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Image Credit Norie Koike.

Remembering Ayrton Senna

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Ayrton Senna was one of the best Formula 1 drivers in the world.

The Brazilian met paramount success after winning three Formula 1 World Driver Championships in 1988, 1990 and 1991.

Early Days

Karting claimed his interest in motorsport. By 13, Ayrton took pole position in South America. He won the South American Kart Championship in 1977. Then Senna travelled to England to develop his racing skills.

Ayrton Senna at the World Karting Championship in Kalmar, Sweden in 1980. Image Credit: ESPN.

The São Paulo native was victorious at the 1982 British and European Formula Ford 2000 championships. In 1983, he raced alongside Martin Brundle in the British Formula Three Championship.

Career Highlights

Ayrton’s Formula 1 career began at Toleman in 1984. Debuting in Rio de Janeiro, he qualified 17th yet didn’t finish from a faulty Hart415T issue. Senna started to score points at the South Africa Grand Prix and Belgian Grand Prix. Fuel pressure problems arose at San Marino and Imola. Senna saw progress in Monaco. He recognised as competition for Niki Lauda.

Attention to technical car and circuit details helped Ayrton advance his racing performance. He was highly respected by his first F1 race engineer, Pat Symonds. Senna was recognised as special. Taking more podiums and top three finishes, he caught other team’s attention.

At Lotus, Ayrton often led and mastered wet and tricky track conditions. Unfortunately engine failures caused him to retire from several races including the San Marino, Monaco, British and German Grands Prix. Senna’s quick and dynamic demeanor drove his performance on track. Lotus received a new Honda V6 engine. Ayrton got stronger results yet was thirsty for more.

Senna and Prost in conversation. Image Credit: Motorsport.

The compelling competition between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna fired up the driver scene. It was captivating and dramatic. Personal rivalry was an issue. Magical moments at the 1988 Monaco, French and Portuguese Grands Prix definitely entertained. Between blocks and clips, anger arose amongst the two drivers. It was then that we knew there could only be one winner.

Despite mishaps and loss, Senna set records that season. He earned eight wins to overtake Jim Clark and Alain Prost who both held seven. Ayrton achieved 13 pole positions to outperform fellow Brazilian racing driver, Nelson Piquet who had nine.

Numerous battles continued with Alain Prost. Each race intensified their racing relationship. Senna enjoyed wins in San Marino, Monaco, Mexico, Germany, Belgium and Spain. Prost wasn’t having it. Alain aced speed on straights. A collision ended their duel in a corner. Even with a restart, Senna was disqualified for receiving a push start at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan. Prost persevered to win the 1989 world title. Ayrton ended with six wins. Alan left McLaren for Ferrari.

Senna and Prost collision. Image Credit: Getty Images.

In 1990, Suzuka struck again where Prost took the lead. Senna soared onwards accelerating. The cars collided at 270km/h veering off track into the gravel towards the barriers. Senna became the World Champion. Qualifying fastest became a norm. By 1991, Ayrton won the first four races in Phoenix, Brazil, Imola and Monaco. Midseason, he went wheel-to-wheel with Nigel Mansell at the Spanish Grand Prix. Imagine going 320 km/h down the straight.

Senna struggled but finished fourth in the championship in 1992. Williams and Benetton got ahead for the constructors. Then  McLaren brought in a new MP4/8 car. Senna soon saw success in South Africa, Brazil, Donington, Spain, Monaco and Australia. It was a relief in Adelaide as the crowd saw Senna in P2 and Prost in P1 on podium.

Williams was the chance to redeem himself. However, Senna wasn’t sure about the car’s capabilities. Soon enough it became a battle with Michael Schumacher. The Williams FW16 versus the Benetton B194 was a constant reminder to claim podiums and score points. By end of season, Schumacher led Senna by 20 points in the Driver’s Championship.

In 1994, Ayrton Senna’s death took a turn for his future. The concrete barrier stopped him from success at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. Sadly it was one day before Roland Ratzenberger died from a tragic crash. Senna’s was one of the worst crashes in history that involved Rubens Barrichello. It was a turning point in Formula 1. It shaped the future for assessing safety measures in Formula 1. Since then, many occasions have been reviewed.

Sensational Success

Ayrton entered 162 Grands Prix. His first was the 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix. Talk about an entrance. The first win came at the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix.

The Brazilian drove for Toleman, Lotus, McLaren and Williams. Ayrton gained exposure many engines including the Hart, Renault, Honda and Ford. He pushed hard to discover more within himself and loved the sport. Senna secured 41 wins, 80 podiums, 65 pole positions and 19 fastest laps. Ayrton amassed 610 career points. He was a legend.

Headline Imagine Credit: Norio Koike.

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