Some called him a genius. Alain Prost believed him to be a madman who thought God was his co-pilot. The more I read about this guy, the more enchanted I get.
The will to win is no big deal among sportsmen, but his determination to outpace everybody shocks me. His passion for racing was such that he sometimes got transported in to another world, just as I do when I read about him.
That’s Ayrton Senna, one of Formula 1’s greatest drivers, for you.I sometimes wonder, with 7 drivers championships Michael Schumacher leads the chart, followed by Juan Manuel Fangio (5), Alain Prost (4) and many others with 3 (Senna, Nikki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and more).
So despite winning lesser championships why is only Senna put in the same league as Schumi? Can’t blame Fangio because he drove in an era when F1 was hardly known, but others raced in times when the sport had left a mark on the world stage.
Well, Senna was renowned for his qualifying skill, which produced a then record 65 pole positions in 162 races (0.401 poles/race), and for his rain driving which earned him the name ‘The Rain Master’. Interestingly another driver considered to have mastered the art of racing on wet tracks is the man who surpassed Senna’s record…Schumi. Senna’s ability and determination to grab poles were not always backed by a reliable car in the races, and his run was ended by mechanical failures innumerable times.
The 3 championships he won were with the most reliable car he had… Mclaren with a Honda engine in 1988, 90 and 91. The Brazilian’s penchant for using driving as a means for self-discovery is even more fascinating . “The harder I push, the more I find within myself.
I am always looking for the next step, a different world to go into, areas where I have not been before. It’s lonely driving a Grand Prix car, but very absorbing. I have experienced new sensations and I want more. That is my excitement, my motivation.” Prost said Senna cared more about winning than living. May be he did but it is this passion that makes him stand above the rest, that leaves us all enamoured.
Yes, it did cost him his life in the end, but made him live forever. In 1994, we lost a champion and an equally great man when Senna suffered a fatal crash at the Imola circuit at the San Marino Grand Prix. Such was his greatness that an Austrian flag was found in his car after the crash. It was a flag Senna was going to raise in the honour of Austrian Roland Ratzenberger who had died on the same track just a day before, an incident which had shaken him.
And, ironically, Schumi was right behind Senna on the latter’s fateful day, something that suggests me that the never-say-die aura may have passed on from one champion to another.