Original spanish version by: Julian Alfonso Luis – Translated to English by: Leonardo Eli De Oliveira Sanchez
On a day like this, March 21, was born in Sao Paulo a man that because of what he did in the autosport circuits, deserves to be considerated alongside the gaucho Juan Manuel Fangio as the best and most complete car racer in history.
Lets remember him in his birthday as a homage and also because autosport wasn’t born nor with Schumacher, nor with Alonso, nor with his coleagues, nor lives today his best moment sportively talking, even as it makes more money than ever.
To try to establish comparisons between today drivers and the best drivers of all time because they are the most succesful of this generation, just points the difference between an actual fan and a old school fan, when there was the same respect and interest for the present, than for history. Since 1978 (when the one who writes this discovered the GP with the victory of Mario’s Andretti Lotus in Belgium) many drivers have come and go, good, bad, mediocre and stellar. They have and will continue doing it just like those that came before then. Since 1978 we have seen them race in the weekly GP, but each time it’s easier (thanks to the growing media dedicated to F1) to watch those who came before.
Certainly, to compare different eras implies to put in relation a series of variables that impede to do a fair judgement, but something doesn’t change today, yesterday, tomorrow or ever: that way in which a man performs or not over his fellow coleagues. In the 30’s people like Nuvolari o Caracciola, in the post-war era Ascari, in the 50’s Fangio or Moss, in the 60’s Clark or Hill, in the 70’s Stewart, in the 80’s Prost, Piquet and Senna, they outshined and outperformed over their peers by their natural conditions, but also because they knew – by their own means – to surround themselves with all the material means necessary to show that talent and make it develop, not only from a natural viewpoint, but profesional also. Today, on the other hand, it’s pretty normal to see how it all sums up around an average man a series of profesional factors with the goal of taking him where the greats of other times arrived by their own means and deciding by themselves; the universal crown and recognition.
The great majority of today F1 watchers belong to this generation and because of that, it’s natural that when they experiment the human feeling of associating with the winner, they consider this the best of any time. So, the same way F1 wasn’t born with Michael Schumacher and even less with Fernando Alonso or any of the fellow coleagues, to refer to them as “the best” and also add “of all time” by their professional achievements just makes us to think and to long for the people who, before, not only accumulated all the professional achievements that it was possible to accumulate in their times (In fact it was them who imposed the actual records that Schumacher holds and everybody else is after) but also the true condition of natural genius that each of them had, without forgetting that their character made them go forward, only listening to their own conviction.
AYRTON WAS A GENIUS…BUT WHY?
A very recent sample is the mistake in qualifying in the Malaysian GP that made Fernando Alonso start 8º in the grid in a car just the same as his team mate Giancarlo Fisichella (Who was on pole) although he got the 3rd fastest time in the session. Flavio Briatore said later that it was a team mistake, not a driver one and Alonso described it saying “They put me enough fuel for 2 GP’s”. And it’s true, the decision of how many liters of fuel to put in the car and the verification that in the tank was the same amount of fuel was done by Renault. Alonso surely was attending public relations dutiees or maybe picking a pair of sunglasses that fitted nicely in his head (and in his wallet) so he could give the unilateral interview in a place where there were not sun light nor a camera flash.
Why the irony? Because Michael Schumacher, to take an example of this generation, ignores the technical aspects just like the spanish champion but he would’ve made sure to know the reasons behind the team reasoning of adding that precise amount of fuel and he would’ve also make sure that the car had the exact same amount of fuel that the team decided to add. And continuing with the comparisons, Senna would’ve taken the time to fully understand the techical aspects of why a team adds more or less fuel so that he, along with the team, could examine those variables and to be him who told the engineers the amount of fuel to add, without leaving the track until he was fully sure that it was checked again and again.
So, now that we agree that we shouldn’t be comparing different eras, we are just comparing the human actitudes of each one of these three pilots. Why the fuel example? Because it’s the easiest way to “slow down” a driver. So, putting more fuel in the tank, with the complexity of a machine that “misteriously” got damaged in the pits, was what impeded Damon Hill winning in Jerez 94 favouring Michael Schumacher, media wise much more profitable for a circus which was desperately looking for an image that commercialy could reemplaze that of Ayrton.
Without going farther, Alonso’s victory in Bahrein this year was more because of Michael, because of a little error in the comprehension of this years qualifying rules, he should’ve put 2.5 liters less of fuel of what was the calculated amount by the team in terms of dat and that affect all the variables, putting a serious worry on the driver and team by the fuel economy, reason that made the Kaiser in the end only to follow the spaniard without trying anything else. Alonso, in his sixth year of F1, still hasn’t learnt that. Ayrton, on the other side, on his second year already knew of all this stuff, and in fact, it was a trait that some people denounced against of being used by Lotus in 1985 to favour the paulista and against Elio De Angelis, of whom was afraid that his human desire of beating Ayrton to keep the team leadership he had since 1981, could compromise the integrity of both cars.
“NEW” DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEANS “BETTER”
For those who have met many champions and those aspiring to be in all these years, and for some more whoce came before thanks to historical memory (the silliest phrase that we have ever read in so many autosport books is attibuted to Henry Ford who once said “History is a twisted language” ignoring that the learning of what has been done in the history of our lives its what allows us to differenciate from animals, to make up for our mistakes and to grow in all aspects) the conclusion is more than clear. Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher are average professionals in this discipline that have seen congregate around them the necessary means to make they outshine over their generation.
People like Nuvolari, Moss, Fangio, Clark or Senna, besides being geniuses with natural skills, they were true virtuosos that didn’t work in autosports in the same way Alonso or Michael do. They, like a pianist working on a concert, or a teather actor working on a play, they practiced again and again on a certain thing until they totally dominated it. And if they couldn’t do it by themselves, they searched for technical help. These, simply, work on all that’s necessary to concentrate efforts and media around them during a laboral journey that can be as long as it is. Just like there are lawyers that work 10 hours a day because that’s their profession, there are drivers that work 10 hours a day because that’s their profession. But art, virtuousism, that capacity of sacrifice in the limit of effort and pain that was exhibited by Prost, Senna, Fangio, Piquet, Moss, Nuvolari…
A professional, like Michael or Fernando, they need a theoretichal lesson so they can take it to practice, but they are totally unable of taking that theory, to analize it according to their own criteria and transform it. When Renaul or Ferrari explain to their drivers how the car works, drivers like Alonso stick to those instructions. People like Fangio or Senna, instead try to comprehend the full potential of their car, to know what it’s capable and not capable of doing, and to know it’s limits to later use it like a tool into which they can express their own fantasy behind the wheel as racers, only obeying these fantasies.
