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Ayrton Senna – an appreciation, half a century on
Ayrton Senna – an appreciation, half a century on
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Mar 2010   |  10:06 am GMT  |  208 comments

Today is the 50th anniversary of the birth of Ayrton Senna.

There are many dates to remember the great Brazilian by; key moments in his career or his very public death on 1 May 1994, but his birth should remain the key date in my view.

Senna wasn’t like other racing drivers. He had the same skills as the very best of them, but what defined him was his intellect and the spiritual dimension of his character; it was a passion, a calling above and beyond the simple desire to compete, which drove him on and raised him to a different level.

He was no saint; he drove others off the road and could be as ruthless as anyone, but he had principles and felt that his struggle was not merely against other drivers but against the politics and corrupting influences of F1.

People are not prepared to forgive Michael Schumacher for his various indiscretions on the track, like Jerez 1997 or Monaco 2006, but they forgive Senna for driving Alain Prost off the road in Suzuka 1990 because in some very human way it was a righting of wrongs, it leveled the score from the previous year.

But the reason why he is so celebrated today is his all consuming passion for driving on the limit and his extraordinary ability to analyse and articulate it.

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Alain Prost was the more complete driver in my view. Senna would often use Prost's setup in their McLaren days. Prost's ability to analyse and understand his car, his turbo boost control and skill to drive within himself to maintain the condition of his tyres and then push when he wanted was great to watch. What a battle between those two though.


Are you actually serious?

Senna arrived at Mclaren with Prost being well established within the team. He beat him more times than lost, was quicker more times and won 3 championships in 2 years less time with Mclaren. He outqualified Prost somthing chronic too! I wont even talk of his wet weather skills.

Better all round? Not a rats chance in hell.

Prost said on many occasions he felt Senna had "more support" from within Mclaren. Senna's Response? "He can have my car, I will drive his!" Prost would not take Senna up on the offer!

The proffesor was a great, no doubt about that. Top 3-5 easy, But better "all round" than Ayrton Senna Da Silva? I disagree with every cell my in body.


That may have been true early on, but let's not forget they were only team mates for two seasons. Senna was certainly still developing as a driver then and you can't compare them in this way. Senna was a different driver in '93 to what he was in '88.


the more complete driver of the two?!! ayrton was faster on a quali lap, and miles away in the wet. How does this make Prost a more complete driver?

if you like prost better, because you don't like senna's do or die attitude, it's okey, but try to be objective, please.

Senna was the more complete driver of the two. And the more ruthless.


In Formula 1, pole positions are vanity, wins are sanity and points are king.

Being a complete driver is not just about qualifying and being good at the wet. It covers a wide range of aspects to do with racing from being able to set up a car to using the best race strategy.

Senna and Prost had different strengths and weaknesses. Neither was the complete driver and it is very hard to say objectively which was more so. My humble and personal opinion is that if I were a team boss I would lean towards picking Prost.


"if you like prost better, because you don’t like senna’s do or die attitude, it’s okey, but try to be objective, please."

I've stated my reasons. Inferring I am not being objective with the above quote says more about you than I.


yes, that kowalski knows more about f1 than you legend2. Prost was outperformed in quali 81 by a second class like arnoux, and he was beat by him in several races in 82. At paul ricard that year he was very upset when rene didn't obey team orders to let him by. Can you believe the kind of person he was? Rene's family was there, and little napoleon just cared about himself.


Quotation. Quote is a verb. Sorry to be pedantic, but it is annoying.

Agree to an extent about Prost and Senna. Senna's given far more credit than he deserves on the basis that he died. Prost on the other hand has nowhere near the status of Senna. Admittedly though that is in no small part because he is rather more boring than Senna. But I'd say the two were on basically level terms in term of driving ability, though I can understand you saying Prost was the more 'complete'.


How do you know Senna used to copy Prost's setup. It is not that I doubt what you say, I'm only curious.

Back in 2007 people used to say that Hamilton used Alonso's setup. Despite me being on Alonso's side, I have always found difficult to believe such a thing. How does people know?


yeah how they know lol


I'd have to go back to all my magazines from the time, which are now in storage. However, one of the McLaren race engineers working with Senna said he would always ask for Prost's settings. No where have I read that Prost would use Senna's settings, however it is possible.

With Senna continually using Prost's settings and then having more speed on the straights, Prost started to believe that Honda was supplying Senna with more powerful units.


Senna and Prost had entirely different styles of driving... if one understands a thing about racing one would never say Senna raced with Prost's setups. Yes, they shared information, yes, they talked about how a suspension setup was working (for ex), but none "copied" setups from each other.

