Ayrton Senna da Silva (Portuguese: eye-AIR-ton; English: AIR-ton; born 21 March 1960 in São Paulo, São Paulo State, Brazil – died 1 May 1994 in San Marino/Imola Circuit, Imola, Italy) was a Brazilian racing driver and three-time Formula One World Drivers' Champion. He is believed by many to be the greatest driver ever to grace the sport of F1. Senna won Drivers' titles in 1988, 1990 and 1991 as well as 41 race wins in a career which spanned only just over ten years. For most of Senna's career, he formed a great rivalry with four-time World Champion, Alain Prost, to whom he finished runner up in 1989 and 1993.
After winning the British Formula Three Championship in 1983, Senna débuted with Toleman in 1984. After consistently outperforming his car, notably taking a second place in atrocious conditions in Monaco, Senna moved to Lotus, partnering Elio de Angelis for 1985. Senna came out on top that season, and De Angelis' replacements for 1986 and 1987, Johnny Dumfries and Satoru Nakajima, were outclassed.
A deal was arranged to take Senna to McLaren for 1988. In the MP4/4, Senna and Prost dominated, Senna just edging out his teammate for his first title. The rivalry between the two drivers began to heat up and after a controversial incident at the Japanese Grand Prix, Prost took the 1989 title and left for Ferrari. Senna, still at McLaren, took the 1990 title after collision with Prost in Japan, before sufficiently holding off Nigel Mansell in 1991 for his third title. Two more difficult seasons at McLaren followed, falling far behind Mansell in 1992 and being beaten by Prost despite heroic efforts by the Brazilian in 1993. Senna left for Williams in 1994.
At the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, Senna crashed heavily at the Tamburello corner on lap six. The Brazilian's Williams FW16 had been leading from pole for the first five laps, three of which had taken place behind the Safety Car. Two laps after the restart, Senna was leading from Michael Schumacher on one of the fastest parts of the circuit. Approaching the fast left hander at Tamburello, Senna's car went straight-on and collided with a concrete barrier at around 135 mph. During the crash, the FW16's front right wheel and attached suspension strut struck Senna on the head, causing fatal injuries. The death of the three-time World Champion was the first in-race fatality since that of Ricardo Paletti (although Austrian, Roland Ratzenberger had been killed in qualifying the day before), and was the last driver to die behind the wheel for 21 years until Frenchman Jules Bianchi died on 18 July 2015 as a result of his accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.
In 2010, Ayrton Senna's nephew, Bruno gained a drive with F1 minnows, HRT and later drove for Williams. Referring to Bruno in a 1993 interview, Ayrton Senna stated: "If you think I'm fast, just wait until you see my nephew...".
Ayrton Senna started his motoring career at age 13 when his sister Viviane gave him a kart that she had rejected as a present. Ayrton began participating in karting competions throughout Brazil. In 1977, aged 17, he won the South American Karting Championship, which opened him up into higher karting grades, and he moved into the World Karting Championship, where he contested from 1978 to 1982. Although never able to win the championship, Senna did finish as runner-up in 1979 and 1980.
In 1981 he moved to England where he participated in the British Formula Ford 1600 Championships where he won both championships held that year. The following year he took another step forward moving into the Formula Ford 2000 European Championships where he again won the championships.
In 1983, Senna moved to the Formula 3 British Championship with the West Surrey team where he dominated the first half of the season. Towards the end of the season, Martin Brundle closed the gap racing for the Eddie Jordan Racing Team but Senna managed to clinch the title in the end, winning at the final showdown at the Thruxton Race Circuit.
Senna's performances in the lower formulae had gained the attention of a lot of Formula One teams. In 1983 he had tested with McLaren, Williams, Brabham and Toleman. Senna tried to gain entry to F1 with one of these teams, however Williams and McLaren were full. He was expected to move to the Brabham team however they opted with Teo Fabi instead so Senna's only option was to race with the Toleman team partnering Johnny Cecotto.
Senna would make his F1 debut at his home country at the 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix where he qualified 16th of 26 in his first race but he failed to finish the race. The next race was much better for Senna as he scored his first F1 points in South Africa, finishing 6th at Kyalami, a position he was able to repeat at the next race, the Belgian Grand Prix. In San Marino, however he failed to qualify for the race due to fuel pressure problems during qualifying. Senna's highlight of the season was the Monaco Grand Prix where he finished 2nd having qualified 13th on the grid. In very wet conditions, Senna made his way up the field in an inferior car with great speed and control, passing car after car on the notoriously narrow Monaco circuit. Senna managed to close to within 8 seconds of leader Alain Prost and was gaining on the Frenchman at a rate of four seconds a lap when the red flag was dropped on lap 32 due to the weather. Senna's second place was his first podium in only his fifth race start, and showed his potential as a future champion. After a couple of retirements Senna managed to get another podium in Britain where he finished third.