You can say much about Ayrton Senna, even though much has already been said. A know anecdote, for example, was the one about his hability over wet paviment, because him, in his begginings was really lazy in this aspect, fearing races held under rain. His father made obliged him to not fear those conditions, facing them, but it was Ayrton who, when he noted that it was helping him, made an effort to practice in flooded asphalt more and more. His gift to dominate the grip limits became superhuman when he combined his hability over dry asphalt with that learning process.
Unlike Alonso, who’s father made him sit in a kart that his sister didn’t want (Hoping that he didn’t had to sell it) when he was three years old, and racing profesionally since 5 years, or Michael Schumacher, who started to compete profesionally at 5 years old because his father was the keeper of a kartodrome (By the way, this is something few fans and experts know; the Kerper kartodrome was built originally by the Von Trips family, shortly after the death of the nobleman) and for Michael and his brother Ralf life there was attending the kartodrome bar with his father or competing, starting it all; Ayrton decided to race by his own. His father was a race aficionado, but he wasn’t really linked to the scene like today there is a Pablo Montoya, a Jose Luis Alonso and in his time a Rolf Schumacher (the fathers of Juancho, Nano and Schumi), because his thing was the industry.
Milton Da Silva sponsored Senna’s racing career by the same reasons that today we see so many kids in the venezuelan karting farm: because it’s a healthy sport that helps in both physical and mental growing of a boy, an encouragement for those who comply with their duties, a way to spend a different weekend, etc. Something that few know is that Ayrton had moving dissabilities as a child and that’s why it resulted in such a nice therapy for this parents that his kid got interested in karts. The vibration of the karts made great result to Ayrton’s strangled appendages, reanimating them.
One day, as a teenager, Ayrton made his first race in the little kart track inside Interlagos and conquered his first Pole by pure chance. He didn’t win that race, but the effect over his health was very benefitial and his fathers allowed him to continue competing. Great was the surprise of both when the kid began to stand out, and Mr. Milton felt very thrilled because no father is bothered by the success of his son over other kids and wouldn’t impede, if he can, that it keeps happening. Just that it came a time when the family finances couldn’t take it any more and the local federation also couldn’t do anything other that taking the transcendental decision:
that Ayrton decided to make a living out of autosports. It wasn’t Fernando Alonso who told his father that he wanted the kart and neither did Michael made a show of such determination. Ayrton went to Europe and had to come back when his father couldn’t pay for his expenses anymore. His father couldn’t finance live in Europe and it was Ayrton on his own that went back to England. Alonso and Michael success in karting came when they were still childs, but Ayrton lost the World Championship in Jesolo when he was almost 20, age when he made the jump to Formula Ford.
Michael Schumacher, for example, was born in 1969 and his F1 debut came when he was 22 and half years old. If we know that he has been competing profesionaly since 5 years old, it’s easy to conclude that when he came to Jordan he had something like 17 years of experience in profesional motorsports, since karting to the powerful prototipes of the Sport car championship, in small teams and in monobrands formulas where all the cars are the same, but also in official teams, with megaprofesional backup.
What about Alonso? He would had at least as much experience as Michael, and for those who say he didn’t compete in Sport Prototipes like Michael, can take into account that the Kaiser first contract with Jordan in Spa ’91 was very short and barely days before the race, as soon when Willi Weber gave Eddie Jordan the 150k$ that he asked for the car lease. Nano, on the other hand, had already tested a Minardi as a prize for his crown in the Open Nissan championship. Then Pedro De La Rosa would’ve help him to get a Jaguar test drive, although if we remember correctly, this happened when he was already on the Minardi payroll.
Senna? He got in Toleman, with 24 years. Just after ten long years since that kart race in Interlagos in 1973. And yes, he had F1 experience because he had tested a Williams, a Mclaren and a Brabham, this last one thanks to the presence of his fellow countrymen Piquet who later, according to the bad sources, banned him as team mate because of the desire of a italian sponsor with great interests in Brazil, Parmalat. But the decision of testing a F1 wasn’t Milton Senna’s, nor the Brazilian Federation, nor any great F1 tycoon, nor of a sponsor. It was Ayrton’s choice. And it wasn’t that somebody seated and teached him. Frank Williams says that Senna listened to the instructions, checked the material, made a few questions and after driving around some laps at a pace he thought was prudent, he finally decided to end the test. Williams and Head tell that they thought he wanted more laps, maybe another test, but Senna simply thanked them, told it was enough and left.
WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN FOR A SOUTH-AMERICAN TO GO TO RACE IN EUROPEAN AUTOSPORT?
A severe and unfair judgement from the fans, specially those who only watch it by TV, has to do with the south american driver. Fernando Alonso, in Spain, had a great number of high level tracks on which to practice without getting out of his country. And his father also took him to compete in Italy and France. A sacrifice, it’s true…but, have you driven from Barcelona to Milan? Do you know the difference of doing it between Caracas and Bogota? And it’s not a car difference…
Do you know the distance between Bogota or Caracas and Northampton? There’s Silverstone, the track where Ernesto Viso, Senna and Juancho Montoya have made great part of the learnings as drivers in Europe. Even though there is water in between, Oviedo and Kerpen are much more closer but physical and economical speaking.
Ayrton, when arrived to England, didn’t know english at all. Like Ernesto Viso, like Juan Montoya. And like Alonso. The only difference being that the last one already had a manager and translator. The south americans didn’t. If you arrive to England and talk french or some Iberic dialect like Catalan, at least they will listen to decide if they help you or not, but it would be preferable if less noble languages like portuguese, portuñol (mixture of portuguese and spanish), brazilian and south american spanish didn’t opened doors because in many cases not only they open closed doors, but they can make that where there was a closed door now there is a wall. A driver that pretends to make his profesional career only with being established in Europe has a great advantage. We saw Senna win in Germany, get on the podium and hear the crowd booing him just because he was south american or simply scream out loud the name of Alain Prost just to piss him off.
It is said that Juan Montoya, to save some coins so he could call back home, Bogota, didn’t eat or ate very little and the cheapest thing posible. Burgers, most of the time. Ayrton went through many sacrifices to learn english but the made such an effort, in that he went out to the street to listen to people talking and asimilate the sound, while at night he would sumerge in books of gramatic and TV shows. Nobody presented to him a professor, nobody helped him. It was him that determined he had to lear english and speak it as well or better than if he was born in Oxford, where he lived a long time during his first stages in european autosports.
Cooking? Ayrton, as his sister Viviana told, only knew to make sandwiches and cook eggs. The day when Mauricio Gugelmin showed him how to make omelettes it was a great blessing. Until then, only bread with a fried or cooked egg inside. And then Senna begin consulting nutrition books, not recipe books, so he could determine that he would eat more vegetables when he realized that eating eggs everyday would make an irreversible damage to his cardiovascular system.