There was only ONE single exception, Jo Ramirez himself said, in which Senna's car setup was copied from Prost. It was in a test session and only because of a some problem whose nature I can't remember.

By the way, I have a statement from GORDON MURRAY, chief engineer in McLaren at the time, in which he say "Senna was better at car setups and racing strategy, even bluffing to Prost in some occasions".

And, according to Takeo Kiuchi, Honda engineer, Prost started to mumble about Senna being favored when he realized who Senna really was. He said that Senna was deep within the Japanese Project while Prost was not in the same tune. He said that Senna had a much more accurate feeling for the car, comparing him to a electronic fuel injection and Prost to a carburetor. Such reasons made Senna much more important for Honda than Prost.

Honda's engines came sealed in boxes which were schuffled in front of the entire team. There's no way Honda would give better engines for Senna... the Honda team was deeply sad with Prost's comments because they hurt the entire team's integrity. As we all know, Japanese are well known for their honor and honesty.

Senna was simply so much faster than Prost... it was pretty hard for Prost to accept that and it still is by some of his fans.


Nelson Piquet said that in an interview for a brazilian documentary about 10 years ago. I don't know if that's true, after all, for Piquet, only himself knew how to drive.


Gordon Murray and John Barnard disagree with you. They held Piquets car development and feedback in high regard.


schumi copied barrichello's set up some times, so did peterson, when he was with lotus, and had fittipaldi as his teammate, so there is nothing wrong with it.

Senna was just better than prost in quali, and in the wet, and they were very close in the dry.


I distinctly remember reading Autosport Nigel Roebuck GP reports back in the day of Senna and Prost using one another's setups when theirs wasn't working. Back then goings on in the pits were a lot less secretive than they are now, with engineers giving journalists now privvy information

My 10c, Senna was the best of his era, but was only forgiven for all his on track misdemeanors BECAUSE of his untimely death. I think most "ruthless" drivers are frowned upon by their peers, not revered......


Prost and Senna were so different in every way but their rivalry was so close and amazing to watch. It's a shame as time has gone past, Prost's driving ability is not remembered with equal reverence as it very much deserves to be.


couldn't agree more


My first post.

Great site Mr. James.

In my opinion Senna is the best.

Simply the best.

Gavin Finlayson

"Righted the wrong from the previous year". Prost defending his position rather than graciously moving out of Senna's way to avoid an accident, how is this a wrong? There would have been countless other incidents if Prost hadn't always made allowances for Senna's reckless moves!


This incident in '89 is all about context.

While overall their results had been close, Senna had thrashed Prost on several occasions during 88-89, by margins that must have rocked the Frenchman to his core. But he was certainly a match for Senna at Suzuka that day, but I honestly believe - like Senna in 1990 - he had made a vow that he wasn't going to be passed.

The helicopter footage proved that Prost closed the door late, and I can't believe he didn't know there was a high chance of a collision - he knew exactly what he was doing.

But more to the point, Senna felt that the aftermath, and the switching of pole position in 1990, proved that the championship was being manipulated. And there is very strong evidence to support that view.


The way Autocourse reported it at the time, the pole was always on the inside as it had been at Suzuka in previous years. Senna requested it be moved to the outside, as it was at some tracks in 1990 (this was a developing trend), but this was refused. Whether someone first said the pole could be moved and was overruled, that is possible, but the pole was never on the outside line.


It is clear as daylight that Prost deliberately took out Senna at Suzuka in 89. Senna had the inside line, had already pulled up beside him and Prost turned in knowing that a collision was inevitable.


he was robbed in 1989 by balestre. And we the fans were cheated as well. Thanks god he took matters into his own hands, the next year, because the french dictator was trying to manipulate the results again.


From the video footage and from the statements/interviews of those concerned, I don't think Prost was wrong for closing the door on Senna at Suzuka in 1989. However, Senna clearly thought Prost was wrong. This incident coupled with the stewards disqualifying him for missing the chicane and Balestre preventing him from going to the podium for a race he felt he won made him feel that he was being conspired against.

His famous interview in 1991 where he admits to deliberately taking out Prost in 1990 reveals a lot of his feelings on this issue: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x49nj5_1991-ayrton-senna-s-famous-intervie

Incidently, McLaren's Jo Ramirez did not think Prost's 1989 Suzuka manoeuvre was wrong, but thinks Prost made 2 mistakes: 1) He should have let Senna by as Senna was going too quickly and would have missed the corner 2) After they crashed, Prost should have kept going as there was nothing wrong with his car, although Prost thought he had damaged a front wheel.


