Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna

Infobox F1 driver
Name=Ayrton Senna

Nationality=flagicon|BRA Brazilian|Years=F1|1984F1|1994
Team(s)=Toleman, Lotus, McLaren, Williams
Races=162 (161 starts)
Championships=3 (F1|1988, F1|1990, F1|1991)
Points=610 (614)Up until F1|1990, not all points scored by a driver contributed to their final World Championship tally (see list of pointscoring systems for more information). Numbers without parentheses are Championship points; numbers in parentheses are total points scored.]
Fastest laps=19
First race=1984 Brazilian Grand Prix
First win=1985 Portuguese Grand Prix
Last win=1993 Australian Grand Prix
Last race=1994 San Marino Grand Prix

Ayrton Senna da Silva ( audio-IPA|ayrton senna da silva.ogg| [aˈiɾtõ ˈsenɐ dɐ ˈsiwvɐ] , March 21, 1960 – May 1, 1994) was a Brazilian racing driver and triple Formula One world champion. He remains the last Grand Prix driver killed while driving a Formula One car.

A kart racer from an early age, Senna won the British Formula 3 championship in 1983 and made his Formula One debut with Toleman the next year. He moved to Lotus-Renault in 1985, and won six Grands Prix over the next three seasons. In 1988 he joined Frenchman Alain Prost at McLaren-Honda, the top driver and team at the time, and won that year's championship. He and Prost developed a heated rivalry, which is regarded as the bitterest in F1 history. Senna also won the 1990 and 1991 F1 championships. In the next two years with McLaren, despite driving an inferior car, Senna won races and challenged for the 1993 world title, finishing runner-up to Prost. He switched to the then-dominant Williams Renault team for the 1994 season. At the third race of the year millions of fans witnessed his fatal crash live on global TV coverage whilst leading the San Marino Grand Prix.

During his Grand Prix racing career, Senna became an international sporting superstar. His wet weather driving skills were often showcased during his ten years in the sport, most notably in his near victory during the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix despite an inferior car, his dominant first victory in the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix and his acclaimed 1993 European Grand Prix. He was recognized for his qualifying speed over one lap, as shown by his 65 pole positions in 162 races. His record six victories in the Monaco Grand Prix, the 1991 Brazilian Grand Prix win, and the 1988 Japanese Grand Prix win that earned him his first Drivers' title are some examples of his finest performances. Senna was also known for his ruthless will to win. This became evident most infamously during the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix in which Senna deliberately crashed his McLaren into Prost's Ferrari, some say in retribution to Prost's similar actions the year before. Both drivers were eliminated from the race, which handed the title to Senna.

Racing career


Senna entered karting competition at the age of 13. ["Ayrton Senna: Racing in My Blood, Official Video Biography" (Kultur Video, 1991).] In 1977, he won the "South American Kart Championship". He then contested the Karting World Championship on several occasions, finishing second in 1979 and 1980. [cite web|url=http://www.motorsportsetc.com/info/senna.htm |title=Ayrton Senna – Racing Career |publisher=MotorSports Etc]

Formula Ford

In 1981 he moved to England with his wife Liliane and began racing single-seaters in Europe, winning the British Formula Ford 1600 championship. [Hilton (2005), p. 154.] He was champion in British and European Formula Ford 2000 the following year. [Hilton (2005), pp. 33-43, 154.] He also adopted his mother's maiden name, Senna, as da Silva is a very common name in Brazil. [Hilton (2005), p. 9.]

Formula Three

In 1983, Senna won the British Formula Three Championship after a closely-fought and at times controversial battle with Martin Brundle. He also triumphed in the prestigious Macau Grand Prix with Teddy Yip's Theodore Racing Team which was closely related to the West Surrey Racing team he drove for in British F3. [Hilton (2005), p. 43-47, 154.] [Greg Girard, Ian Lambot, and Philip Newsome, "Macau Grand Prix: The Road To Success" (Watermark Surrey, 1998).]

Formula One

Senna attracted the attention of F1 teams Williams, McLaren, Brabham and Toleman, all of whom he tested for. Fellow Brazilian Nelson Piquet opposed him joining Brabham, and of the remaining three only Toleman offered him a race seat for 1984, so he joined the fledgling team.

1984: Toleman

Senna scored his first World Championship point in his second Grand Prix at Kyalami in South Africa. He repeated the result two weeks later at the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. However, in the season's fourth race, the San Marino Grand Prix, Senna failed to qualify, the only time this happened during his F1 career. His performance in the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix brought him a lot of attention. He qualified 13th on the grid and made rapid progress through the soaking streets of Monte Carlo. By lap 19, he passed second-place man Niki Lauda and began to cut the gap to race leader Alain Prost. Before he could pass Prost the race was stopped on lap 31 for safety reasons as the rain grew even heavier. [ Mark Hughes and Simon Arron, "The Complete Book of Formula One" (Motorbooks International, 2003), p. 310.]

