The word ‘genius’ is overused, but it can be applied to Ayrton Senna. Senna’s determination to win at all costs gave him a fiery temper and an intense aura.
Senna notched up 65 pole positions and won the Drivers Championship in 1988, 1990 and 1991 but his ability and talent showed he could have achieved more if racing had not claimed him at just 34 years old. The Brazilian ace is regarded by many as the greatest driver in Formula 1.
Senna’s love for motor racing can be traced back to when he was given a small go-kart as a four-year-old. He would spend his weekends racing around a local park until he outgrew it and his father – also a motor racing enthusiast – brought him a bigger kart.
When he was 13, Senna was allowed to enter kart races and he won at his first attempt. He had been bitten by the racing bug and in 1981 he moved to England to try the Formula Ford series.
He finished eighth on his debut and went on to win the title. The young Brazilian wanted to move up to the next level but his limited funds prevented him from finding a seat.
Dad to the rescue
One of the greatest talents in racing might never have come to light had it not been for his father’s generosity and a bank sponsorship deal which funded him through the following season.
In 1982 he repaid their faith by winning 22 races and sweeping to the Formula Ford 2000 title. When he progressed to Formula 3 the following year, he did so with the greatest of ease, winning nine races on the trot.
By now Senna had a reputation as a driver with excellent potential and he tested for several F1 teams before finally signing a three-year deal with Toleman. He picked up 13 points in his debut season – including a brilliant second at Monaco – but Toleman’s financial hardships soon had Senna hankering for a move to a team with a better car.
He got his wish in 1985 when he secured a switch to Lotus and won at Estoril.
McLaren’s dream team
The Lotus became uncompetitive and Senna, single-minded as ever, manufactured a move to McLaren in 1988. He got the great car which he used to become established as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
He won eight races and took 13 pole positions on his way to a maiden F1 World Championship. His relationship with team-mate Alain Prost quickly soured and the pair fell out completely. Prost departed to Ferrari but not before he had narrowly beaten Senna to the 1989 title.
Senna responded by truly dominating the sport and winning the Championship in 1990 and 1991. He was simply the best driver on the grid and no one could get close to him.
In 1994 Senna made the switch to Williams. It was to prove his final season, cut tragically short by a fatal crash at Imola. The F1 world was already mourning the death of Roland Ratzeberger and Senna had planned to wave the Austrian flag as a mark of respect if he won the GP. Sadly it was never to be.
Formula 1 had lost arguably the greatest driver ever to grace the sport.
source: © onthisdayinsport.com