1989 Suzuka was the only time I can remember a driver for having missed a corner and been disqualified for it.

1981 Austria - Villeneuve missed the first corner and went through the witches hats.

1986 Germany - Rosberg did the same.

1989 Japan - Senna.

1993 Germany - Prost missed and was given a time penalty only.

I tend to think the Japan 1989 decision was not so much on sporting grounds.


Look again at the video of the incident from 1989 and what happened afterwards in the stewards' room


Plus Senna was not happy about what side of the track pole was on for the race feeling that Prost had the advantage despite of starting second. Prost indeed did take the lead.


The rules stated where pole positon was, it wasn't a pole winners option. It never has been. Prost took the lead because Senna wanted him to so as to position himself to ram Prost with the least danger to himself.


I still remember to this day exactly where I was and what I was doing on that terrible day in Imola 1994 when Senna was taken from us. The man was and still is a legend of F1 and I still get a chill run through me when I watch some of his on-board qualifying laps.



I know exactly where I was - as a 15 year old just getting into F1 and looking for a hero.

Although that first hero became Damon Hill - I'm sad we didn't get the Senna / Schumacher battles that should have defined the era.


I was walking on the street in Salamanca (Spain), and I remember almost exactly the square meter I was in when I learnt about his death.

Baring in mind that at that time I hardly knew what F1 was, and I didn't care, it still puzzles me why I felt something on my chest when that friend told me. I don't understand why his death was so sad to me.

You also have to think that by then I had seen at least two or three famous bullfighters die on TV. Their deaths were very shocking but Senna's death was sad. I don't know why.


I used to live in Salamanca back in the 90s. What street did you hear the news in?


"Calle de San Pablo"; I was just opposite the Hotel San Polo, at one end of the street, near the river.

If you were in Salamanca in the 90's we might have met. I used to work in the Gran Café Moderno in the Calle Gran Vía. That bar was popular with foreign students.


I don't want to be rude, but part of the Sennamania is due to his death on the battlefield. A glorious, legendary death.

We didn't see him getting older and beaten by Schumi on track.


Ayrton Senna was regarded as the greatest long before he dies...as a matter of fact long before he wins his first world title...the only reason for this was that he was able to beat prost in equal cars...as for schumacher the fact alone that he took his first pole a week after Sennas death says it all...that he was only 23 is no excuse ...Hammilton almost had a title by 19...its better to remain silent if you don't know


err 1993? What was it 5 wins to 1? I don't think Senna was about to get trounced like you suggest.

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

Yep I feel like saying if I have ever been a F1 driver and driving the car for last 60 seasons I would’ve won at least 59 WDC too. I was going to win this season as well with HRT. Yep for sure

Carlos Eduardo Del Valle

Well should we say that this wasn't exactly good debating, and probably you're right, you shouldn't have clicked on the comments session,


Sennamania was well in place BEFORE he died. if anything his death dimished his chances of showing how great he really was. He could have easily gone on to take 3 more WDC's. Maybe even more.

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

Mate you missed the point again. Just about everything you said so far is just too many maybe(s) & if (s). I'm not a crazy schumacher or Senna fan. They are both greats. You can't just say one is greater than the other or who would've won how many championship when it never happened in the first place. And there's no chance of that ever happening again. So when you try to state that someone is greater than the other or better than the other it's not a fact because those two guys are in different era. One is dead & the other one isn't. I just tried to show you the difference between the fact & sentiment. Ifs and maybes are just sentimental & hypothetical stuff, not evidence. When you said how many more championships Senna would've won it sounds like England would've won every soccer world cup if nobody else ever played soccer. I didn't say Schumacher is greater than Senna, but it doesn't mean that Senna is greater than Schumacher. How can something be fact when there is no evidence of happening where there is no example to prove your conclusion.


"mate" YOU missed the point again. I'm wondering if you ever even read my reply before you started ranting.

I said that Senna could easily have won more championships.

How hard is that to understand? Try thinking past your sentimental take on the subject and look at the facts:

1) Senna on the top of his driving abilities

2) A team that was fighting for the championship for many seasons in the hands of average drivers like Hill and Villeneuve

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

Not interested in arguing with you mate. I don't like sentimental arguments. F1 is science & science need proof. There is no place for sentiment there. I appreciate your passion, but not bullishness. I was just trying to get some sense into you, but I'm sure you have been watching F1 before even my dad was born. So, my effort failed...Chiao


I'm stating facts and I deduce a logical conclusion from them. Nothing sentimental about it.