Senna took two more podium finishes that year - third at the British and Portuguese Grands Prix. That left him tied with Nigel Mansell on 13 points, despite having missed the Italian Grand Prix when he was suspended by Toleman after breaking his contract by signing for Lotus for 1985.

Also in 1984 Senna took part in the 1000 km of Nürburgring where, alongside Henri Pescarolo and Stefan Johansson, he co-drove a Joest Racing Porsche 956 to 8th.cite web | url = http://wsrp.ic.cz/wsc1984.html#4 | title = FIA World Endurance Championship 1984 | publisher = wsrp.ic.cz | accessdate = Jan 14 | accessyear = 2007] cite web | url = http://forums.autosport.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=50415 | title = Senna - Porsche 956K - Nurburgring | publisher = The Nostalgia Forum at AtlasF1 | accessdate = Jan 14 | accessyear = 2007] He also entered an exhibition race to celebrate the opening of the new Nürburgring. Several top F1 drivers took part in the event, driving identical Mercedes 190E 2.3-16. Senna won from Lauda and Carlos Reutemann.

1985-1987: Lotus

;1985At Lotus in 1985 Senna was partnered by Italian driver Elio de Angelis. Senna put up a good show at the season opener in Brazil at the Jacarepaguá Circuit in Rio de Janeiro, but retired with an electrical problem from third position. Senna set his first pole position at the second round, held at the Autódromo do Estoril in Estoril, Portugal, during April 19 - 21, 1985. He went on to convert his first ever pole into his first ever first Grand Prix victory, winning in heavy rain which saw second-place man Prost spin off into the wall. [Timothy Collings and Sarah Edworthy, "The Formula One Years: A Season-by-Season Account of the World's Premier Motor Racing Championship from 1950 to the Present Day" (Carlton Books, 2002), p. 208.] Senna took the pole position during qualifying for the 1985 Monaco Grand Prix, but was accused of deliberately baulking other drivers during the final qualifying session by running more laps than necessary. Niki Lauda and Michele Alboreto were most upset by events; Alboreto going so far as to force Senna up an escape road during the session. Senna pointed out that even on the 13th of his 16 qualifying laps he nearly equalled his pole position time, and therefore had continued to run at a competitive pace. [Hamilton, Maurice (ed.) (1985) "Autocourse 1985 - 1986" Hazleton publishing pp.74 & 104 ISBN 0-905138-38-4] Senna added a second victory, also in the wet, in the Belgian GP at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. However, his working relationship with De Angelis grew sour, with both drivers demanding top driver status. Although sensibly quicker (and technically better assisted), Senna spent most of the season behind De Angelis on the points table. Senna ended 1985 fourth in the World Championship with 38 points and six podiums (two wins, two seconds and two thirds), and seven pole positions. De Angelis ended fifth with 33 points and three podiums (one win, two thirds).


For 1986, Senna was partnered by Scot Johnny Dumfries after Senna vetoed England's Derek Warwick from joining the team, saying that Lotus were not able to run competitive cars for two top drivers at the same time. The new Lotus 98T proved more reliable than its predecessor and the season started on a high for Senna, who finished second to Piquet at their home event in Brazil at Jacarepaguá. He took the World Championship lead for the first time in his career after winning the Spanish GP at Jerez in which he beat Mansell's Williams-Honda by 0.014 s - one of the closest finishes in Formula One history.

His championship lead did not last long after he suffered several retirements due to mechanical failures. The chase for the title became a fight between Prost's McLaren-TAG and the Williams-Honda duo of Piquet and Mansell. Senna took his second victory of the year at the United States GP at Detroit, and finished the season in fourth place again, with 55 points, eight pole positions and six podium finishes.

;19871987 promised better things. Lotus now had the same powerful Honda engines as Williams after Renault decided to step out of the sport. After a slow start, Senna won two races in a row: the prestigious Monaco GP (the first of a record breaking six victories at the Principality) and the United States GP at Detroit for the second year in a row, once again taking the World Championship lead. This time, the Lotus-Honda 99T seemed to be more or less on par with the all-conquering Williams-Honda cars once again driven by Piquet and Mansell. But despite the improved performance of the 99T, which used a highly innovative and technical active suspension system, the Williams FW11Bs of Piquet and Mansell were still the cars to beat. The gap between the two teams was never more evident than at the 1987 British Grand Prix at Silverstone where both Mansell and Piquet lapped the identically-engined Lotuses of Senna and team-mate Satoru Nakajima. After a spin due to a faulty clutch in the third to last round in Mexico, Senna was out of the championship hunt, leaving Piquet and Mansell to fight it out for the last two races.

Mansell badly injured his back in a heavy accident while practicing for the 1987 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, effectively handing the 1987 World Championship to Piquet since he would miss the last two races of the year. This meant that Senna still had a chance to finish as runner-up in the standings if he finished at least third in the two remaining races in Japan and Australia. He finished second in both events, but at the Australian Grand Prix, post-race scrutineering found the brake ducts of his Lotus-Honda to be wider than permitted by the rules and he was disqualified, bringing his last and most successful season with Lotus to a sour end. After the disqualification, he was classified third in the final standings, with 57 points, one pole position, and six podium finishes (four seconds and two thirds). This season marked a turning point in Senna's career as, throughout the year, he built a deep relationship with Honda, a relationship which would pay big dividends, for Senna was heading for McLaren who had secured Williams' supply of Honda's V6 turbo engines for 1988. [ "Engines: Honda Motor Company," GP Encyclopedia, printed from www.grandprix.com on June 2, 2007.]

