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix in 1983. He’d just won the Formula 3 championship and his F1 drive had been assured. What happened was that he’d just arrived and was completely jet-lagged so he didn’t get to know the circuit, but he still just put the car on and won. People knew then that Senna was going to be something very special.

1984 Monaco Grand Prix

Asif Kapadia: The race where he really made his mark was the first time he made it onto the podium at Monaco in 1984. It was atrocious weather but he managed to come through the field from nowhere. People had heard about this guy because he’d won everything else but he’d yet to make his mark on Formula One. So to come through the field in such awful weather and in such a bad car was nothing short of phenomenal. World Champions were spinning off in that weather, Niki Lauder span off, Nigel Mansell span off, but Senna kept going.

Manish Pandey: Senna was driving a truly unwieldy car on that circuit, it was like driving an anvil on four wheels, but the guy managed to stay on the track when truly great champions couldn’t. The only person he was unable to beat that day was Prost. One of the great races that we were unable to get into the film was the Grand Prix in Monaco in 1987 when he was driving he banana-coloured Lotus. It was an amazing victory.

1991 Brazilian Grand Prix

Asif Kapadia: At that point in his career, Senna had three things he said he wanted to achieve: He wanted to win a Formula One race and he did that with the Lotus at Estoril. He wanted to win the World Championship and he did that in Japan in 1988. And the third thing that was really vital for him wad to win at home, so the Brazilian ’91 Grand Prix – the first time he won at home – is probably my favourite part of the film. It was actually about him fighting his own car, more than any other driver, the thing is breaking around him but he wanted to win for Sao Paulo, for Brazil, for himself so much that he keep s going in sixth gear. Everyone was saying it was impossible but he somehow managed to keep going in a high gear on that track and win.

1991 Japan Grand Prix

Manish Pandey: There’s the triple-world Championship-winning race in Japan in 1991 where he actually backed off just before he won that race to let his team-mate Gerhard Berger win so that it would be a perfect race for the team. He gave Berger the victory, so he felt like a winner, but Senna also felt like a winner because he’d won the World Championship for the third time. It was a very cool thing for him to do.