You on the other hand only put forth sentimental nonsense.

You don;t want to argue and you dont want sentiments. Yet it's all you 'post. What's your point really?

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

Patrick nobody is suggesting he is one of the greatest. But what you are suggesting is all hypothetical. The fact is that a great driver died in a tragic accident before it was his time. What he could’ve done nobody will ever know. ‘Maybe’ doesn’t have any place in the book of logic mate. So stop this nonsense and celebrate his birthday in proper way (appreciating the great things he did achieve) rather than arguing over something doesn’t have any legitimate answer or proof.


The first part of my reply IS factual and the second part is where i agree with jw1980.

It's also a fact that he was killed still in the prime of his career.

Not sure why the conclusion is so hard to follow.

Besides, if you don't like arguing then ... well ... maybe you shouldn't argue with me?


One aspect that separates Senna from Schumacher is that Schumacher never took on a truly great teammate whereas Senna did even if he did not come out on top all of the time.

Schumacher's return might cause people to re-evaluate just how great he is or was....

You can refer to the James Dean syndrome but Senna was great from the moment we first heard of him and had he not suffered from his untimely death would have gone on to win many more championships.


some of senna's titles are worth two of schumacher's. The german's best are 1995, 2000 and 2003. The rest he had no cpmpetition.


In the eyes of Senna fanboys, may be yes.

Senna had tough teammate but he didn't have any competition outside of Maclaren.

Imagine, if Ferrari hired all the drivers like Mikka, Alonso, Monti, Kimi and let them compete with Schumi? Other team bosses won't let that happen because F1 would become Ferrari internal affairs.

Oh I forgot, Honda was closely working with Senna and Prost stated that at one point he was leading the championship, he had one car and 5 mechanics where as Senna had 10 mechanics and one spare car.

Surely those titles mean more.


I guess qualifying 7th at spa in a jordon in your first F1 race was not great and no one noticed it!!


All the greats are taken down eventually.

At some point, a young driver is bound to come along and the torch is bound to be passed between the two great drivers.

But in this case, it happened in a very sad way.

I often wander, if it went that way because Senna didn't deserve to find himself in a position where someone eventually becomes more superior.

His choices didn't do him a favour. It was like you are the best at school and a new boy arrives who is so good at every subject.

He could'nt accept that pushed the car beyond the limits. If it was someone like Nigel, he would have finished second in Brazil 1994.

Because he knew he was better. But that wasn't necessarily the case.

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

I guess it was a mistake clicking on comments about this particular article. People are arguing over something that never ended up happening & somehow people are talking about what would’ve/could’ve/should’ve happened. Great way to celebrate the birthday of a great champion guy!!!!! Arguing over some hypothetical and maybe junks!!! Classic example of educated people can be illogical or foolish too.


Apples and pears, can't compare.


I don't know how a Schumacher-Senna rivalry would have turned out...it would have been wonderful to watch, though.

Carlos Eduardo Del Valle

But don't forget that the inexperienced Hill was able to take the battle to last corners of Adelaide in 1994. I think it is fair to say that the Senna Williams partnership would have given them at least three more titles (1994/6/7), due to the superiority of the FW cars.


but remember schumi was banned for three races, that hill won.

schumi's superiority was so huge that year, that makes you wonder if he was really driving with traction control.


Schumacher was disqualifed from 2 races and excluded from a further 2, i know this sounds a bit controversial but if he and Senna were closely competing with each other during 94, i dont think the F1 bosses would have been as harsh on Schumacher, purely down to keeping the season entertaining.


Carlos Eduardo Del Valle

Zami, what I mean is: there is no doubt that Senna was vastly superior to Hill, Coulthard and Jacques. I doubt anyone would dispute that. Thus, it is not unfair to say that Senna would be WDC those years. Please I'm not saying that Schu isn't great, but I think Senna would have beaten him in those magic pieces of FW machinery. If a car driven by Hill can face Schu until Adelaide, what if Senna was the driver? F1 is IF backwards, but that's part of the magic.


More likely 4 titles actually. The 95 Williams was superior to the Benetton but Hill and Coulthard fudged it up on many occasions.

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

And how did you figure that all out Carlos? I'd love to know your formula behind those 3 titles. I also suggest that you study the whole 1994 season very well as well. I was only 10 back then. Even I can tell this kinda crazy comments are insanely biased & hypothetical. It sounds like saying England would've won 5 world cup football championship if there was no Brazil, Argentina, Germany or Italy didn't play football.