1988-1993: McLaren


In 1988, thanks to the relationship he had built up with Honda throughout the 1987 season with Lotus, and with the approval of McLaren's number one driver and then-double world champion, Alain Prost, Senna joined the McLaren team. [ [http://www.prostfan.com/senna2.htm prostfan.com - Ayrton Senna by Alain Prost ] ] The foundation for a fierce competition between Senna and Prost was laid, culminating in a number of dramatic race incidents between the two. [Hughes and Arron (2003), p. 340.] The pair won 15 of 16 races in the dominant McLaren MP4/4 in 1988 with Senna coming out on top, winning his first Formula One world championship title. [Bruce Jones, ed. "50 Years of the Formula One World Championship" (Carlton, 1999). p. 221-222.] At the 1988 Portuguese Grand Prix, Prost got away slightly faster than Senna at the start but the Brazilian dived into the first corner ahead. Prost responded and went to pass Senna at the end of the first lap. Senna swerved to block Prost, forcing the Frenchman nearly to run into the pitwall at 180 mph. Prost kept his foot down and soon edged Senna into the first corner and started pulling away fast. Though Prost was angered by Senna's manoeuvre, the Brazilian got away with a warning from the FIA.

;1989The following year the rivalry between Senna and Prost intensified into battles on the track and a psychological war off it. [Christopher Hilton, "Ayrton Senna: The Whole Story" (Haynes, 2004)] Prost took the 1989 world title after a collision with Senna at the Suzuka track, the second to last race in the season, which Senna needed to win if he wanted to remain in contention for the title. Senna had attempted an inside pass when Prost turned into the corner and cut him off, with the two McLarens finishing up with their wheels interlocked in the Suzuka chicane escape road. [Pierre Menard and Jacques Vassal, "Ayrton Senna: Above and Beyond" (Chronosports, 2003), pp. 94-95] Senna then got a push-start from marshals, stopped at the McLaren pit to replace the damaged nose cone of his car, and rejoined the race. He took the lead from the Benetton of Alessandro Nannini and went on to finish first, only to be later disqualified by the FIA for cutting the chicane after the collision, and for crossing into the pit lane entry (not part of the track). [Jones, ed. (1999), pp. 227-228.] A large fine and temporary suspension of his Super License followed in the winter of 1989 and Senna engaged in a bitter war of words with the FIA and its then President Jean-Marie Balestre. [ [http://www.grandprix.com/ft/ft00018.html F1 - Grandprix.com > Features > News Feature > McLaren versus Jean-Marie Balestre ] ]

;1990In 1990, at the same circuit and with both drivers again in contention for the title, Senna took pole ahead of Prost. The pole position in Suzuka was on the right-hand, dirty side of the track. Prost's Ferrari made a better start and pulled ahead of Senna's McLaren. At the first turn Senna aggressively kept his line while Prost turned in and the McLaren ploughed into the rear wheel of Prost's Ferrari at about 270 km/h (170 mph), putting both cars off the track, this time making Senna the Formula 1 world champion. [Menard and Vassal (2003), p. 106-107.] A year later, after taking his third world championship, Senna explained to the press his actions of the previous year in Suzuka. He maintained that prior to qualifying fastest, he had sought and received assurances from race officials that pole position would be changed to the left-hand, clean side of the track, only to find this decision reversed by Jean-Marie Balestre after he had taken pole. [Menard and Vassal(2003), p. 107.] Explaining the collision with Prost, Senna said that what he had wanted was to make clear he was not going to accept what he perceived as unfair decisions by Balestre including his disqualification in 1989 and the pole position in 1990:

"I think what happened in 1989 was unforgivable, and I will never forget it. I still struggle to cope with it even now. You know what took place here: Prost and I crashed at the chicane, when he turned into me. Afterwards, I rejoined the race, and I won it, but they decided against me, and that was not justice. What happened afterwards was... a theatre, but I could not say what I thought. If you do that, you get penalties, you get fined, you lose your license maybe. Is that a fair way of working? It is not...At Suzuka last year I asked the officials to change pole position from the right side of the track to the left. It was unfair, as it was, because the right side is always dirty, and there is less grip — you sweat to get pole position, and then you are penalized for it. And they said, "Yes, no problem". Then, what happened? Balestre gave an order that it wasn't to be changed. I know how the system works, and I thought this was really s***. So I said to myself, "OK, whatever happens, I'm going to get into the first corner first — I'm not prepared to let the guy (Alain Prost) turn into that corner before me. If I'm near enough to him, he can't turn in front of me — he just has to let me through." I didn't care if we crashed; I went for it. And he took a chance, turned in, and we crashed. It was building up, it was inevitable. It had to happen." So you did cause it then, someone said. "Why did I cause it?" Senna responded. "If you get f***** every time you try to do your job cleanly, within the system, what do you do? Stand back, and say thank you? No way. You should fight for what you think is right. If pole had been on the left, I'd have made it to the first corner in the lead, no problem. That was a bad decision to keep pole on the right, and it was influenced by Balestre. And the result was what happened in the first corner. I contributed to it, but it was not my responsibility". ["Senna blows his top at Suzuka," printed from www.autosport.com on May 30, 2007]