After the British Grand Prix, teammate Cecotto was sacked after he failed to exceed his younger teammates performances and a replacement was not found until Italy. Senna struggled over the next couple of races with the car's poor reliability, and decided to seek a drive with a better team for 1985. Senna opted to sign with the Lotus team in secret for the 1985 season, however Toleman found out that he was keeping secrets from them, thus breaching his two year contract with the team. In response, the team suspended him from the next race in Italy, where he was replaced by Pierluigi Martini. Toleman had also found a new teammate to accompany him for the rest of the season that being of Stefan Johansson. When Senna returned to the team at the European Grand Prix he failed to finish, crashing out on the first lap at the new Nürburgring circuit. At the final race of the season in Portugal, Senna scored a third podium of his début season, finishing in third position. Senna ended his first season in F1 in 9th place in the Drivers' Championship, and helped his Toleman team to 7th in the Manufacturers' table. Senna had scored 13 of the 16 points that the team gained in the 1984 season.
Glad to be rid of Toleman, Senna embarked on a more competitive and stronger year at Lotus F1 for 1985. Senna partnered Italian Elio de Angelis in the season. Senna failed to finish at his home race in Brazil but at Round 2 at Portugal he scored his first ever pole position which he transformed into his first race win, in very wet conditions. The Lotus was quick through the season but it's reliability was poor. Over the next 7 races Senna failed to score any points, half of them due to mechanical issues. However he did manage to get 3 pole positions in this period. One of them was at Monaco, where he infuriated drivers like Niki Lauda and Michele Alboreto, when he decided to run more laps than was necessary to gain pole, thus impeding other drivers. Senna later denied these accusations. On his return to the points Senna finished second at Austria followed by two third place finishes at the Netherlands and Italy and then won a race again in the wet in Belgium. A 2nd place finish was to follow in Europe however the last two races he failed to finish. Senna had gained a lot of popularity in the Lotus camp, but not from teammate de Angelis, who thought the team was favouring Senna, and walked out on the team at the end of the season.
De Angelis was replaced by Johnny Dumfries for 1986 at Lotus, At the 1st race at his home Grand Prix Senna came second at Brazil and then winning the next race by just 0.014 seconds ahead of Nigel Mansell, Senna was now leading the championship but it was not to last as Senna's poor car reliability showed over the next couple of races. And although he finished on the podium seven times after Portugal, and scored another win in Detroit, it was not enough to be in a title fighting position.
For 1987, Senna partnered 34 year old Japanese debutant Satoru Nakajima at Lotus. The year did not start off well for Senna at his home race as he retired with engine problems. However at the next race at San Marino Senna was on pole and throughout the race Senna fought with Nigel Mansell for the lead of the race, however it wasn't one he was to win. Belgium saw another retirement when he crashed with rival Mansell when battling for the lead again however things brightened soon after as he won in Monaco and then the next race in Detroit, however only managed 4th in France followed by two third places at Britain and Germany. Hungary he was second, however only finished 5th at Austria. In Italy he was second after a tight battle for the lead with Nelson Piquet, Portugal was a disappointing 7th after having to pit due to losing his front wing, 5th in Spain then retired in Mexico when he spun off due to a stuck clutch, he was second in Japan and then second again for the last round of the championship in Australia but was then disqualified because of an illegal brake duct on the car. Senna finished the championship in third behind Mansell and Piquet with 57 points, but he clearly outmatched teammate Nakajima who only took 12.
For 1988, Senna joined the McLaren team on a three-year deal, replacing Stefan Johansson, and teaming up with two-time World Champion Alain Prost. Senna maintained his Honda engines as McLaren took over Williams' supply of Honda engines. For the final year of turbocharged engines, Honda pulled the strings to make the most efficient and effective engine that they could, and the car, the MP4/4 turned out to be one of the best cars ever produced.
At the first race in Brazil, Senna qualified on pole, over half a second ahead of Nigel Mansell and 0.686 seconds ahead of Prost, and sixth-placed Michele Alboreto was over two seconds down. Senna's gear selector mechanism broke on the parade lap and Senna started from the spare in the pit lane. Senna proceeded to go on a charge, reaching the points by lap 13 and was in second place by lap 20. However, upon pitting, Senna stalled and fell to sixth and was later disqualified for changing cars after the green flag had been flown following the parade lap. Prost won, ahead of Gerhard Berger.