PLAYING LIKE VISITOR ON HOME TURF
Senna’s debut in F1 was made in Brazil, but not in Interlagos, but in Jacarepagua. One could believe that the people was cheering for him, but Brazil isn’t Spain. In Brazil there are over 400 kart and racing tracks. And all of them are full of little kids, kids and big kids that dream of being the next Pele of autosports. The crowd and the track of Jacarepagua, that looked like an off road track because of the damaged asphalt, was full of cariocas (Name used to denote people that hail from Rio de Janeiro) that cheered for Nelson Piquet.
It’s not Spain, where even housewives root for Alonso just because he’s a spaniard that shows that the Iberic Peninsule is one of the prominent countries in the European Community, who at the time questioned the entrance of Spain and Portugal to the system, and today they act like they are blind when Spain is in reality in a better position than Portugal but also Italy or France inside the EC. In Brazil, truth be told, all cars fans without too much knowledge were with Piquet because he was the defendind champion. The #1 in his car meant delirium for the cariocas and even more having him in their own track. Senna wasn’t anything more than just another brazilian like years before Chico Serra was. To some he was only a protegee of Philip Morris Brazil because of his previous Formula Ford success. But for most he was the man that Piquet had considered to be without level to join him in Brabham in replacement of Ricardo Patrese.
In Germany almost everybody root for the Schumachers, and in Spain everybody is crazy about Alonso, but in Brazil and Italy it’s different because there are so many drivers that it turns out nearly impossible to be popular in your own country, which translates into less interest from the local media and it turns out hard to find sponsors because of the media attention deficit. Jarno Trulli well said it, when he told that Alonso don’t really apreciates (maybe he still don’t) what it’s like to live in a country where all the fan base, either you’re good or bad, big or small, are behind you.
Senna, being a paulista (Name used to denote people that hail from Sao Paulo), could feel as comfortable in Jacarepagua as the Flyers would be playing the finals against the Red Wings in Detroit, or as comfortable as a Taliban in the White House. The heat (and it was hot as hell, like my godfather that was there that weekend told me) was something absolutely grotesque, like 36ºC (97ºF) in the shadow and like 50ºC (122ºF) inside the cars, but that was something Ayrton was already used to. There was a guy making a fortune selling sandwiches. There were three different flavors, Senna, Rosberg (1982 champion), and Piquet. The filling of the Rosberg sandwich was chicken, Senna’s was ham and Piquet’s was pork with salad. Imagine which sold more.
In the paddock you could see a thin and childlooking guy, which his facial expression were halfway grotesque because he wasn’t fully recovered from all the paralisis that in another time paralized half his body. He had just turned 24, and in fact, they sung happy birthday to him in the paddock. Even though the local crowd was biased towards Piquet with the mesmerizing #1 in his car, and despite of his looks, it looked like the scene knew him, and also those nomads that follow the circus from paddock to paddock; engineers, journalists and PR representants. That was because of one reason: Senna had realized that his doings weren’t good at all if they weren’t fully documentated and made know to the public, even glorified if it was possible. That’s why he took care of organizing a plan for it, with a journalist and photographer. He came to an simple agreement with Keith Sutton, because he, like Senna, felt he had a great future in the motorsport photography bussiness. If both of them helped each other mutually, they could progress together. And that’s the way it happened.
With brazilian Journalists like Galvao Bueno or the ones of TV Globo, we are talking of profesionals with great experience of which Ayrton told them his needs and they, according to their profesional paths, established the best means to divulge a little dossier that they arranged after each profesional showing of the paulista in F3 or F1 races, a written cronicle, a little press note, and various pictures taken by Sutton. These were usually sent to local journalists, to a growing list of international journalists, massive communications media including magazines, newspapers and TV news, potential sponsors and federations. A work that when Senna was in F1 already had colossal dimensions, and he was collecting the rewards.
Later, in 1986, the carioca crowd went wild as never in the burning Jacarepagua and the tipical arched ceilings of the boxes, trembled with the great battle between the mighty Williams-Honda of Nelson Piquet that was starting in 1986 sure of having enough experience, talent, skills and backing plus something he never had before, a salary that was on par with his status as one of the top 3 drivers in that time, against Ayrton Senna, who, with his pretty competitive Lotus-Renault of a lesser team, but equally efficient. The duel was for absolute supremacy of the circus and of the brazilian crowd, and Nelson becoming the winner because of his greater presence, experience and heriarchy, but it was clear that the day in which Ayrton, who finished 2nd, would claim that top spot. “Nelson first, Ayrton second” was on the first page of a popular local newspapers, with superimposed pictures of both drivers, each one in his car, and a ondulating brazilian flag.
SENNA AGAINST JOHNNY
Many people is astonished when they find out that Johnny Cecotto and Ayrton Senna raced together. In fact, they were team mates. Ayrton’s first year in F1 was also the second and last of Cecotto in the circus. Physically speaking, Johnny was a lot fitter, first because he already had a year in F1, even though he had little race time in the Theodore Ensign and the team had gone bankrupt in september ’83, it helped him to get in shape both physically and mentally. Besides Cecotto already knew what was the meaning of being fit, because he already had been a 2 times Bike World Champion. Ayrton was a thin and weak boy, with a pointed nose and with a wild hairdo. It’s true that Ayrton got into Toleman because Williams couldn’t give him a seat instead of Laffite or Rosberg and also because Piquet banned him in Brabham. It’s also true that Ron Dennis offered him a contract for various years that Williams recommended Ayrton to not acept. Toleman literally begged Ayrton to join them and the brazilian accepted because he really didn’t had any other option after what happened with the top 3 teams he had tested with.
It’s true that Alexc Hawkridge and Co. were interested in the brazilian’s great talent, but also in his popularity in England (where Toleman’s HQ was) and also in the added value like the brazilian’s corporative media structure, Philip Morris Brazil sponsorship and also Pirelli Brazil. Johnny, on the other hand, was asked a number and the venezuelan could cover part of it with his personal sponsors, but not all of it. There were others interested in the seat, but Johnny’s potential was, at least, comparable to Senna’s and he also had a year of experience under his belt. It was widely know that Johnny could make greater things, and team like Williams or Ferrari kept a vigilant eye on him. Enough reasons to give him a seat. So, Toleman had two of the most promising drivers in F1 in 1984, and with Senna guaranteed, Hawkridge’s interest was so that he offered Johnny equal material even so his financial contribution was inferior. But there wasn’t a lot of money in Toleman so the little available, was used in Senna’s car first for bringing the sponsors and second because those could sue the team if it didn’t follow the rules. Surely we can conclude that Toleman, wanting desperately to keep talented Johnny, lied barefaced about the race material that was going to be given to him.