Senna captured his third title in 1991, taking seven wins and staying largely clear of controversy. Prost, due to the downturn in performance at Ferrari, was no longer a serious competitor. He won the first 4 races. By mid-season, Nigel Mansell in the more advanced Williams was able to put up a challenge. Though Senna's consistency and the William's unreliability at the season start gave him an early advantage, Senna insisted that Honda step up their engine development program and demanded further improvements to the car before it was too late. These modifications enabled him to make a late season push by winning three races to secure the championship. There were some memorable moments, such as at the Spanish Grand Prix when Senna and Mansell went wheel to wheel with only centimeters to spare, at over 320 km/h (200mph) down the main straight, a race that the Briton eventually won. Quite a different spectacle was offered following Mansell's victory in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Senna's car had come to a halt on the final lap but he was not left stranded out on the circuit, as Mansell pulled over on his parade lap and allowed the Brazilian to ride on the Williams side-pod back to the pits.

;1992In 1992, Senna's absolute determination to win manifested itself in dismay at McLaren's inability to challenge Williams all-conquering FW14B car. [Menard and Vassal (2003), p. 129-130.] McLaren's new car for the season had several shortcomings. There was delay in getting the new model running (it debuted in the fourth race of the season) and in addition to lacking active suspension the new car suffered from reliability issues, was unpredictable in fast corners, while its Honda V12 engine was no longer the most powerful on the circuit. [Menard and Vassal (2003), pp. 128-129.] Senna scored wins in Monaco, Hungary, and Italy that year, but finished a disappointing fourth overall in the championship, behind the Williams duo of Mansell and Patrese, and Benetton's Michael Schumacher. [Jones (1999), pp. 253, 257.] [Collings and Edworthy (2002), pp. 244-247.]

;1993Questions about Senna's intentions for 1993 lingered throughout 1992 as he did not have a contract with any team by the end of the year. He felt the McLaren cars were less competitive than previously (especially after Honda bowed out of Formula 1 at the end of the 1992 season). Joining Williams alongside Prost became impossible since Prost had a clause on his contract forbidding Senna as a team-mate, even though the Brazilian offered to drive for free. An infuriated Senna called Prost a coward in a press conference in Estoril. [Menard and Vassal (2003), pp. 129-132.] [Collings and Edworthy (2002), p. 239, 250.] In December, Senna went to Phoenix, Arizona and tested Emerson Fittipaldi's Penske IndyCar. [Menard and Vassal (2003), p. 132.]

McLaren boss Ron Dennis meanwhile was trying to secure a supply of the dominant Renault V10 engine for 1993. [Menard and Vassal (2003), p. 130.] When this deal fell through, McLaren was forced to take a customer supply of Ford V8 engines. [“Constructors: McLaren International,” GP Encyclopedia, printed from www.grandprix.com on May 30, 2007.] As a customer team, McLaren got an engine that was a version behind that of Ford's factory team, Benetton, but hoped to make up for the inferior horsepower with mechanical sophistication, including an effective active suspension system."History of McLaren: Time Line – the 1990s." printed from www.mclaren.com on May 30, 2007.] Dennis then finally persuaded Senna to return to McLaren. But the Brazilian agreed only to sign up for the first race in South Africa, where he would assess whether McLaren’s equipment was competitive enough for him to put in a good season.