We will never know. But 1994 didn't start well for Senna. He lost his old competitors (Prost, Piquet, Mansell). 1994 was the start of a new era and he was very much an 80s star.


A fair point - the James Dean syndrome. It was shaping up to be a hell of a battle with Schumacher

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

I had the feeling that we are going to read the comparison between Schumacher & Senna just looking at the title of this article. Not everyone’s prepared to forgive successful people in any profession unless the successful professional is dead or something tragic happens to him/her. Here we are arguing about the same old thing again. Some people think Alonso was treated unfairly in 2007 & some people think Hamilton wasn’t given any favours by the great Ron Dennis. Collision between Hill & Schumacher is the same kind of topic. Now we are arguing about Prost & Senna as well as who is better between Schumacher & Senna. As if anybody is going to change their opinion about these topics. Adrian Sutil or Sebastian Vettel’s numerous crazy moves aren’t discussed in terms of forgiveness or racing because they haven’t won any championship. Don’t reckon Sutil ever will anyway. However, Vettel is like the next biggest superstar champion going around & I like him too. Still in his short career he has caused a few dramas on track already. Lewis Hamilton lied in broad day light in Melbourne last year as well. There are countless examples about like this. Why do we need to bring up some useless and endless comparisons to celebrate a great champion’s birthday? I guess stupid rules in new 2010 season is encouraging people to watch or stew over the old stuff more than the races this season. Crickey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Thanks James for this heartfelt tribute to a very special person.


you explained it better than most, with just a few words.

For many of us, was like a member of your family, that you forgive anything wrong that he has done.


A very nice touch James.

F1 misses characters like Ayrton.


Amazing to think he would have been 50. For me he represented an era that rose F1 beyond just mere sport.

I find his personality fascinating - and am sure that some psychologist ought to do a study on it. I do wonder where exactly his intensity came from.

The race that gave the greatest insight to his character to my mind was Brazil 1991. His screams as he crossed the line are chilling - still not sure if its pain or jubilation (or perhaps both?). Any views James?


This moment is so immensely huge I get goosebumps every time I remember!


Thanks for the memories Ayrton. Happy Birthday, wherever you are.


50 - Hard to believe...

Senna was my childhood hero and, in just a few weeks, I'll be the age he was when he died - a strange thought indeed.

So many great memories but without doubt, my favourite is the only time I saw him race live, in Adelaide 1992. Directly in front of our seats, he threw one up the inside of Mansell at the hairpin on the first lap. This was at the height of Mansell's dominance, and this defiant move was thrilling. This grasp of the lead was fleeting - just a second or two - but it gave me a fantastic memory for life!!


The greatest articulator of driving an f1 car ever. Martin Brundle comes close.
Agree about Michael, but I think it was the cynical nature of his 'moments' that people find hard to forgive/forget.
Also really pleased to see that Williams still carry the double S on the car 16 years on from 94.


50 - hard to believe...

Senna was my childhood hero and in a few weeks I'll be the same age he was when he died - a strange thought indeed.

There are many great memories but my favourite is the only time I saw him race live - at Adelaide in 1992. Right in front of our grandstands, he threw a move up the inside of Mansell on the first lap. This was at the height of Mansell's dominance, and this act of defiance was inspiring. The grasp of the lead was fleeting - just a second or two - but provided me a memory that will last forever!


It was a tragic weekend that is indellible in the memory.

At least the legacy of that weekend and Ayrton was the large increase in safety that has resulted.

I remember reading about his legendary ability to provide feedback on the minutest detail to the engineers. What a talent, and what a loss..


His death changed the landscape of the World Drivers' Championship. We lost the standard that Schumacher's career should have been measured against.


My overriding memory of Senna was seeing him deliberately crash into the pit wall at the French GP, all to get pole position.

Of course that was a time before web forums, if it happened now the Piquet Jr Singapore crash would look tame by comparison, how things have changed.


I was in the grandstands that year (1991) watching this qualifying lap ! Great memory, that's what I call "giving it ALL" 🙂


I seem to remember him giving Rubens a tow down the straight in that same qualifying session.

One of the things that I find touching about the Prost Senna rivalry is how they realised that they completed each other after Prost retired. I think Prost was almost Senna's Raison d'être when it came to motor racing.

I remember telling my mum that he had died and being told off to saying such a wicked thing, she simply couldn't believe it was true.


i think you have that one wrong.


Happy B'day, Ayrton! I normally think hero worship is for kids, but I'll make an exception for you. There're a few achievements I find inspiring, to be the best and make the world a better place are surely among them. And you did both!


