The release of themovie Senna has highlighted the huge gap left in formula one after the tragic events at Imola in 1994.
The passing of time, it seems, has not dimmed memories of one of the sport’s great competitors.
1. Thrilling Brazil
SENNA was loved around the world, but nowhere more than at home in Brazil. The 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix wasn’t the most memorable race in his glittering F1 career, but at least the fans turned out to lavish support on one of their own. Ten years earlier, Senna made his F1 debut at the Brazilian Grand Prix in Rio de Janeiro driving for Toleman and scored his first world championship point in his next race in South Africa. At the Monaco Grand Prix that year, Senna qualified 13th on the grid and despite torrential rain he weaved through the field, eventually passing Niki Lauda on lap 19 to sit second behind race leader Alain Prost. Senna made huge gains on Prost with each lap and caught him on lap 32, but for safety reasons the race was stopped and Senna was awarded second place due to a ruling that finalised race positions based on the last lap completed. It heralded an F1 career that would see him dominate in wet conditions. He had two more podium finishes in 1984 at the British and Portuguese grands prix (both third) and finished ninth in the drivers championship in his first season.
2. Money spinner
THE man who would go on to personify the glitz, glamour and high-octane thrills of F1 for the next decade switched to Lotus-Renault in his second season and wasted no time becoming one of the most marketable faces in the world of sport. He took his first pole position at the second race of the 1985 season in Portugal and converted it into his first race win. Senna finished fourth in the drivers’ championship in just his second season and his earning and marketing potential sky rocketed. He had a $1 million-a-race deal with McLaren in 1993 and was earning well in excess of $20 million that year, which 17 years ago was enormous coin even for an F1 driver. Today the memorabilia generated by Senna still turns over enormous amounts of cash, with model cars, T-shirts, pens, toys, watches and replica helmets just some of the items available. One of the Bell’s special-edition helmets worn by the man who won 41 races can cost thousands of dollars, and years after his death Senna memorabilia still generates more than $100 million in sales each year.
3. The Prost frost
THE simmering tension between Australian formula one driver Mark Webber and his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel is far from the first time drivers in the same stable have clashed. In his fifth season, Senna joined McLaren alongside then dual champion Alain Prost. Over the next five years the pair’s fierce rivalry and competitive instincts reached new highs and they would perform extraordinary feats on the race track, while baiting each other off track in a bid to gain any psychological edge. In their first year together at McLaren, it was Prost who had a slightly better start than Senna at the Portuguese Grand Prix, but Senna dived into the first corner at Estoril and snatched the lead. Prost regained the lead by the end of the first lap despite Senna swerving to block the Frenchman, who almost ran into the pit wall at a speed of almost 300km/h. Between them, Senna and Prost won 15 of the 16 races that season and the Brazilian claimed his first world championship. It was the beginning of one of the most intense, spirited and controversial rivalries in motor sport.
4. Hook turn
AFTER Prost’s shift to the Williams team there was uncertainty about where Senna would drive in 1993, before he agreed to stay with McLaren for the first race in South Africa where he would assess the car’s potential. The three-time world champion (1988, 1990 and 1991) ended up staying for the whole season and finished second in the drivers’ championship. He won at home in Brazil and at Donington, the latter one of his more celebrated victories after coming into the first corner in fifth place and leading the race by the end of the first lap, again in the rain. He led the championship after a record-breaking sixth win at Monaco. His last race win came in the final race of the 1993 season in Australia, shortly after he won at the Suzuka circuit in Japan. In Japan he was lapping Eddie Irvine in his formula one debut for Jordan when Irvine opted to throw racing etiquette out the window, which he would later regret. Senna visited the Irishman at his team garage after the race, and following a lengthy discussion gave him a neat left hook to the head.
5. The finish line
AYRTON Senna’s stunning career and his life ended suddenly at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994. The day before, Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger was killed during qualifying in what was to be a devastating weekend for formula one. The race start was marred by a huge accident and the safety car was called on to the circuit. Soon after the restart, Senna’s car left the track and hit a concrete wall at high speed. He was taken to hospital where he died a few hours later. During the race, Senna had an Austrian flag folded in the sleeve of his racing suit, which he had planned to unfurl afterwards in honour of Ratzenberger. Senna was 34 years old.
Author: © MARTIN BOULTON