Hawkridge surely thought that as the venezuelan lacked the same support from his country as Ayrton had, and of not having local powerful sponsors like the brazilian had, any showing of imcompliance or unhappyness of the Caraqueño (Person born in Caracas) would have little repercussion. A fatal mistake, like the one after the Monaco GP: the accident that nearly costed Johnny his professional driver career shook autosports and made, F1 first then the other singleseater formulas, to demand that driver’s feet were behind the theoritical front axle. Johnny’s sponsors felt let down, and Toleman saw sadly that it was true that they were trully interested in investing more if the team showed it was worth it.
And many of them turned in team sponsors, even though they had the deception of losing Johnny. The dispute with Pirelli in Imola made the HQ in Italy very angry, a scandal made worse by the fact that the agreement with Michelin prevented Senna from driving with the same tire spec as the allmighty Mclarens, but not Cecotto. Senna, with a humble, but solidly designed car, well built and attended, marveling the world, so those who saw Cecotto being on his back facing him straight up with a car that only looked the same as the brazilian’s, had more reasons to aprove him. At the time of the incident there was talks with Ferrari, with BMW and other big teams. Senna, in the future, would not vacilate in describing him as the strongest, most complet and fearful team mate he ever had, letting see that his differences with Prost were simply a matter of so many viewpoints, both personal as profesional. Johnny once joked saying very seriously “That’s what he said, not me”.
In fact, one of the supersecret rumours that surround the caraqueño at the time of his accident in England in mid ’84 mentioned the unhappiness of Enzo Ferrari with Rene Arnoux, acussing him of having lost motivation and paying attention to a couple of detractors that the frenchman had in the Drake counselor. Can you guess which name was on the list evaluating possible replacements? Where could’ve Johnny arrived without the accident, taking into account that later he became a legend in Turismo races, winning it all? The venezuelan himself acepted to talk about it in an interview with a italian magazine some years ago, saying something like, that in those times, nobody, not even Senna, knew what the future held for them, and that both of them were just that, young racers looking for their future.
Ayrton’s second F1 race was also the first that he finished, and he finished between the top 6. That was comparable to what Johnny did in 1983, even thought what the venezuelan did was more of a historical feat because in his rookie year and his second race with a Midland starting last and climbing up top by his own means without any help of accidents or other situations, until he reached the last of the front runners, where he stayed even facing one of the competitive Ferrari. Cecotto, even having the flu and having trouble with the gearshifting in the end, managed to get the Theodore Ensign to the same level as the Arrows and Williams, that were the best cars with Cosworth engines and 60hp more. Rene Arnoux, that was in the Ferrari Turbo, had trouble trying to pass the venezuelan on his route towards 3rd place and so did Jacques Laffite, who had a tough time passing Cecotto to get 4th place. Marc Surer, with the Arrows, also passed him towards the end after a long struggle but still Cecotto finished 6th with that joke of a car in a 26 car grid and in a urban type track.
A year later, Senna and Cecotto were also racing in South Africa, in Kyalami. It was really hot in there, but not like the brazilian heat, but with was heat with another kind of humidity, the kind that not only dehidrates you, but crushes you also. Senna was ahead of Johnny, that was on the back of his car all the time. In an early stage of the race, the paulista’s Toleman hit something and lost half of a wing, making the driver give an extra effort. Johnny, with the same car but with worse attention because that was a small team that only could properly attend one car that was Senna’s thanks to the support of Marlboro Brazil, managed to keep just behind the brazilian until his car failed.
Ayrton was left alone and towards the end of the race there was an avalanche of DNF’s between the first places, making that the two drivers that were among the last, Andrea De Cesaris with his Ligier and Ayrton with the Toleman, climbed up some spots. In the end the brazilian crossed the finish line two laps down, but before him only 5 cars had passed, so he finished 6th. In the next race, Zolder, he would reach the finish line in 7th place after a series of late abandons because of the fuel consumption rule. Just that the Tyrrell of Stefan Bellof, who finished 5th, would be disqualified later. So, Senna climbed up one spot and he got his second point in his 3rd GP.
Imola received Senna for his 4th GP and it is said that he liked what he saw, including the great italian passion for Ferrari. Just that there was a problem with Pirelli and the tire brand decided to annul the contract with the team. Toleman owners signed a contract with Michelin thanks to Ayrton sponsor and then both he and Johnny could use the french tires. Just that Ayrton tires where the exact same specs as those of Mclaren, which was possible due to the brazilian being part of what was called in those years the “Marlboro Drivers Team”. It was an additional advantage and not a little one, but in just one session, the saturday afternoon one, both Toleman drivers had to qualify, set up the car and learn the track.
Johnny would qualify 19th out of 26 cars, but Senna couldn’t do it and he was out of the Sunday race. It was the only time in all of 161 showings that Senna couldn’t start a GP (Since when in F1 the only participation of the practice sessions is a guarantee of a grip spot for sunday? Did you know that until 1990 there used to be a showing of more than 30 cars to each GP, making the qualifying and a pre-qualifying necessary because only 26 cars were allowed in the starting grid?) and that Johnny made it shook him in a incredible way, besides being something that was going to be a thorn deeply nailed in himself.
If we talk about stadistics, Ayrton managed to dispute 161GP in 11 seasons, including the last and fateful 1994 season and managed the pole in 65 of them, but besides those 161 races, he would start almost 90 in the first row. The man which he dethroned to stablish a new record was Jim Clark who made 33 poles, in something like 72 races. A record that Michael Schumacher just managed to achieve (65 poles), but requiring 16 seasons and after more than 200 races. If that record wasn’t impressive, let’s say that Senna was only beaten 18 times by his teammate. In those 18 times, just once he failed to qualify for a race and his team mate, Cecotto, did.
There’s more: Senna and Johnny just raced as team mates in 7 GP and the venezuelan never had the same material as the brazilian, but even so he managed to qualify ahead of him two times. On another ocasion, in Brazil, he quialified just behind Senna. Do you remember the famous Monaco GP that launched Ayrton into stardom? Well, Ayrton qualified 14th that day, well ahead of Johnny but he did a mistake in the start, and Johnny that started in the last spots, was behind him preparing the manouver to pass him. It has been a great injustice to minimize the venezuelan performance and to attribute his retirement in the start of the third lap to a mistake and a spin over the slippery surface. What really happened was that both Ayrton and Johnny were fully going at it, but when he went for his line, the engine just silenced and something in the car locked up because of a supposed electrical issue.
The rest is history…
IT’S NOT ONLY ABOUT BEING STRONG, IT’S KNOWING HOW TO BE THE STRONGEST
Gerhard Berger debuted with Mclaren Honda in the first GP of the 1990 season, in Phoenix, Arizona. Ayrton, who had a really busy winter and didn’t even know a few days before if he would be allowed to compete in the new championship after what had happened with his disqualification in Japan, managed to qualify 6th. A performance that gave much to think about, because a Minardi and a Dallare were in the 1st and 2nd row, and a Tyrrell completed that one. Berger, on the other side, had gave everything he could as a good profesional does, letting the car express itself in the same level it belongs. And being the McHonda the best car of the moment, the austrian debuted with a pole.