After driving McLaren's 1993 car, Senna concluded that the new car had a surprising potential albeit the engine was still down on power and would be no match for Prost’s Williams Renault. [Menard and Vassal (2003), p. 133.] Senna declined to sign a one-year contract but agreed to drive on a race-by-race basis, eventually staying for the year, [Collings and Edworthy (2002), p. 250.] although some sources claim this was a marketing ploy between Dennis and Senna. After finishing second in the opening race in South Africa, [“Grand Prix Results: South African GP, 1993,” GP Encyclopedia, printed from www.grandprix.com on May 30, 2007.] Senna won in constantly changing conditions at home in Brazil [“Grand Prix Results: Brazilian GP, 1993,” GP Encyclopedia, printed from www.grandprix.com on May 30, 2007.] and in the rain at Donington. The latter has often been regarded as one of Senna's greatest victories. [Collings and Edworthy (2002), p. 250] He started the race fourth and dropped to fifth on the run down to the first corner, but was leading before the first lap was completed. He went on to lap the entire field in a race where up to seven pit stops were required by some drivers for rain/slick tyres depending on the conditions. [“Grand Prix Results: European GP, 1993,” GP Encyclopedia, printed from www.grandprix.com on May 30, 2007.] [Menard and Vassal (2003), p. 134.] Senna then scored a second place finish in Spain and a record breaking sixth win at Monaco. [Ian Thomsen, “Senna, Hill and Monaco: Roaring Through the Ghost of a Winner Past,” "International Herald Tribune", Monday, May 24, 1993; printed from http://www.iht.com on May 28, 2007.] After Monaco, the sixth race of the season, Senna led the championship ahead of Prost in the Williams-Renault and Benetton's Michael Schumacher despite McLaren’s inferior engine. [Menard and Vassal (2003), pp. 134-135.] As the season progressed, Prost and Damon Hill asserted the superiority of the Williams-Renault car, with Prost securing the drivers' championship while Hill moved up to second in the standings. Senna concluded the season and his McLaren career with two wins in Japan and Australia, finishing 2nd overall in the championship. [Collings and Edworthy (2002), pp. 251-253.] The penultimate race was noted for an incident where Jordan's rookie Eddie Irvine unlapped himself against Senna. The incensed Brazilian later appeared at Jordan's garage and punched the Ulsterman. [ [http://www.themagicofsenna.com/senna/suzuka.html Showdown at Suzuka] www.themagicofsenna.com Retrieved 2 March 2008]

1994: Williams

For 1994, Senna finally signed with the Williams-Renault team. Prost's contract clause forbidding Senna from joining Williams did not extend to 1994 and Prost retired with one year left on his contract, rather than face the prospect of being a team mate of his greatest rival. [Menard and Vassal (2003), p. 138.]

Williams had won the previous two World Championships with vastly superior cars, and Senna was a natural and presumptive pre-season title favourite, with second-year driver Damon Hill intended to play the supporting role. Between them, Prost, Senna, and Hill had won all but one race in 1993. Benetton's Michael Schumacher had won the remaining event.

Pre-season testing showed that the Williams car had speed, but it was difficult to drive. The FIA had banned electronic driver aids, such as active suspension, traction control and ABS, to make the sport more "human". The Williams was not a well-handling car at the start of 1994, as observed by other F1 drivers, having been seen to be very loose at the rear. Senna himself had made numerous (politically careful) comments that the Williams FW16 had some quirks which needed to be ironed out. It was obvious that the FW16, after the regulation changes banning active suspension and traction control, exhibited none of the superiority of the FW15C and FW14B cars that had preceded it. The surprise of testing was the Benetton team, whose car was more nimble than the Williams although less powerful.

The first race of the season was in Brazil, where Senna took pole. In the race Senna took an early lead but Schumacher's Benetton was never far behind. Schumacher took the race lead for good after passing Senna in the pits. Senna refused to settle for second. While trying for a win, he pushed too hard and spun the car, stalling it and retiring from the race.

The second race was the Pacific Grand Prix at Aida where Senna again placed the car on pole. However, he was hit from behind in the first corner by Mika Häkkinen and his race came to a definitive end when a Ferrari driven by Nicola Larini also crashed into his Williams. Hill finished second while Schumacher took victory again.

It was Senna's worst start to an F1 season, failing to finish or score points in the first two races, despite taking pole both times. Schumacher was leading Senna in the drivers' championship by twenty points. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/motorsport/photo_galleries/3636399.stm BBC SPORT | Motorsport | Photo Galleries | Senna retrospective ] ]

Luca Di Montezemolo is quoted saying that Senna came to him the Tuesday before the Imola race and praised Ferrari for the battle against electronics in F1. Senna also told Montezemolo that he would like to end his career with Ferrari. cite web | title = Who's Who: Ayrton Senna | publisher = F1Fanatic.co.uk |date=2007 | url = http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/f1-information/whos-who/whos-who-s/ayrton-senna/ | accessdate =2007-08-09]


At the third race of the season, the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, Senna declared that this was where his season would start, with fourteen races, as opposed to sixteen, in which to win the title. [cite web|title=Interview with Ayrton Senna, 28 May 1994|url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iErwQ9Y0q-Y] Senna again placed the car on pole, but he was particularly upset by two events. On Friday, during the afternoon qualifying session, Senna's protégé, the then F1 newcomer Rubens Barrichello, was involved in a serious accident that prevented him from competing in the race. The next day, Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger was killed in a practice accident.

Senna spent his final morning meeting fellow drivers, determined after Ratzenberger's accident to take on a new responsibility to re-create a Drivers' Safety group (i.e. Grand Prix Drivers' Association) to increase safety in Formula One. As the most senior driver, he offered to take the role of leader in this effort.