A month later, at the San Marino Grand Prix, Senna again placed his car on pole, 0.771 seconds ahead of Prost and an astonishing 3.352 seconds ahead of third-placed Nelson Piquet. With Prost's engine stalling, which dropped the Frenchman to seventh (which he easily recovered from), Senna lead from start to finish, maintaining a gap of six to ten seconds until the Brazilian slowed to conserve fuel, leading his teammate by 2.3 seconds as they crossed the line. Piquet, in third, was a whole lap down.
Two weeks had passed before the calendar moved onto Monaco. In one of the most impressive qualifying performances of all time, Senna qualified 1.4 seconds ahead of Prost. Berger, in third, managed to get past Prost at the start and when Prost took the place back on lap 54, Senna was 50 seconds clear. After being told by Ron Dennis to slow down to ensure a 1–2 finish, Senna lost concentration and crashed on lap 67. Rather than going back to the pits, Senna simply went back to his Monaco home and was not seen until the next day.
The next race, in Mexico, saw another Senna pole. Prost took the lead on the first lap and won by seven seconds. At this point, Senna was third in the championship on 15 points, 18 behind leader Prost, who had accumulated 33. Senna scored his fifth successive pole position at the Canadian Grand Prix, and like in Mexico, lost the lead on the first lap to Prost again; this time Senna took the lead back, doing so on 19 at the L'Epingle hairpin, and moved into second in the championship. The Detroit Grand Prix followed, as did a sixth successive pole and second successive victory, this time from lights to flag and over 38 seconds clear of Prost, who was the only finisher Senna failed to lap.
The sport returned to Europe for summer, and at the French Grand Prix, Prost scored his first pole of the year at his home race, with Senna nearly half a second down. Once again the McLarens ran clear, the gap holding at about two seconds. Senna, pitting three laps before his teammate, performed the undercut to take the lead; however, after encountering both traffic and gearbox issues, Prost took the lead and won comfortably, Senna over half a minute down.
In Britain, after an ineffective aerodynamic update, Senna qualified third, with Prost in fourth; the Ferraris of Berger and Alboreto on the front row. Despite the difficult-handling car (which Prost retired), Senna took a clear victory ahead of Mansell in the atrocious wet conditions. The next race in Germany was also wet. With Senna back on pole, he led every lap to take his second consecutive victory, with Prost about a quarter of a minute down. Another pole followed in Hungary, and another lights-to-flag victory followed; though more impressive was Prost, who from seventh on the grid finished just half a second down of Senna. At the Belgian Grand Prix, Senna scored his fourth win in four races and sixth in seven. Senna lost the lead at the start, but slipstreamed the Frenchman on the Kemmel straight and proceeded to lead every single lap, meaning Senna had crossed the line in first place for every lap of the past three races. With eleven races down, Senna's 75 points gave him a three point lead over Prost; McLaren's 147 points, 103 ahead of Ferrari, gave the team the Constructors' Championship.
Yet another pole was scored at the Italian Grand Prix, again with Prost behind. Prost managed to jump Senna at the start, before an engine misfire gave Senna the lead again. Prost managed the misfire by using full turbo boost, which used more fuel. Senna was unable to build up a gap to his teammate, and Prost's eventual retirement left the Brazilian 26 seconds ahead of second-placed Berger. Senna slowed, most likely in an attempt to conserve fuel, and within 14 laps the gap was five seconds. Then, as Senna attempted to lap Jean-Louis Schlesser, who had replaced Mansell at Williams, at the Variante del Rettifilo Chicane, the two cars collided and Senna's car was beached in the gravel, the Brazilian eventually being classified tenth. Berger took the lead, and which Alboreto close behind, McLaren's 100% record was ruined by the Italians at their home race, to the delight of the Tifosi.
At the following race in Portugal, Prost took a rare pole, but Senna took the lead at the start. Prost fought back, and despite Senna defending very aggressively, forcing the Frenchman towards the pitwall, Prost took the lead back. Senna was troubled by an inconsistent and incorrect fuel readout, which allowed the March of Ivan Capelli to close and eventually overtake. Berger also got past before spinning off, and Senna was forced to hold off Mansell. A late pitstop left Senna in sixth place, where he finished. Prost's victory gave him a five point lead in the championship.
Next up was Spain, where Senna took a close pole over Prost. Senna got a bad start and was overtaken by both Prost and Mansell. Senna passed Mansell on the second lap, but went wide and Mansell took the place back. Senna was left to defend against Riccardo Patrese and later Capelli, who overtook the McLaren driver before retiring through an engine failure. After temporarily falling out of the points after pitting, Senna fought back to finish fourth. Prost, now dropping point, maintained a five-point lead. However, if Senna could win the next race, he was able to seal the title, as Prost was only able to score by winning, which would replace second places (giving three points), while Senna would only replace his sixth place (one point) with a win, which would eight points, overall a three-point Championship lead with the advantage in case of a tiebreak.