I have to say I disagree with most of the criticisms made about Senna's driving. Some incidents that have been spoken of like Portugal 1988 (with Prost), Brands Hatch 1985 (with Rosberg), Brazil 1986 (with Mansell) and Germany 1991 (Prost) were hard-fought duels, but tell me which one if any actually amounted to clearly "running somebody off the road" where he hadn't left someone a car's width when racing or anything which is frowned upon by modern standards?

I can't find one even like Hamilton's shove on Timo Glock at Monza in 08.

I don't think there is and I think many were unhappy with Senna because he seemed to upset the gentlemanliness of Grand Prix racing. I've watch right through the 80s and 90s on DVD and most guys don't even defend their position when being passed. It was almost like it was considered rude back then to hold somebody up if they were faster. Remember how upset Rosberg got at Mansell at Dallas 1984? But in reality I don't think Mansell ever moved twice or pushed anyone off. He was racing for position despite holding the others up. That's racing!

James, I'm not going to excuse Japan 1990 but I think people look upon that one differently to Schumacher's because the motivation was political as opposed to simply being unable to accept defeat. Schumacher's professional fouls were seen as cynical moves by someone "who knew what he was doing". Senna's attitude was "if he turns in on me that's his hard luck" which doesn't essentially amount to aiming to hit someone deliberately.


They didn't fight as hard in the 80's, because it was dangerous. Now most do it, because they can get away with it. So senna was the bravest at the time, willing to take the risk, the others just complained, because didn't want to take chances. For this, among other things, to me he was above the rest.Only mansell was in his league on bravery.


I think the fighting was harder in the 80's but fairer. Wheel to wheel at 200 mph, not giving an inch but not trying to run your opponent off the road.


Hi Paul

Where can i get DVD's to the old races, i was too young to watch them, i must have started watching in the mid/late 90's, i really want to watch the older races, especially Senna but i'm struggling to find them.





What shove of Hamilton on Glock? You mean when Hamilton eased over to defend his line.


It was in a fast curve and the race line is on the outside. ie where hamilton moved to.

The fact that Glock had his front wheel next to Hamilton's car doesn't mean that Hamilton can't defend the line.


I don't see it that way because Glock was already alongside and it was on the straight.


The greatest bar none. Fangio thought so too.


RIP Senna, a true hero!


Thank you for that tribute to Ayrton, James.

As you correctly judged, this is not the occasion to catalogue all his racing successes, but rather to celebrate him as an extraordinary man. I will never forget the impression of his amazing personality in his last interview with Murray Walker, in Brazil.


The reason why he is celebrsted is also because, as you say, he died young in a very public way. Of course that's just a part of it, the man had talent, speed and charisma by the bucketful.

Would he be as special if he time-travelled to 2010 though? What with the advances in fitness, diet, simulators, training?I certainly think he'd have to improve fitness and perhaps make fewer errors...


will Alonso be so special 40 years later?is Thomas Edison so special by todays knowledge standards?would you live now without Edison achievements?had Senna not crushed would all f1 drivers of this and the eras to come be alive?i can answer all of these questions...can you?


Senna was a driver who took focus and concentration to an unsurpassed level.

With the power of his mind he brought a mystical, shamanic quality to his driving...

And yet it was with his heart that he became a greater man. Adored by his fellow countrymen and loved for his charitable nature, his name still has resonance today.


It still saddens me greatly that Senna was taken from us. He was, in my opinion, the most talented driver ever to race in formula 1. I think the battles he would have had with Schumacher during the mid-90s would have been legendary. Given that Hill almost won the '94 title in the awkward Williams, I think Senna, had he lived, would have been world champion that year. I also think he would have exploited a clearly superior Williams in 1995 and won again. I've read various reports that he would have ended up at Ferrari one day, and would recommend to anybody Tom Rubython's excellent biography of Senna. Senna in a Ferrari, though, that would have been VERY special...


Oh dear fanboys, Schumacher won four races in a row while Senna was on the track and he wasn't even finishing the races.

I hate to say such thing on his birthday but had he lived, Shumi would not had been banned for four races to let Damon catch him up.


i don't really think that the reference of a f1 fan should be the statements about a taxi driver and since you are probably too young i dont really see it how you are able to compare something that never had the chance to live..anyway here is some free infos for you...first of all Hill was able to beat Schumacher only with the B revision of the car which came in the middle of the season..in the A car he was almost 2 secs behind Senna in every race although he was 3 years in Williams and Senna was racing for the very first time...secondly in no refueling era the one who makes fastest laps is the one who pushes in the last laps with fresh tyres...that can be anybody but the leader of the race since he is saving his car!!!!and now picture this and feel his GREATNESS...he was FASTER than Prost and Mansell in the same track in the EXACTLY same car without the electronic aids!!!!!!!!!