Senna and the other drivers all opted to start the Grand Prix, but the race was interrupted by a huge accident at the start line. A safety car was deployed and the drivers followed it for several laps. On the restart Senna immediately set a quick pace with the third quickest lap of the race, followed by Schumacher. As Senna entered the high-speed Tamburello corner on the next lap, the car left the track at high speed, hitting the concrete retaining wall at around 135 mph. Senna was removed from the car by Sid Watkins and his medical team and treated by the side of the car before being airlifted to Bologna hospital where Senna was later declared dead. What had likely happened was that the right front wheel had shot up after impact like a catapult and violated the cockpit area where Senna was sitting. It impacted the right frontal area of his helmet, and the violence of the wheel’s impact pushed his head back against the headrest, causing fatal skull fractures. A piece of upright attached to the wheel had partially penetrated his helmet and made a big indent in his forehead. In addition, it appeared that a jagged piece of the upright assembly had penetrated the helmet visor just above his right eye. Any one of the three injuries would probably have killed him. [ [http://www.sportspromedia.com/senna.htm SportsPro: Sport's money magazine ] ] As track officials examined the wreckage of his racing car they found a furled Austrian flag -- a victory flag that he was going to raise in honour of Austrian Roland Ratzenberger, who had died on that track the day before. [cite news
first = Andrew
last = Longmore
title = Ayrton Senna: The Last Hours
url = http://docs.newsbank.com/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info:sid/iw.newsbank.com:UKNB:LTIB&rft_val_format=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&rft_dat=0F9242ED73BC537B&svc_dat=InfoWeb:aggregated4&req_dat=63FF7C9CECF24CA8828B27BFD2B2546B
publisher = The Times
page = 30
quote = Back at the track, in the shattered remains of Senna's car, they discovered a furled Austrian flag Senna had intended to dedicate his 42nd grand prix victory to Ratzenberger's memory.

To this day, the cause of the accident has still not been fully determined after many court cases, including Williams being investigated for manslaughter though the charges were later dropped.


Senna's death was considered by many of his Brazilian fans to be a national tragedy, and the Brazilian government declared three days of national mourning. An estimated million people lined the streets to give him their salute. Most of Formula One attended Senna's state funeral, notably among them his fierce rival Alain Prost who was one of the pallbearers. However, FIA President Max Mosley did not, as he attended the funeral of Ratzenberger instead which took place on May 7, 1994 in Salzburg, Austria. [cite news | title = Track Topics | author = David Tremayne, Mark Skewis, Stuart Williams, Paul Fearnley | work = Motoring News | publisher = News Publications Ltd. |date=1994-04-05] Mosley said in a press conference ten years later, "I went to his funeral because everyone went to Senna's. I thought it was important that somebody went to his." [cite news | title = Max went to Roland's funeral | url = http://www.f1racing.net/en/news.php?newsID=48657 | work = | publisher = www.f1racing.net |date=2004-04-23 | accessdate = 2006-10-28] A testament to the adulation he inspired among fans worldwide was the scene at the Tokyo headquarters of Honda where the McLaren cars were typically displayed after each race. Upon his death, so many floral tributes were received that it overwhelmed the large exhibit lobby. This in spite the fact Senna no longer drove for McLaren and that McLaren, in the preceding seasons did not utilize Honda power. Senna had a special relationship with company founder Soichiro Honda and was beloved in Japan where he achieved a near mythic status. In his home country of Brazil, the main freeway from the international airport to São Paulo and a tunnel along route to the heart of the city is named in his honour. Senna is buried at the Morumbi Cemetery in his hometown of São Paulo.

For the next race at Monaco, the FIA decided to leave empty the first two grid positions and painted them with the colors of the Brazilian and the Austrian flag, to honour Senna and Ratzenberger.


Senna was particularly known for attaining pole positions; the fastest qualifying time for a given race. Senna produced 65 pole positions from 161 races. This record of 65 pole positions stood for 12 years after his death, before it was surpassed by Michael Schumacher after taking pole position for the 2006 San Marino Grand Prix, his 236th race.

Senna described in detail his mental experience in qualifying for the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix:

Cquote|...the last qualifying session. I was already on pole, then by half a second and then one second and I just kept going. Suddenly I was nearly two seconds faster than anybody else, including my team mate with the same car. And suddenly I realised that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel. Not only the tunnel under the hotel but the whole circuit was a tunnel. I was just going and going, more and more and more and more. I was way over the limit but still able to find even more.

Then suddenly something just kicked me. I kind of woke up and realised that I was in a different atmosphere than you normally are. My immediate reaction was to back off, slow down. I drove slowly back to the pits and I didn't want to go out any more that day. It frightened me because I was well beyond my conscious understanding. It happens rarely but I keep these experiences very much alive inside me because it is something that is important for self-preservation.citequote

In that session, lap after lap he broke his own pole position time.

During the 2004 San Marino Grand Prix ten year anniversary remembrance of Ayrton Senna in a series of interviews, Gerhard Berger, Senna's team mate at McLaren from F1|1990-F1|1992 and a very close friend, expressed a memory of what it was like qualifying with Senna:

It was the 1990 San Marino Grand Prix and Senna qualified first, with Berger behind by half a second.