At Honda's home race at Suzuka, Senna once again took pole with Prost behind. At the start, Senna stalled and fell to 14th place while Prost led. Senna charged, by the end of the first lap the Brazilian was eighth, and had made his way to fourth by lap four. After passing Berger on lap ten, he set off after Prost and Capelli, was again was performing admirably. With it starting to rain on lap 14, and Prost being slowed by Capelli (who took the lead for a few hundred metres), who retired, Senna closed the gap. Prost's malfunctioning gearbox also gave Senna that extra chance. On lap 28, Senna completed a remarkable comeback by overtaking Prost. After gesturing for the race to be stopped, Senna lead home yet another McLaren 1–2 and took the title, his first.
At the final race in Australia, Senna took his thirteenth pole of the season. Prost led off the start again, Senna suffering from gearbox issues, which allowed Berger into second on lap three. Berger later retired, after taking the lead, and Senna struggled to a second place finish, 36 seconds down on teammate Prost. Senna finished the season as Champion on 90 points (dropping four), ahead of Prost, who scored 87 (but dropped 18). McLaren had won 15 of the 16 races, eight by Senna, and overall scored a record 199 points.
Tension and mistrust between the two drivers increased when Senna overtook Prost at the restart of the San Marino Grand Prix, a move which Prost claimed violated a pre-race agreement. Senna took an early lead in the championship with victories in three of the first four races, but unreliability in Phoenix, Canada, France, Britain and Italy, together with collisions in Brazil and 1989 swung the title in Prost's favour.
Prost took the 1989 world title after a collision with Senna at the Suzuka in Japan, the penultimate race of the season, which Senna needed to win to remain in contention for the title. Senna had attempted an inside pass on Prost who turned into the corner and cut him off, with the two McLarens finishing up with their wheels interlocked in the Suzuka chicane escape road. Senna then got a push-start from marshals, pitted to replace the damaged nose 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 promptly disqualified by the FIA for cutting the chicane after the collision, and for crossing into the pit lane entry (not part of the track). 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. Senna finished the season second with six wins and one second place. Prost left McLaren for rivals Ferrari for the following year.
In 1990, Senna took a commanding lead in the championship with six wins, two second places and three thirds. His most memorable victories were at the opening round in Phoenix, in which he diced for the lead for several laps with a then-unknown Jean Alesi before coming out on top, and at Germany, where he fought Benetton driver Alessandro Nannini throughout the race for the win. As the season reached its final quarter however, Alain Prost in his Ferrari rose to the challenge with five wins, including a crucial victory in Spain where he and teammate Nigel Mansell finished 1-2 for the Scuderia team. Senna had gone out with a damaged radiator, and the gap between Senna and Prost was now reduced to 11 points with two races remaining.
At the penultimate round of the Championship in Japan at Suzuka (the same circuit where Senna and Prost had their collision a year before), 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. 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, and 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. 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 licence 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".
Prost would later go on record slamming Senna's actions as "disgusting" and that he seriously considered retiring from the sport after that incident.
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. Senna won the first four races with relative ease, as he major rivals fell victim to mechanical problems. By mid-season, only Nigel Mansell in the more advanced, but temperamental, Williams was able to put up a challenge.
There were some memorable moments, such as at the Spanish Grand Prix when Senna and Mansell went wheel to wheel with only centimetres to spare, at over 320 km/h (200 mph) 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.
Though Senna's consistency and the Williams' unreliability at the beginning of the season 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 and he managed to win three more races to secure the championship, which was settled for good in Japan (yet again) when Mansell (who needed to win), went off at the first corner while running third and beached his Williams-Renault into the gravel trap. Senna finished second, handing the victory to teammate Gerhard Berger at the last corner as a thank-you gesture for his support over the season.
In 1992, Senna's determination to win manifested itself in dismay at McLaren's inability to challenge Williams' all-conquering FW14B car. McLaren's new car for the season had several shortcomings. There was delay in getting the new model running (it debuted in the third race of the season, the Brazilian Grand Prix) 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. Senna scored wins in Monaco, Hungary, and Italy that year. During qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, French driver Érik Comas crashed heavily and Senna was the first to arrive at the scene. He got out of his car and ran across the track to aid the Frenchman, disregarding his own safety in an effort to aid a fellow driver. He later went to visit Comas in hospital. Senna finished fourth overall in the championship, behind the Williams duo of Mansell and Patrese, and Benetton's Michael Schumacher.