Imola 1992 Mansell:1.21.842

Imola 1993 Prost :1.22.070

Imola 1994 Senna : 1.21.548

he was the FASTEST driver of all times no matter what you say..this is history and no taxi driver OR Ferrari passenger aka Schumacher can change it!!!!


first of all it was just one race in brasil where senna dominated in a very bad williams and benneton cheated at refueling...in the second race hakkinen crashed senna at the first corner...third race senna dominated again going for a 2 stop strategy while schumacher for 3, thats why he was able to follow senna's pace..schumacher great but he will allways be in the shadow of Ayrton Senna


How do you prove that Benetton cheated?

You see footballers diving for penalty kicks "openly" and they are used to getting away with that not only in the eyes of the referees but also in the eyes of the public.

Dominated in a very bad Williams? The same car that a driver like Damon could beat Schumacher in certain races?

Senna was probably the best qualifier ever but Schumacher set fastest laps in those races.

You could say "could've, should've, would've" but didn't.

"schumacher great but he will allways be in the shadow of Ayrton Senna"

Again your entire post is made of assumptions.

But sadly, that won't be the case because, only "that" Senna generation and his die-hard fans would think that way.

Decades later, Schumacher will be considered as the reference of F1. It is already happening now. When you see a taxi driver driving fast, you say "Ohh he thinks he is the next Schumacher" You don't say Senna.


It might have turned Schumacher's career into being the constant number two. Imagine Senna being on top with the williams til 1997 and then switching to Ferrari. Maybe Schumacher could have give some fight back by joining McLaren, but he would never had the huge advantage of the FIArari (veto+80 million annual bonus)

Carlos Eduardo Del Valle

Ditto Mike Lea and PatrickL


Aryton for me my reason for getting into F1. My first F1 memory was with senna and mansell going within centimetres of one and other. Of course there was the battles with prost too, and how can you also forget the drvie at doddington in the rain.


I live here in Sao Paulo and it feels like National Senna Day.

The arguments about "who is the best" will rage and rage, and no-one will ever be right or wrong. Each driver can only compete in the machinery available at the time, and against those who happened to be on the track beside them... it is for this reason that we cannot mark Schumacher down for lack of competition, nor Senna up for the abundance of it, we cannot compare the reliability of the cars today to the fragility encountered by those such as Clark.

What I do know is that I cried for days when Senna died, and I'm not sure I could say the same had it been anyone else. A quite extraordinary man who committed to everything at full speed.. and it says something about the impact he had that we're still here talking about him getting on for 20 years after he left. Valeu Ayrton, obrigado por tudo!!


Tell us more about what is going on there today. Some pics would be good


i have no idea if this will work at all.. forgive me if it doesn't.. I am a lawyer, not a web expert person... but here goes...




If these don't work I apologise...


ok let's see...lots about in the media... most TV stations (and there are a lot here) are doing something or other for him... all the newspapers, websites and magazine sites have pieces on him... Big Brother is on at the moment over here and I believe something particular is going on today, though I'm not sure what, I don't watch..

The Senna Foundation has got kind of a big birthday card going on via Twitter... if your message contains #senna50 then it automatically gets posted onto the birthday site which is http://www.senna50.com.br

erm... plenty of people around the Morumbi Cemetery (although to be honest this isn't unusual)

Antonio Pizzonia has got a logo on the back of his car..

Corinthians, the football team he supported, will have banners and dedications to him at their game today...

stuff like that really... it's strange that in a city where he never really went away (main roads, tunnels, bridges etc are named after him) he is so at the forefront of people's minds today. It almost makes you feel sorry for Felipe, Rubens and the rest.. not to mention Bruno!

I don't know how to do pics like this, but will have a go when I get back from the run I'm about to go on.


Im making a Ayrton Senna documentary preview for my Media final major project.

James, shall i send you a copy of it when its done?


I simply do not understand why Senna is revered for his blatant misdemeanours, while Schumacher is derided, labelled a cheat and unsportsmanlike, for the two incidents referred to in the article, people assume he deliberately tried to take Villeneuve off in 1997, look at the footage, he was simply turning into the corner, whereas Monaco 2006 if that had been anyone else but Schumacher no one would have batted a eye lid, especially if it were a slow car. In my view Senna had a lot more to answer for than Schumacher did. Because Senna died so tragically most people's view of him is clouded in sentiment.