This competition could perhaps be attributed to not only Senna's determination and desire to be first (including qualifying), but Senna and Berger's close friendship and horseplay.Or|date=July 2008

Wet weather driving

In F1, wet weather racing is considered to be a great equaliser of cars; that is, the driver makes more of a difference.Fact|date=July 2008 Speeds must be reduced and car superiority in power or grip is greatly reduced.Fact|date=July 2008 The rain demands great driver car control, ability and driving finesse. Senna had some of his best performances in such conditions.

One of Senna's tactics was not to change into the rain tyres at the start of the rain but to keep racing using slick tyres. Although it made racing much more difficult Senna often gained several seconds of time ahead of his competitors because most of them were stopping to change to rain tyres.Fact|date=December 2007

The 1984 season was Senna's first in F1. He came into a field of competitors from whose ranks 16 world championships would be reaped. Participating as a rookie in a relatively uncompetitive car, the Toleman TG184, Senna had racked up three race retirements, a 6th and a 7th place from his first 5 races.

He started the first wet race of the season, the Monaco Grand Prix in 13th place. The race was stopped for safety reasons after only 31 laps due to monsoon conditions which were deemed undriveable. At the time the race was stopped, Senna was in 2nd place, and catching race leader Alain Prost, at 4 seconds per lap.

In F1|1993, at the European GP at Donington Park, Senna drove for the McLaren team. The MP4/8, although one of the front running cars, was considered inferior to the leading Williams FW15C of Prost and Hill, and the Benetton B193 - which used a factory-supplied Ford engine - driven by Michael Schumacher and Riccardo Patrese.cite web | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/cars_guide/4272031.stm | title = 1992 Williams FW14B | publisher = BBC | accessdate = Jan 14 | accessyear = 2007]

Senna started the wet weather GP in fourth place on the grid. At the very start, Hill cut across Schumacher's line, causing Schumacher to cut further to the outside across Senna's own line. Karl Wendlinger's Sauber then passed both Schumacher and Senna on the inside, leaving Senna in fifth and Schumacher in fourth. Senna cut to the inside, having no room to move to the outside as Schumacher came across. Despite being in fifth place at the first corner, at the end of the first lap he was in first place, having overtaken Schumacher, Wendlinger, Hill and Prost (Schumacher and Wendlinger did not have traction control). Examples of wet weather car control such as this gained Senna the title "The Rain Man" in numerous F1 publications in the early 90s.Fact|date=January 2008 The opening lap is frequently cited as a one of the sport's great moments. Senna is regarded by many as the fastest driver that has ever been involved in Formula One Motor Racing and was also rated by a 2006 F1 magazine poll to be the greatest Formula One driver of all time.cite web | url = http://www.farzadsf1gallery.com/features/donin93.html | title = Donington Park 1993 | publisher = farzadsf1gallery.com | accessdate = Jan 14 | accessyear = 2007]

Personal life

Senna was born in São Paulo. At school he excelled in gymnastics, art and chemistry but found mathematics, physics and English difficult.Fact|date=August 2008 The son of a wealthy Brazilian landowner, he developed an interest in motor racing at an early age.

Beyond his exceptional driving skills Senna was one of the sport's most compelling personalities.cite web |url=http://www.formula1.com/teams_and_drivers/hall_of_fame/45/ |title=Ayrton Senna - driver profile |accessdate=2008-08-03|author=Gerald Donaldson|publisher=formula1.com] Intensely introspective and extremely passionate, he used driving as a means for self-discovery, and racing as a metaphor for life:

“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.” [Collings and Edworthy (2002), p. 238.]

Also notable was the unique duality of his character. Starkly contrasting to Senna's intense and unyielding will to win on the track, his exploits off it were humane and compassionate.Or|date=July 2008 A deeply religious man, he reportedly donated the bulk of his fortune to create the "Ayrton Senna Foundation", with the aim of helping poor and needy young people in Brazil and around the world. [http://www.formula1.com/teams_and_drivers/hall_of_fame/45/ The Official Formula 1 Website ] ]

He was renowned for his close relationship with Gerhard Berger, and the two were always playing practical jokes on each other. [ Menard and Vassal (2003), p. 70.] Berger is quoted as saying "He taught me a lot about our sport, I taught him to laugh".

Eventually becoming concerned with the potential dangers of his sport, he helped to push for the organization of a driver safety group shortly before his final race.

In the documentary film "The Right to Win" made in 2004 as a tribute to Senna, Frank Williams notably recalls that as good a driver as Senna was, ultimately "he was an even greater man outside of the car than he was in it."