Questions 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 One at the end of the 1992 season). Joining Williams alongside Prost (who had secured a drive for the team for 1993) became impossible, since Prost had a clause on his contract vetoing 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. In December, Senna went to Phoenix, Arizona and tested Emerson Fittipaldi's Penske IndyCar.
McLaren boss Ron Dennis meanwhile was trying to secure a supply of the dominant Renault V10 engine for 1993. When this deal fell through, McLaren was forced to take a customer supply of Ford V8 engines. As a customer team, McLaren got an engine that was two specifications 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. Dennis then finally persuaded Senna to return to McLaren. The Brazilian, however, 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. Senna declined to sign a one-year contract but agreed to drive on a race-by-race basis, eventually staying for the year, although some sources claim this was a marketing ploy between Dennis and Senna. After finishing second in the opening race in South Africa, Senna won in constantly fluctuating conditions at home in Brazil and in the rain at Donington. The latter has often been regarded as one of Senna's greatest victories. He started the race fourth and dropped to fifth on the run down to the first corner, but by the end of the first lap was leading the race. He went on to lap the entire field in a race where up to seven pit stops were required by some drivers for rain or slick tyres, depending on the conditions. Senna then scored a second-place finish in Spain and a record-breaking sixth win at Monaco. 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. 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 second overall in the championship. 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 after a lengthy discussion, he proceeded to punch the Irishman.
With Alain Prost retiring after winning the 1993 title, Senna joined Williams for 1994. Prost had signed a two-year contract, which contained a veto disallowing Senna from becoming his teammate, however, Prost's retirement meant the veto was null. Senna's deal was announced on 11 October 1993, with a salary of $1 million a race, which combined with other earnings would have seen him earn $20 million dollars other the season. A deal with Renault was also announced, with the combination being believed to be unbeatable.
With all the rule changes removing many electronic devices, including anti-lock brakes, traction control and active suspension, the cars were much less stable. With Williams having the dominant car over the past two seasons, Senna was predicted to be the clear favourite; however, the FW16 had a large number of issues that saw the Benetton's B194 level on speed.
Having taken pole at the first race in 1994, Senna lead at the start, but Michael Schumacher, in his Benetton, wasn't far behind. The two pitted simultaneously, and Schumacher emerged ahead, despite both drivers being on the same fuel strategy. At one point, Schumacher lead by ten seconds before the gap closed. On lap 56, Senna spun off at Junção and Schumacher strolled to an easy victory.
The following race was the Pacific Grand Prix. Once again, Senna took pole. Beaten off the startline by Schumacher, Senna collided with Mika Häkkinen and then Nicola Larini, spinning off into retirement.
San Marino Grand Prix
Having retired from the first two races, heading into the San Marino Grand Prix Senna was twenty points behind Michael Schumacher in a car that still was not to the Brazilian's liking. Despite this, Senna was soon the fastest driver on track in Friday's qualifying, before a bad accident involving fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello. Barrichello hit the kerb at the Variante Bassa chicane at a speed of 140 mph and was catapulted into the air, crashing into a debris fence and coming to a rest upside down. Hastily turned over by marshals, Barrichello was left unconscious for a short amount of time. Upon hearing of the accident, Senna went to the medical centre, made his way in through the back, and was crying as Barrichello regained consciousness. Barrichello only suffered a broken nose and bruised ribs, and would take no further part in the race weekend. Senna went back out on track, and at the end of the day had the fastest day.
At 1:18 pm on Saturday, the weekend took a darker turn. Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger, in just his third race, went off track at 195 mph after a front wing failure and crashed into the wall at the Villeneuve curve before rolling back onto track. Ratzenberger's head was limp, and by the time Senna reached the accident scene, Ratzenberger was in the ambulance. Senna went into the medical centre through the back again, but rather than go to Ratzenberger, was stopped by the FIA Medical Director, Professor Sid Watkins, and was told that Ratzenberger was clinically dead. Senna broke down into tears.
At 2:15 pm, it was confirmed that F1 had experienced its first death since Elio de Angelis in 1986, and the first in a race since Riccardo Paletti in 1982, and the sport was in shock. Senna, deeply affected by the accident, refused to further partake in qualifying, and Williams packed up early. Senna's Friday time was not beaten, and he would line up on pole for the 65th time, with Schumacher alongside.
Senna declined to attend the obligatory press conference, with the FIA deciding against fining him, but was called to the stewards for illegally commandeering a course car to Ratzenberger's accident. After Senna stormed off in disgust, the stewards declined to take any action.