Berger has told many times that, before such a situation, he felt absolutely impressed and thought something like “Or I am really good or he’s not all that they say he is”. In the start Jean Alesi, with a marvelous manouvers, jumped from 4th to 1st and Berger, desperate in being behind a humble Tyrrel, instantly tried to recover 1st place, being stopped by the french, who was inspired. The desperation made his driving worse and after each lap that passed, a question rounded more and more in Berger’s head “How it can be that me, that put on pole a car that the best driver couldn’t qualify better than 6th, now I can’t pass a lowly Tyrrell driven by a rookie?” The result was inminent…a little loss of concentration in a turn, a spin and the Mclaren was out. Senna reach Alesi and passed him, just to be passed again by the french. The braziliand didn’t lost his concentration nor hesitated. The brazilian just applied the thought “If I did it once, I can do it twice”.
In that year Berger could only be in a few occasions in the same level as Ayrton, who was on route to his 2nd championship. In the end he finished 4th in the championship, and his excuse for not having won any GP was that he was too big to fit in the car, but in 1991 he also couldn’t face Senna in a car where he could fit comfortably. Only in 1992, last year of the staying of both in Mclaren, Berger could come a little closer and got a few occasions where he qualified ahead but that year Senna invested it thinking how he could avoid the ban that Prost have gaven him to his pass in Williams in 1993. Besides, since it’s debut that year in Interlagos, it was evident that the famous Mclaren with so many electronic devices and the debut of drive by wire technology in F1 would need a lot of development and set up time, which wasn’t going to be possible knowing that Honda would leave them at the end of the year.
So, Senna just lost that plus in his driving because he already had his habitual motivations to give it all and with maximum intensity (to beat Prost, get more wins and championships, score more poles and develop new technology). Of course, in those days where he could compensate with human touch the deficit of the machine, he did, and clearly imposed himself in Monaco and Italy, victory that had a bittersweet taste for him because just after that weekend it was made public that despite Ayrton’s offering of driving for Williams for free, Prost’s ban for 1993 was totally unavoidable.
FROM WEAK TO SUPER ATHLETE
Back to Senna’s debut, or better said, the day when he raced his second GP and scored his first point, it’s worth to remember that he finished totally dehidrated and exhausted, with muscular cramps producted of the effort. He couldn’t move his arms and that terrorized him, making his way to the medic booth (Which in those years was a modest facility, almost warfield like, very different than what is seen in the circus today thanks to the support Sid Watkins has received from Ecclestone of raising the level of medical assistance in F1) where he found Watkins. Witnesess said that Senna was crying and yelling at the same time, making that the medic had to talk harshly to win his attention and try to calm him.
Eventually, and despite his previous paralisis case, Senna managed to pass the situation without consecuences. As soon as this happened, he flew to Brazil and asked who was the best and most recognized physical trainer specialized in sport figures and drivers. He learned by his own experience, that inside the car, more than muscular mass, one need cardiovascular resistence, aerobic capacity, low dehidration and improved respiratory abilities.
Ayrton, in his training, talked like Cobra. That is, “look for the limit, and once found it go beyond it, where the limit is imposed by pain, not effort”. Every three months Senna wore down a pair of jogging sneakers and when he bought the little island in Angra Dos Reis it wasn’t because he was searching to be completely isolated, nor some snob act. It simply happened that the first time he visited Xuxa’s island, they showed him the outskirts and when he arrived to the one he would eventually buy, he started to jog. There he realized the texture and firmness of the sand and the climate, both ideal for aerobical training. So, the island became his jogging centre and if he felt dehidrated, he swimmed.
Think about it: jog over sand, with your toes trying to tensate the muscles and the calfs, inhaling and exhaling air in a voluntary way, non-stop during two hours, resting for a while and then coming doing another session in the noon. Briatore took his drivers, including Fisichella, Trulli and Alonso, to his Kenya ranch to see some sights, rest and do at least some days of jogging and mountain hiking routines…but all of them ended exhausted. To Ayrton, on the contrary, it was a normal routine., If he couldn’t get to the island, he ran over a dock or in places where the floor was very hot. If he could run on the shore, he did, but not because it felt good, but because jogging with the water around the calfs put on them a weight in a perfectly natural fashion, which is much better than jogging with weights strapped on the calfs.
Ayrton always told Cobra what he needed out of his body and he teached him how to achieve it. The master Nuno Cobra, already very famous at the time, recgonizes that Ayrton was one of his most important achievements and, even though he managed to teach him a lot, also learned a lot from him. It was said that the brazilian’s heart, at rest, barely reached 40 BPM (Beats per minute) which, in his own words, meant that the heart beated little but strongly, fully irrigating with blood and oxygen the entire body without making too much effort. Which was the brazilian intensity when he raced? In a GP start, it was registrated in 192 BPM.
WHICH WAS HIS MOST BEAUTIFUL VICTORY?
It’s hard to determine which of Ayrton’s 41 race wins is the most important. We suppose that his half dozen in Monaco must be in that group and the feat is even more admirable if we take into account that Ayrton debuted there in 1984 and only competed 10 times. If Jackie Ickx had stoped the Monaco GP a lap later of when he did or if the rule that dictates that in case of a red flag, the final positions are defined by the positions the cars were two laps before was in practice, Ayrton would’ve won 7 times in Monca (He finished 2nd and officially 7.4 seconds behind the Mclaren of Alain, when at the moment the red flag was waived, the frenchman stoped and Senna passed him, crossed over the finish line and even did an extra lap thinking he had won) and if he had won that race in 1988, in which he was ahead of Alain by like a minute until with 12 laps to go a short lapse in concentration made him crash in the tunnel entrance, he would’ve had 8 victories in Monaco, all of them by pure driving, without involving luck.
But that crash in Monaco had a good repercusion, and those who have read in deep about the brazilian champion life, know that even he lost the race that day, he also won God. Senna himself tells that in the race he had a vision, than among other things, put God on a side and Satan on the other, and he was in a deep trance, so deep, that he felt he was faster than the car or any earthly limit.
In fact, in such a short and difficult track, with a car just like Prost’s, who wasn’t no slouch in the urban track, on that satuday Senna managed the Pole with 1.4 seconds over the frenchman. Not even him, or anybody could explain it. Senna told that in a moment he felt that the car had trouble, just like Alain mentioned, but that he could trascend over it and see from above, in a perspective that put him floatin over the car, which helped him to see better how to manouver it. Senna would later tell that, on that saturday, on the race he would feel the same, and that an evil force incited him more and more, even so when his counciousness told him he had overcome the physical limits by a considerable margin some laps back.
