It was the eighties. The world of motor racing was dominated by Europeans. Drivers of the caliber of the mighty French, Alain Prost, the Austrian maestro Niki Lauda and the British formula one legend Nigel Mansell.

The poorer countries (those with a love for formula one racing or racing in general) meanwhile, had their eyes set towards the heavens. In search of a messiah. Someone from amongst them. Someone they could relate to. Someone who would teach the mighty Europeans a lesson on what it meant to sit behind the wheel of a formula one car and tame that five hundred horse power, feather light, beast.

And in 1984 their prayers were finally answered by the big man when a little known racing driver from Brazil, made his debut in Formula One at the Brazilian Grand Prix in Rio de Janeiro. His name was Ayrton Senna. The genius of Senna came to light in his first season when he secured a podium finish at the Monaco Grand Prix. The race was affected by heavy rain and when other drivers struggled with their ability to drive the car at the very edge while maintaining sufficient grip to just stay in the race, Senna was in his element.

Qualifying 13th on the grid in his Toleman TG 184, a car that was significantly slower than his competitors’ cars, Senna made his way through the field on the Monaco track (a nightmare for overtaking) and by the 19th lap he had overtaken Niki Lauda for second. By the time the race was stopped for safety reasons Senna was catching the race leader, Alain Prost at the rate of four seconds per lap! For those that are familiar with formula one, four seconds amounts to a lifetime. And doing that on the Monaco street circuit in a heavy downpour, in your first season, against drivers who themselves were phenomenal when it came to driving an F1 car required a certain madness. A certain ability to be miles ahead of the rest. To be the very best.

For those who raced against Senna or saw him drive in Formula One, Senna was something else. Senna was the God of racing. He won the Formula One championship thrice in his career, held the record for maximum pole positions by any driver from 1989-2006, won the Monaco grand prix a record six times and is the third most successful driver in Formula One history in terms of actual race wins.

What differentiated Senna from his competitors was his absolute ruthlessness. His belief in being the very best. In giving more than a hundred percent every single time he stepped behind the wheel of the Formula One car. His ability to tame his car at the very edge was phenomenal.  From 1988-1993 Senna drove for Mclaren. The MP4/4 was the car that would give Senna his first world championship.

Senna is widely regarded as being the best racing driver that ever graced the sport of formula1. Alain Prost, the legendary French driver when questioned about Senna’s level of commitment said that: “While I was committed 100%, he was committed 120%. It was scary.” Niki Lauda the Austrian maestro was of the opinion that “He (Senna) was the greatest driver ever.” And the german racing God, Michael Shumacher, the seven time formula one champion is of the opinion that “Ayrton was, is and always will be the King.”

As a driver, Senna drove at the edge. Danger was a word Senna was not familiar with. “When you are fitted in a racing car and you race to win, second or third place is not enough.” Perhaps this madness was what led to his fatal crash in 1994. Having moved to Williams, Senna was in his third race of the season at the  Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Italy, when his car went off the track at high speed and slammed into the wall. His funeral was attended by an estimated three million people in Brazil. The world mourned the death of a legend.

But the question that puzzles most people is why Senna was miles ahead of other drivers? Why was he the very best? What made him different? What made him a legend? And the answer to all of these questions is, because Senna was a madman. Because Senna was crazy. Because Senna had found his true love.

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