Having initially chosen not to race, Senna changed his mind, planning to unfurl an Austrian flag were he to win. Alain Prost, in the Williams garage for the first time of the season, was greeted by Senna on the car radio during the warm-up, who called his longtime rival a friend. After the session had ended, Senna sat down with his former teammate with a quick breakfast, with an attitude that really surprised Prost. In the drivers' briefing, Senna asked Gerhard Berger to raise an issue – that the pace car should not lead the drivers around the parade lap, a motion that was put through. Afterwards, Senna spoke to his driver colleagues and they agreed to hold a meeting on safety in Monaco, which lead to the formation of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association.
Eventually, everything was in place, and the race was ready to begin. As the race started, Pedro Lamy's Lotus crashed into the stalled Benetton of JJ Lehto, debris being thrown everywhere, but thankfully the drivers were uninjured. Eventually, the debris was cleared up and the race was back up to full speed. Senna sped off, securing what would be the third-fastest lap of the race on lap six.
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On lap seven at 2:17 pm, Senna's car veered off at the Tamburello corner, going off track at 190 mph and crashing into the wall at 135 mph, tearing off the right front wheel with its suspension assembly, nosecone, right rear wheel, rear wing and a sizeable portion of the right-hand sidepod. The accident put debris all over the track and the race was red-flagged.
The accident had caused the right front wheel of the car to smash into Senna's helmet; which pushed his head back into the headrest, causing fatal skull fractures. A piece of upright attached to the wheel partially penetrated his helmet, making an indentation into his forehead. Additionally, a jagged part of the upright assembly pieced his helmet visor above his right eye. Any one of these three incidents would have likely killed Senna on their own; all three combined with the burst temporal artery (a loss of 4.5 litres of blood) made death unavoidable.
As far as the rest of the world was concerned, Senna did not immediately get out of the car and gave no "okay" signals; something evidently was not right. A full body spasm caused by the severe brain damage gave fans false hope of survival. Sid Watkins, arriving on the scene, was able to tell immediately that this was a massive head injury. After a careful lifting of the helmet, blood poured out, revealing his damaged forehead, and even more worryingly, blood and brain matter was seeping out his nose. Senna's eyes were closed and he was deeply unconscious. Watkins raised Senna's eyelids and looked into his pupils; from which it was clear just how extensive the brain injuries were; from what he knew, Senna could not survive. The Brazilian was lifted from the car, blood still flowing, and marshals held up sheets to hide Senna from the view of the public.
Senna was given several IV infusions, had his respiratory passages cleared, was given blood transfusions, and had his cervical area immobilised. After this, Senna had a faint pulse, and a medical helicopter was called in to take Senna straight to Maggiore Hospital in Bologna. Senna was loaded onto the helicopter at 2:35 pm. A few minutes into the helicopter ride, Senna's heart stopped and was restarted by the helicopter medical crew.
With Senna not yet officially dead, the race was restarted at 2:55 pm. Michael Schumacher went onto to win ahead of Nicola Larini and Mika Häkkinen. There were no podium celebrations and the post-race press conference was held in a sombre mood.
Senna arrived at Maggiore Hospital at 3:00 pm, and a brain scan confirmed Watkins' prognosis. His heart stopped and was restarted again, and he was placed on life support. At 4:30 pm, Bologna's chief medical officer Dr Maria Theresa Fiandri informed the media that Senna had brain damage with haemorrhaged shock and was in a deep coma. Senna's closest friends, including Sid Watkins, Gerhard Berger and Christian Fittipaldi, all made their way to the hospital, and all knew that it was not to last. Senna's brother, Leonardo, arranged for a priest to perform last rites on Senna at 6:15 pm. At 6:37 pm, his heart stopped beating once again; a decision was made to not restart it. At 6:40 pm, Senna was pronounced dead, with the official time of death being 2:17 pm, the time of the crash.
It was later discovered that Senna had been wearing an illegal helmet during the time of the crash. The helmet was designed to be lighter and allow the car to travel with less weight. As a result, the materials used were not as strong as legal helmets, allowing the piece of upright to penetrate the helmet easier and contributing to the severity of the skull fractures.
An Austrian flag was later found in the cockpit of Senna's wrecked Williams—he had intended to raise the flag on the victory lap to honor Ratzenberger.
Brazilian president Itamar Franco declared three days of national mourning, and the Brazilian flag flew at half-mast on all governmental buildings. Senna's body was to lie in state for 48 hours at the São Paulo legislative assembly.
Once medical and legal formalities were completed, Senna's coffin, draped in the Brazilian flag, was carried in a hearse to Bologna airport, where an Italian Air Force plane flew the plane to Paris, where it was carried, against airline policy, in the passenger section of the plane.