The crash on the port was his return to reality, into the arms of a God that had arranged all that to finally receive him on his side. After the crash, he didn’t even returned to the box. His apartment was near, and he had his keys in his overalls, so he went there, took a shower and a nap. Back in the boxes, Dennis was bitting his nails and they were calling him over and over again without response. Some time later, Ayrton appeared to explain it all to Dennis and the press. He had come to an arrangement with God and would never stick away from Him.
Another memorable race was Monaco 1992. The McHonda, simply wasn’t up to pace. It was even too wimpy for the twisty track. Ayrton managed to qualify 3rd, and he knew that he couldn’t expect much from the race, because Mansell, with the invincible Williams Renault with it’s finely tuned active electronic suspension had a enourmous advatange in which to fully use his superior engine. The Lion, in fact, was on the Pole and got a clean start and began to put a gap between him and his rivals. Ayrton managed with a great start to pass Saint Devote just behind the englishman and drove with all the intensity he could muster. He knew that Mansell expected to distance pretty easily from him, and supposed, that if he couldn’t manage it, the englishman would begin to lose focus and concentration in his driving and force him to make a mistake. In 30 or so laps, when Mansell and his team calculated to have a half minute gap, they only had 18 seconds.
That seemed to desconcentrate Nigel and Senna deep inside was thinking that something like that would make him easy victim of a mistake, by either him or someone else. And that promptly happened, just that Ayrton would be the afflicted having to abruptly step on the brake to avoid hitting a lapped car that made a spin when passing a rival, with both cars on his way in the hairpin, while they managed to get back on track. The gap, in just a moment, went to 30 seconds. Ayrton got a little worse, but he didn’t let off. Nigel, in his try to go beyond the limits of the car, experimented what always happens in these cases: the car begins to be more and more hard to maitain in the ideal race line and slides out a little.
Nothing really serious and barely noticeable. Even so in Monaco, the englishman skill behind the wheel was enough to avoid that little slip making him kiss the wall just like it happened to Michael when he lost in the princidom one time in front of David Coulthard. But the monegasque edges are just as dirty as a city street can be, and on top of that, race cars after going lap after lap non-stop, begin letting little pieces of debris; chunks of plastic, milimetric metallic corners, little fragments of fiber glass and little rubber balls left behind by the tires.
One of these got into the inside of one of the William’s front tires, and Murphy wanted that it located itself inside the sensor that measures tire pressure. By then, telemetry already letted to measure data like that, but in a less complex and precise way like today. So was Nigel’s sensibility that he detected the vibration caused by the weight of that fragment of compacted rubber and the pits warned him of a flat tire, and he acknowledged the signal. In reality there was no flat tire, but that was verified in the pits when Nigel stopped. Ayrton was radioed and his self filled with joy of knowing that it was nice to not have thrown the towel. When Nigel returned to the track, there were only seven laps to go, but now, instead of 33 seconds over Ayrton, it was 7 seconds behind him. The resulta? Mansell reacted like he was possesed and just in a couple of laps he was trailing Ayrton.
Ayrton was having fuel consumption problems, but even worse, his grip was already pretty compromised because the tires were showing the signs of racing with such intensity for two hours. One more lap and Ayrton was being brutally pressioned by the raging englishman that was searching for his first win in the monegasque circuit, a setting where he loved to race and he knew that he did it tremedously well by being so close of victory in 1986 and 1987, and feeding an alucinant obsession of triumph. The arrival of both to the Port chicane was overwhelming. It was Senna, giving it all that the car could handle, struggling to “hold it there”, with tires that looked like triangles, with a Mansell that looked faster than him entering the chicane slighty crossed with the intention of not losing ground with the Mclaren, but without intentions of crashing into him.
The ruthless, brutal and unstopable harassment make seeing last years Imola end between Alonso and Michael like childs play, and the final between both in Bahrein like a spicy drink a glass of fresh water can be. The Williams didn’t only looked faster. It was truly faster and the straight in the tunnel exit gave way to a vision which provoke goosebumps, with the sound of two engines, twenty-two cylinders, in unison, with the six shifts from seventh to second in an almost joint sincronization, just to travel them up again once the chicane was left behind in the middle of another scary sound. It would be probably the best F1 race ever narrated in Venezuela, at least those last seven laps. Vicente D’Alessandro, a man which his particular style was always the existing venezuelan standard in motorsport broadcasts, specially F1. And it was the base of which many in Venezuela that did the same job added their little grains of sand, defining the present comentator level that there is, and it was particulary inspired in that ocasion and the narrative was used many times by RCTV (Venezuelan TV channel, where it originally was generated) at the moment of rendering an homage to the brazilian superstar.
Maybe one, or both of his wins in Brazil. In 1991, fighting against everything and everyone, including a car that got stuck in 4th gear under a considerable rain, to win against the limit of strenght, totally dehidrated and with his aching arm that kept him almost paralized. Do you remember Ayrton’s childhood paralisis problems? Even so, he won the race, and knowing how eager his fellow brazilians were to see him on the podium, Senna went up there literally crawling and making a superior and superhuman effort, grinned his teeth and hold the tears to, in a dramatic and triumphal gesture, raise the trophy, making Interlagos and the world to get all sentimental. In 1993 it was the opposition of two extremely superior Williams-Renault, the rain, an underpowered car which engine lost oil pressure with two laps to go…but he won and he climbed to one of the service cars to go around Interlagos waving the brazilian flag.
He already did that everytime he won a race, but in typical european chauvinism, envious with the dramatic and popular effect that Senna’s practice had, the europeans decided to forbid it. It was already forbiden in the weekend that Senna died in Imola, but inside his Williams cockpit, when they pulled his body out, they found a flag that he, sure that he would win that race, had asked his lawyer to give him. But, it wasn’t a brazilian flag, it was an Austrian flag. In the memory of a man he met only two days before without knowing that his cadaver would rest just next to him in the Hospedale Maggiore morgue. Getting back to Brazil 1993, Senna at the end was reaching up Hill, that was aspiring to victory in his second GP and nevertheless he didn’t hesitated in letting Senna through once he saw him, in a clear showing of sportive good will and aceptance of who was the best that day. In the podium Juan Manuel Fangio was expecting him, to reward him, to declare him his succesor, and to tell he was the number one. To which Ayrton replied “No Master, you are the number one”.