In 2004 (when, ten years after his death, the Brazilian media revisited the life of Senna), a book called "Ayrton: The Hero Revealed" (original title: "Ayrton: O Herói Revelado" [written by Ernesto Rodrigues, Editora Objetiva, ISBN 85-7302-602-2 [http://www.objetiva.com.br/objetiva/cs/?q=node/655] ] ) was published in Brazil. The book recalls several passages of Senna's career, and adds previously unknown information about his personal life. Senna remains a national hero in Brazil and his grave attracts more visitors than the graves of John F Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley combined. [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2323502/Spirit-of-Ayrton-Senna-is-Lewis-Hamilton%27s-spur.html]

In addition, to mark the 10th anniversary of Senna's passing, on April 21, 2004, over 10,000 people attended a charity match in a football stadium near Imola. The game was organized by several devoted Italian and Canadian fans of Senna, bringing the 1994 FIFA World Cup winning team of Brazil (who dedicated their 1994 FIFA World Cup win to Senna) to face the "Nazionale Piloti", an exhibition team comprised exclusively of top race car drivers. Senna had been a part of the latter in 1985. Michael Schumacher, Jarno Trulli, Rubens Barrichello, Fernando Alonso and many others faced the likes of Dunga, Careca, Taffarel and many of the team that won the World Cup in the USA ten years earlier. The match finished 5-5 and the money was donated to Instituto Ayrton Senna. Viviane Senna, Senna's sister, president of the institute (and mother of future GP2 driver Bruno Senna), gave the initial kick.

That same weekend, Bernie Ecclestone revealed that he still believed Senna was and remained the best F1 driver he had ever seen.Fact|date=July 2008

In 2005, Italian singer Cesare Cremonini released a song entitled, "Marmellata #25", and in the chorus he has part of a line that reads in Italian "Ahh! Da quando Senna non corre più... non è più domenica!", which translates to: "Oh! Since Senna doesn't race anymore...it's not Sunday anymore!"

Many safety improvements were made in the sport following Senna and Ratzenberger's deaths. Although many other drivers had died before him, no other driver of the same fame and adoration had been killed in an F1 race.Fact|date=July 2008 Improved crash barriers, redesigned tracks and tyre barriers, higher crash safety standards, and higher sills on the driver cockpit are changes due to Senna and Ratzenberger's deaths.

After Senna's death it was discovered that he had donated millions of dollars of his personal fortune (estimated at $400 million at the time of his death) to children's charities, a fact that during his life he had kept secret. His foundation in Brazil, Instituto Ayrton Senna, has invested nearly US$ 80 million over the last twelve years in social programs and actions in partnership with schools, government, NGOs, and the private sector aimed at offering children and teenagers from low-income backgrounds the skills and opportunities they need to develop to their full potential as persons, citizens and future professionals. [ [http://senna.globo.com/institutoayrtonsenna/ Instituto Ayrton Senna ] ]

Honda NSX

To take advantage of the close relationship Honda had with the Brazilian prodigy during his tenure as #1 driver for the McLaren/Honda F1 Team, Senna was called in to fine-tune the Honda NSX's suspension setting during its final development stages. The tests were conducted at Suzuka Circuit with chief NSX engineer Shigeru Uehara and his engineering team present to gather Senna's direct input. As a result of his suspension tuning, Senna subsequently found the prototype NSX initially lacked chassis stiffness to the level he was accustomed to, so the final production version was further reinforced to his satisfaction. Dubbed the 1992 NSX Type-R it is a limited version of the car, sold mainly within Japan.

MV Agusta F4 750 Senna

In 2002, the MV Agusta F4 750 Senna motorbike was created by Claudio Castiglioni, president of MV Agusta, to pay tribute to Senna, who was a close friend of his. It was limited to 300 bikes, and all profits from sales went to the Ayrton Senna Foundation. The bike's chassis and engine are based on the F4 750 SPR, which is a highly-specified version of the F4.

Complete Formula One results

() (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in "italics" indicate fastest lap)


Further reading

* [http://www.racecar-engineering.com/allarticles/276871/ayrton-senna-rally-driver.html Ayrton Senna Rally driving in Wales]
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,12771-1081922,00.html Article, April 21, 2004 re: Ayrton Senna brand and charitable organization 10 years later] (The Times)
* [http://www.artemisimages.com/gallery.aspx?photomode=5&keywords=Ayrton%20Senna Ayrton Senna Photos]
* [http://www.driverdb.com/racingdriver554.html Ayrton Senna career details]
*moby game|id=/ayrton-sennas-super-monaco-gp-ii|name="Ayrton Senna's Super Monaco GP II"
* [http://www.4mula1.ro/history/driver/Ayrton_Senna Ayrton Senna statistics]

External links

* [http://www.senna.com.br Official Ayrton Senna Website] pt icon
* [http://senna.globo.com/institutoayrtonsenna/ingles/home.asp?r=t Instituto Ayrton Senna official site] en
* [http://www.wheels-near-u.co.uk/blog/2007/10/27/ayrton-senna Ayrton Senna - Motor Racing Legend]
* [http://www.funof1.com.ar/tx/pi198401019_eng_maxi_.htm Biography of Ayrton Senna]
* [http://www.classicf1videos.com/ayrton-senna-videos/ Ayrton Senna Videos - Classic F1 Videos]
* [http://respectance.com/AyrtonSenna/memorial Ayrton Senna Memorial]

NAME= Senna, Ayrton
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Senna, Ayrton, da Silva
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Brazilian racing driver and triple Formula One world champion
DATE OF BIRTH=March 21, 1960
PLACE OF BIRTH=São Paulo, Brazil
DATE OF DEATH= May 1, 1994

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