Senna's body landed down in São Paulo's Guarulhos International Airport on 5 May 1994; people were asked to stay away from the airport and instead head to the legislature building in an orderly fashion if they wanted to pay their respects. A fire engine escorted the coffin to the legislature building, on which military cadets mounted guards and about 2,500 police officers were required to keep the crowd at bay.
Three million mourners gathered in an event matched only by massive state funerals for former President Getúlio Vargas and once President-elect Tancredo Neves; over 200,000 people passed by the body as it laid in state. After the public viewing, there was a 21-gun salute by the 2nd Artillery brigade and a flyover by seven Brazilian Air Force jets.
The pallbearers who walked Senna to the Morumbi cemetery included Gerhard Berger, Michele Alboreto, Alain Prost, Thierry Boutsen, Damon Hill, Rubens Barrichello, Roberto Moreno, Derek Warwick, Maurício Gugelmin, Hans Stuck, Johnny Herbert, Pedro Lamy, Maurizio Sandro Sala, Raul Boesel, Emerson Fittipaldi, Wilson Fittipaldi, and Christian Fittipaldi. Many historic and important figures of the motor racing fraternity attended; those absent included Bernie Ecclestone, who was turned away by Senna's family; and Max Mosley, who chose to attend Roland Ratzenberger's funeral instead. Sid Watkins and McLaren team coordinator Jo Ramírez did not attend as well as they were too grief-stricken.
As Senna's coffin was lowered into the ground, a fly-past by Brazilian Air Force took place, two inscribing his "S" logo into the sky.
His headstone reads "Nada pode me separar do amor de Deus", which translates as "Nothing can separate me from the love of God".
A movie about Senna's life called Senna was released in 2010.
Formula One Statistical Overview
F1 Career History
Numbers not in brackets are the championship points scored, while numbers in brackets refer to the total points scored.
|Year||Entrant||Team||WDC Pts||WDC Pos.||Report|
|1984||Toleman Group Motorsport||Toleman-Hart||13||9th||Report|
|1985||John Player Special Team Lotus||Lotus-Renault||38||4th||Report|
|1986||John Player Special Team Lotus||Lotus-Renault||55||4th||Report|
|1987||Camel Team Lotus Honda||Lotus-Honda||57||3rd||Report|
|1988||Honda Marlboro McLaren||McLaren-Honda||90 (94)||1st||Report|
|1989||Honda Marlboro McLaren||McLaren-Honda||60||2nd||Report|
|1990||Honda Marlboro McLaren||McLaren-Honda||78||1st||Report|
|1991||Honda Marlboro McLaren||McLaren-Honda||96||1st||Report|
|1992||Honda Marlboro McLaren||McLaren-Honda||50||4th||Report|
|1993||Marlboro McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||73||2nd||Report|
|1994||Rothmans Williams Renault||Williams-Renault||0||NC||Report|
|Front Row Starts||87|
|Distance Raced||37937 km (23573 mi)|
|Distance Led||13430 km (8345 mi)|
|Complete Formula One Results|
|3rd||DNQ||Did not qualify|
|5th||Points finish||DNPQ||Did not pre-qualify|
|14th||Non-points finish||TD||Test driver|
|Italics||Scored point(s) for Fastest Lap||DNS||Did not start|
|18th†||Classified finish (retired with >90% race distance)||NC||Non-classified finish (<90% race distance)|
|4thP||Qualified for pole position||[+] More Symbols|
- Only 610 of Senna's 614 points counted towards the World Drivers' Championships, since only the best 11 points finishes in a season were counted between 1985 and 1990
- "Senna blows his top at Suzuka," printed from http://www.autosport.com on May 30, 2007
- "Ayrton Senna by Alain Prost". prostfan.com. http://www.prostfan.com/senna2.htm. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
- Race stopped after 31/76 Laps. Half points awarded
- Senna was in breach of his contract because he signed for Lotus for 1985 without informing the Toleman team first, so the team decided to suspend him for one race.
- Only a drivers' best 11 results counted towards the Drivers' World Championship. Senna scored 94 points during the season, of which 90 counted towards the Championship standings.
- Race stopped after 14/81 Laps. Half points awarded
- Fatally injured in a heavy crash at turn 2 on lap 6.
"That incident really tipifies Ayrton Senna's one real area of weakness. When it comes to lapping people, he just has this arrogant feeling that they should just absolutely get off the track to let him through. All he had to do was just wait one more corner, but he just won't do it." David Hobbs on Senna colliding with Nakajima. ESPN. 1990 Brazilian Grand Prix.