Today it’s normal that F1 gives us eventos of a doubtful taste considering the prominent masculine and virile orientation of this sport (Or femenine, considering the growing numbers of professional women drivers) like always seeing the same three drivers that finish each GP getting out of the podium into a make-up room where they quickly get niptucked to show their faces in the unillateral interview, and it can reach exagerations like those of Fernando Alonso, who we still don’t know if it was trully necessary for him to carry sunglasses into the unillateral interview after this past Malaysian GP (It’s obvious, he gets paid for it, but stuff like that just add more artificiality to modern F1, taking away it’s credibility and making us think that each time it gets easier that everyone, even grandma if she was still alive today, can get into a F1 and win if told how to drive it) carefully put into his neately combed hair after what should’ve been an hour and half of maximum physical effort, which is not a tribute to a good physical preparation, but a cult to all things snob, to values that aren’t put into practice by the ones who love sports, and more precisely, autosports.
Senna was something else. He certainly took great care of his looks and during his last years he left this in charge of an image asesor that chose the best the could find of brands like Lacoste, Levi’s and Hugo Boss, having a contract with the last one. However, he didn’t hesitated to appear on the podium and on the interview looking just like he was when he got off the car, and many times, if he did dissapearead between the podium ceremony and the interview, it was to change the band-aid that was in his hands or to put one. Such was Senna’s intensity when driving, that his hands blistered (Like the ones of his coleagues) forcing him to use strong band-aids under the gloves to avoid more blisters or, if they did already exist, to ease the pain they cause and to avoid a much worse wound. At the moment, only Kimi Raikkonen hands, with his literally devoured nails and his deformed fingers from cracking then too much, consequences of holding like a strong claw the steering wheel, reminds us of that.
During his whole career, Senna, just like many other of his coleagues, letted his feelings out. We saw Senna cry of joy, cry of pain, talk in spanish even if it was not flawless during a press conference just because it was in Mexico (Ask Michael to speak italian if he gets in the podium in Italy or to Alonso, in respect to his bosses and neighbours, talk in french if he wins in France, and even so the little boy would be able to never speak in spanish, only english, if the protocol rules didn’t demanded to talk in his mother language) giving way to protocol being included in the unillateral interviews, forcing a driver to talk in english as a universal language and in his native language for the delight of millions of fellow countrymen that see him in TV in all the world.
We saw Senna finish a race so exhausted, that on the podium, when rising the trophy, he had to squezee his teeth and hold the tears since he couldn’t rise it. We saw Senna yell, cry, applaud, praise…but also to criticize and reject. We saw Senna kick a inopportune camarographer and we also saw him visit his paralized godson by a Motorcycle accident that was recluded for a long time in the Maggiore Hospital in Bologna, where in May 1994, they pronunced his death after the crash in Imola. We saw Senna picking fights with his sponsors and bosses for demanding that his contracts allowed him to be near his family and a circle of friends that wanted to join him, explaining why Xuxa Meneghel, Adrianne Galisteu or Marcella Prado were seen in boxes or the presence of his brothers and even of his father, wasn’t a rare sight. We saw Senna sewing his overalls by himself before a race, polishing his helmet, checking his car with his mechanics before getting into it like it was some kind of ritual.
We saw Senna waiting for the perfect moment to give the final strike in the practices, and it was surely he who imposed the “learning to breath” skill during a F1 race, inhaling air in the straights, just to exhale it after the hard braking at the end of them. Senna imposed stuff in the area of physical training like doing the definitive qualifying lap completely holding his breath and such a feat is considered today like a great exercise to help improvement of the toraxic capacity. Senna took the profesional F1 driver facet to sublime levels, pushed by the desire of beating both profesionally and sportly Alain Prost. We saw Senna make mistakes and apologize for them, we saw him doing what Montoya is doing today, the role of South America ambassador in the First World, ahead of hostile people because of the language and procedence stuff. We saw Senna trying to make it through in a country with a different culture, alone and with high expectactions from local sponsors just like Montoya did in his time, who, during a year and a little more, ran with the concernment of knowing that if he didn’t got good results his father could not pay the mortgage he would’ve put on their house to pay for his F3000 FIA season, just like Ernesto Viso does it today away from his fathers, family and friends.
We saw senna promoting iniciatives so many kids like Alonso, young and eager to run even when they don’t have the natural talent to do it, have a chance to do it and become professionals, but we also saw him creating opportunities for those gifted youngters that wished to run, but didn’t had the means to do so. We saw Senna impose on the teams the technical criteria and even trying to impose fellow brazilians so they could also have a chance. We saw Senna like the biggest promotor of the return of F1 to Interlagos, not wishing to leave Jacarepagua behind, but because the evident inferiority of the last one for being considered to be included in a F1 calendar, the future of F1 in Brasil was in danger if something was not done.
We saw senna doing sublime, but also regretable things. But all of them were by his own doing. Nobody, not a sponsor, nor a brand, nor nobody, told him which criteria to assume, what to say and what not. He did things guided by a professional and ethic sense, but above all, guided by his own criteria. Alonso, on the contrary, once bathed by fame and fortune, has demostrated being much different to the young, professional, talented and well prepared stereotype that Renault had sewn around him like a comercial image. Even so that a french publication dedicated a written work titled “Doctor Fernando and Mister Alonso”.
Senna, and to a certain point Schumacher himself, unlike Alonso and other idols built by the circus machinary, are what they appear to be. Senna, virtuous, dedicated, genious and so focused in racing, in competing, that didn’t hesitaded to send away in a rude way anyone that would try to invade that space. Michael, professional, hard worker, disciplined and dedicated to the races, to his bussiness, to Ferrari and his family, looking down upon the snobism of parties and the fake exhibitions.
Alonso, the prodigious kid, on the contrary, minimizes the merits of his boss that has given everything to him, signs behind the back of his manager, boss and sponsors a contract that only is good for himself and nobody else, he bans and insults the press of his country when it pretends to be objective when describing his virtues but also his weaknesses, unknow to him that it was that same press the same one that put him on the first page of local media, that don’t get the car setup right and the race strategies, everytime that the team asks him to pronunce about it.
Thirty years ago, having a TV in the house was a big event, and if it was a color TV, it was even bigger, but today nobody sees it like anything out of the ordinary. Thirty years ago a sedan like a Corolla with fuel injection, would’ve been described as something extraordinary, but today it’s simply a run of the mill car. Fifteen years ago a driver like Schumacher, stereotype of the professional that dedicates body and soul to autosport not like a sport, but like a career just like a banker or medic, he imposed a pattern but today people like Alonso, that respect said pattern are a sample of the today standard of an average driver in F1. But, continuing with the example, thirty years ago and still today, it’s still amazing the potential of electronics no matter how many stuff keep getting invented, stuff that were wonderful yesterday like the fax, but that these days are a thing of the past, being relegated by stuff like emails. Forty years ago a Lamborghini Miura was sublime and today it’s still is, just as it will be tomorro. Fifteen years ago a driver that took the sport like a profession and brought it artistical trades with his virtous style, with his desire of always going beyond the limite no matter any sacrifice as long as this didn’t implied a damage to both his physical and moral integrity was as extraordinary as it would’ve been today if he existed.
