Ayrton-Senna-Monaco-1987Ayrton Senna would have won far more world titles had he not died at Imola, insists nephew Bruno Senna

Bruno Senna, nephew of Ayrton, remains convinced that his celebrated uncle could have added to his three Formula One drivers’ titles had his life not been taken in the tragic crash at Imola’s Tamburello turn 20 years ago.

“It’s fair to assume that Ayrton would have won more world championships, because his Williams car was very competitive for the next few years,” argued Bruno, who was just 10 when he watched Senna’s death unfold on television at his São Paulo home. “Unless something extraordinary had happened, he would have been at the top of the game.”

Although Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel can all claim more championships than Senna, the Brazilian, who won three titles at McLaren between 1988 and 1991, is routinely identified in polls as F1’s greatest because of what Martin Brundle describes as his “God-given gift” for driving at the limit.

Bruno, a Sky Sports F1 analyst and a Williams driver himself in 2012, said: “Ayrton was definitely very determined on the track. He wouldn’t let anything get in his way, let’s put it like that. He knew he had the ability, the opportunity, and that he wanted it more than the other guys. That explains why he was always on the edge, why he was so committed to keep pushing, and why he was so successful. That was his personality.”

“As a lot of his fans are still alive, the legend continues to grow,” Brundle said. “This tells you that Ayrton took F1 beyond purely motorsport fans, even sports fans. He took it into the public consciousness.”

Brundle claimed, too, that Senna’s fatal crash had transformed the philosophy on safety in F1 irrevocably. He explained: “We have all seen drivers killed. My son, Alex, is 23 and he has already been in two races where drivers were killed. It’s not just an F1 situation, it is the fact that it was Senna and that everybody thought he was so good that he couldn’t possibly die. So this put a huge new focus on the safety aspect.

“The public, the sport, the sponsors decided that death in the name of sport was not acceptable. Sponsors were having meetings about whether they wanted to get out of this barbaric enterprise. It was irrational, to an extent. Let’s be frank, with Roland Ratzenberger dying on the Saturday, would there have been the same impetus straight afterwards? Absolutely not. The fact that it was somebody as globally recognised as Senna, the debate took off.”

For Damon Hill, who had been Senna’s team-mate at Williams for just two races by the time of the San Marino Grand Prix, the shattering impact of his passing prompted him to contemplate his own future in the sport.

“Everyone was revisiting that question, ‘Is it worth it, for the pain that it causes people?'” reflected Hill, who went on to win the world title in 1996. “It’s not so much the risk to yourself but how it affects other people. I had a family, and I really had to add up my own views. I suppose I looked at my dad [Graham, world champion in 1962 and ’68] and thought, ‘Well, he did it, and he had a family’.

“In any case, would I have been happy not doing it? Ultimately, everyone came back to where they started – they wanted to race, they loved competing. Ayrton did it because he loved it. It’s part of the price. It sounds easy to say that, having survived, cheap perhaps, because Ayrton’s death re-shaped the sport in so many ways. It changed the audience, it changed the way the world saw F1. These things would not have happened without something so catastrophic. It has left an indelible legacy.”

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