"You don't hear Senna's name mentioned among the greats when talking to the likes of Jackie Stewart or any of the other former World Champions, simply because he has that fault you spoke of David." - Bob Varsha. ESPN. 1990 Brazilian Grand Prix
- Henry, Alan (1 December 1994). Remembering Ayrton Senna. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-83450-9.
- Official Website (in Portuguese)
- Wikipedia article
- OldRacingCars profile
- Manipe F1 profile
- STATS F1 profile
- Senna's last 96 hours
- Some Senna quotes
|V T E||Ayrton Senna|
1984 • 1985 • 1986 • 1987 • 1988 • 1989 • 1990 • 1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994
|Season Reports |
1984 • 1985 • 1986 • 1987 • 1988 • 1989 • 1990 • 1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994
Toleman (1984) • Lotus (1985–1987) • McLaren (1988–1993) • Williams (1994)
Johnny Cecotto (1984) • Stefan Johansson (1984) • Elio de Angelis (1985) • Johnny Dumfries (1986) • Satoru Nakajima (1987) • Alain Prost (1988–1989) • Gerhard Berger (1990–1992) • Michael Andretti (1993) • Mika Häkkinen (1993) • Damon Hill (1994)
Nigel Mansell • Alain Prost
|Other pages |
Death • Bruno (nephew) • Statistics • Teammate comparison • Category
|V T E||McLaren Racing|
Éric Boullier · Ron Dennis · Tim Goss · Jonathan Neale · Neil Oatley · Peter Prodromou
|Former Notable Personnel|
John Barnard · Gordon Coppuck · Pat Fry · Norbert Haug · Robin Herd · Paddy Lowe · Neil Martin · Teddy Mayer · Sam Michael · Gordon Murray · Adrian Newey · Steve Nichols · Jo Ramirez · Nicholas Tombazis · Martin Whitmarsh
3. Daniel Ricciardo
4. Lando Norris
Emerson Fittipaldi (1974) · Lewis Hamilton (2008) · James Hunt (1976) · Mika Häkkinen (1998, 1999) ·
Niki Lauda (1984) · Alain Prost (1985, 1986, 1989) · Ayrton Senna (1988, 1990, 1991)
M2B · M4B · M5A · M7A · M7B · M7C · M7D · M9A · M14A · M14D · M19A · M19C · M23 · M26 · M28 · M29 · M29B · M29C · M29F · M30 · MP4/1 · MP4B · MP4/1C · MP4/1E · MP4/2 · MP4/2B · MP4/2C · MP4/3 · MP4/4 · MP4/5 · MP4/5B · MP4/6 · MP4/6B · MP4/7A · MP4/8 · MP4/9 · MP4/10 · MP4/10B · MP4/10C · MP4/11 · MP4/11B · MP4/12 · MP4/13 · MP4/14 · MP4/15 · MP4-16 · MP4-17 · MP4-17D · MP4-18 · MP4-19 · MP4-19B · MP4-20 · MP4-21 · MP4-22 · MP4-23 · MP4-24 · MP4-25 · MP4-26 · MP4-27 · MP4-28 · MP4-29 · MP4-30 · MP4-31 · MCL32 · MCL33 · MCL34 · MCL35 · MCL35M · MCL36
1966 · 1967 · 1968 · 1969 · 1970 · 1971 · 1972 · 1973 · 1974 · 1975 · 1976 · 1977 · 1978 · 1979 · 1980 · 1981 · 1982 · 1983 · 1984 · 1985 · 1986 · 1987 · 1988 · 1989 · 1990 · 1991 · 1992 · 1993 · 1994 · 1995 · 1996 · 1997 · 1998 · 1999 · 2000 · 2001 · 2002 · 2003 · 2004 · 2005 · 2006 · 2007 · 2008 · 2009 · 2010 · 2011 · 2012 · 2013 · 2014 · 2015 · 2016 · 2017 · 2018 · 2019 · 2020 · 2021 · 2022
|V T E||Grand Prix Drivers' Association|
Moss • Bonnier • Stewart • Scheckter • Pironi • Senna • M. Schumacher • Coulthard • R. Schumacher • De la Rosa • Heidfeld • Barrichello • Wurz
M. Schumacher • Berger • Brundle • D. Hill • Coulthard • Wurz • Trulli • Webber • R. Schumacher • Alonso • De la Rosa • Heidfeld • Massa • Vettel • Barrichello • Button • Grosjean
|Affected races |
1969 Belgian Grand Prix • 1970 German Grand Prix • 1982 South African Grand Prix • 1994 San Marino Grand Prix
Professional Racing Drivers Assocation
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