What can I say? Michael Schumacher is a driver that imposed the actual standard for the average professional driver. Alonso simply is, the typical example of who is still that standard. Ayrton, on the contrary, was much more than that, being higher than everything in his time, as he is todday, just like Fangio, Moss, Nuvolari o Caracciola. Who remembers Alain Prost? Not as many people that remember Fangio, Ayrton, Nuvolaria or Moss, even when he didn’t won a championship.
Not much people, will be the ones that in some years remember Schumacher in the same way as today Gilles or Ayrton is evoked. If we were to do a comparison, in 1966 the Lamborghini Miura and the Renault 16 were born. Both imposed important patterns in the automotive industry. The R16, for example, was the ancestor of the modern FWD car, with independent suspension, fully equipped and with a 5 door body to maximize the interior space. Patterns that have dictated since then the standard for building today daily driver cars. The Miura was, and will still be, a classic, as irreplaceable as is the Mona Lisa. That’s how Senna is for motorsports, that’s how Fangio and the true geniuses are. The Renault 16 was a big hit in it’s time and it lasted a long time, imposed new patterns in structural design, technical design and aesthetical desing que showed the way for Renault and many other brands, but that nobody remembers today, nobody wants one as a collection car and it’s only reminded when his era is evoked.
That’s how Michael Schumacher is to motorsports. The patterns (FWD, unibody design, 5 door hatch, etc) imposed by the R16 as cutting edge, became the standard of the automotive industry for conmuter cars that have a commercial moment and that’s it, like the Renault 11. That’s Fernando Alonso, a great average representant of the time he belongs to, but not an innovator like Michael and much less a genius that learned by his own and mixed brillantly professionalism, genius, art, virtousism and effort for advancing in his own pace shining with a light that will always be very bright.
Besides, if the value of a governments is dictated by his opposition, Ayrton built his pedestal by winning in a professionaly and great sportmanship way to giants like Alains himself, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Gerhard Berger, Riccardo Patrese, just to name a few names in a era when the backmarkers were drivers like Pier Luigi Martini, a veteran winner of LeMans, and not like Ide today, a boulevard racer that ascended to the level of circus drivers by knowing the right people.
Michael? The won against Hill not without help from Ecclestone and finally, the englishman revindicated a title of its own even so none of the people that runs the show of the circus aplauded his effort because of his lack of “commercial image”. Who else? Mika Hakkinen that alongside Hill were the only capable of defeating him regularly and taking his to his pressure level? Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya (When his great talent is not overshadowed by certain behaviours of the colombian, in a professional, commercial and public level), Kimi Raikkonen? Who else? Let’s not forget Alonso, unable to beat his own teammates in equal machines, as it has been made clear each time Fisichella has had such a privilege or each time Trulli did. Who has the spaniard beaten? A Kimi that drives a car that breaks down only by looking at it? A Montoya that woke up with the wrong foot?
How great you were Ayrton Senna! So great to hug master Fangio, when he, presenting you the trophy after your well deserved Brasil 1993 win, said you were the Number One and you replied “No master, you are the Number One”. On the other side, which was the example that Fernando Alonso received? Maybe it was from his manager, Adrián Campos, on his debut day in F1, pursued Juan Manuel Fangio by the entire brazilian paddock when he found out he was there, beg so he could have some pictures with him, and then say to the press that it had been the Master who by his own will arrived to him and told him he had a lot of future and talent, pointing that the Master’s actitude was a contrast with so many drivers unknown to the circus that just went after pictures with characters without even knowing who they were or their history.
Happy birthday Ayrton. Maybe instead of wasting time on the screen watchin the F1 of Michael, Nando and their friends waiting that among then appears somebody even remotely similar to what you once were, we should look more to the things of the past, where there are another names, that, just like Fangio, Nuvolari, Clark, Moss and more, are equivalent to you because with your quality, virtuousism, competition desire, professional vision and the ability to sacrifice it all, you won fair and square that privilege and the aplauses of many brazilians and people from around the world that recognize you as The Great One together or above Pele, even so you only competed in F1 for less than 11 years and the Great Edson, on the other side, adds feats to his biography since a very far 1958. Between then would be flagging the finish of some Brazilian GP’s, even incurring a remembered mistake some years ago when he didn’t flag the winner when he stared at him crossing the finish line. Nobody, that we know of, has dedicated a World Cup to his memory, but, the fourth World Cup won by Brazil in 1994 has the name of a paulista (People born in Sao Paulo) that after 12 years of his departure, still keeps acumulating websites, selling all kind of merchandising, feeding more than 300.000 kids in Brazil and giving his name to tracks, turns, autodromes and places to practice motorsports around the world, even in Venezuela.
Good riddance and happy birthday, even when, unlike you that spoke in spanish to the mexicans when you won a podium in there, that last wish, the best of the birthdays wherever you may be, I have to express it in english, because I haven’t learned brazilian. The great difference between a mortal and a myth, you didn’t doubted to do it because you knew that it would be apreciated by people like me, that you never knew. Who writes, on the contrary, knowing the man, the myth and his feats, even telling then, still hasn’t learnd to say hello in your language even knowing you would’ve like it.
Formula 1 without a doubt died with Ayrton. Then we saw some little flashes from people like Damon Hill, Mika Hakkinen, maybe Jacques Villeneuve at some time, that remind us a little of what was once a sport that mixed danger, adventure, preparation, professionalism and fairplay. Today it’s a bussiness, it’s all hype and rumours. And they are artificial heroes, easy to mold. It would be greatly dangerous if it wasn’t that way. If F1 suddendly lost Michael or Fernando, soon another would arrive and the world would keep on spinning, but in 1994 Senna’s deatch made the whole world fear for the future of autosport and if Bernie Ecclestone wouldn’t had built a complicated and twisted commercial structure in which the role of the driver was less exalted and at the risk of making the fans never see again racers with so much quality like Fangio or Senna, today we couldn’t criticize Alonso, nor Schumacher and instead of watching racer, we would be complaining about baseball or soccer. Do we miss it? Only for those who saw the Sennas, Piquets, Prosts and those who came before them race. The ones that discovered F1 with Schumacher or Alonso exalt them because it’s the only thing they have seen and it’s a human behaviour to identify with the succesfull figure.
Luckily for us, there still exist the videos of those passess between Senna and Prost flat out in Tamburello, at over 180 MPH, with the rain and the deadly wall “right there” in the attempt of not giving one inch to the rival. Today that kind of stuff is missing and the people is so needed of spectacle that little stuff like Michael going to the side and visibly braking in 130R so Alonso could pass him “flat ou” (And the journalists hired by Bernie Ecclestone have time to yell “Genius, mirable” in their quest for selling more magazines and TV shows) to hail millions of new spectators…
Either way, happy birthday Champ…