Carlos Eduardo Del Valle

I think the 1994 collison against Hill was the most outrageous, since he threw a crippled car against Hill's Williams. You can bet that every judgement that came afterwards was influenced by that Adelaide maneuver. In my view, 1997 is ugly, but not as ugly as Adelaide 1994. The expressions in the Williams's team faces as they realised the suspension bar wouldn't gonna make it are unforgettable.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

The best ever. Talented, charismatic, and a genius.

I still feel that we have not learned the full cause of him going off at Tamburello. No matter how many times I go over the official explanation that his car bottomed out on lap 7, I cannot accept it. Everything seems to point towards a broken steering column.

There are all sorts of rumours including the existence of missing video footage, but I fear that we will ever know the truth.


A complete legend, like others have mentioned I can remember exactly where I was when I found out Senna had died - and I was only 9 at the time.

Some fond memories of him include him and Mansell going down the main straight at Barca 91 at 200mph mere inches apart, setting the fastest lap at Donnington 93 by driving through the pit lane (and general domination of said race), punching Eddie Irvine at Japan 93 for the aforementioned daring to unlap himself, and how much of a spokesperson he was for the drivers safety.


A truly remarkable driver, taken away far too soon. Here is a Senna documentary (The Right to Win) that my fellow bloggers may enjoy - http://vimeo.com/1782537

Happy birthday Ayrton. Salute.


happy birthday ayrton..

found a nice documentary here: http://axisofoversteer.blogspot.com/2010/03/ayrton-senna.html


I still don't see how Senna's actions can be excused but Schumacher's actions aren't?


Senna admitted to his fouls, given the backdrop of his relationship with Prost and Balestre.

There's a video of the drivers meeting in Suzuka 1990.


Look at his reaction when the stewards reply to Piquet's question on missing a chicane...

Schumacher on the other hand, never admitted to deliberately committing any of the fouls he did during his career, placing a wall of spin on the incidents. Read James' book on Schumacher, and how he (MSC) handled that Racasse incident in 2006.


Because with Senna they were only a few exceptions.


What a legend senna is, i read somewhere that he gave about $80 million to charity but know one knew until after his death, true gentleman, on a sporting note i just wish he was around to have driven the william's cars of 96/97, he would of destroyed everyone, and 5 WDC does a bit more justice to his ability.


He trully was one of a kind. To this day, I am still shaken whenever I listen to the Victory Theme - other brazilians like me will most likely know what I'm talking about. Senna remains my hero, and I carry no illusions of him being a saint or perfect man, but his passion and determination are unmatched and incredible.


i just read that when professot watkins was checking senna at tamburello, he saw an austrian flag hidden in his coverall. The plan to take it out on the podium, to dedicate it to retzemberger. Does anybody know if this is true?


Ask Ron Dennis who was better, Senna or Prost and who do you think he'd say?

Senna was a one off, people like him seldom appear, just look at his poles in a time when pole really meat soemthing.

With respect to James Allen I don't think one can compare what Schumacher had done with his various cheat throughout his career with how Senna conducted himself.

What Schumacher did in Monaco (which he STILL won't admit) was the worst form of cheating I've seen in F1 by far and the opinions of former champions interviewed soon after showed just what they, bar none, thought of him and his cheating (maybe returning as he had he has a chance in showing the F1 world that he's grown up a better person).

Senna's style was, if there was a chance, to take it and in his day drivers had to pass slower cars (stupid rule if ever there was one with all this FIA blue flag rubbish - if faster cars had to pass slower cars on their own steam it'd at least give us some action) which he did in a way no other driver could.

Those that say Schumacher is the greatest F1 driver ever simply have simply never seen Senna.


Yeah but we must not forget how irresponsible it is to do something like that when you are a role model for many including Schumacher.

In fact Senna greatly influenced MS behaviour.

He sort of believed that it takes a real man to take someone out or win at all cost due to the fact that Senna did it and people love him.

Monaco parking? Come on we see footballers diving and winning with penalty kicks. 2002 world cup, England Vs Argentina was one example.

Video replay showed that the defender didn't actually hit Owen. Yet he didn't admit it and celebrated the win. The entire country loved it, the same people who hated Schumacher for 94 incident with Damon.


I think Renault take the cake for cheating, Frespeech.


Yeah, blocking a rival's quali lap is bad, but really, the worst form of cheating in the history of the sport? Worse than intentionally driving into a rival at 145+ mph, all to correct a perceived wrong? I suppose we have different ideas on life.

Senna's actions in 1990 must be seen as the worst action in the sport if any crediblity can exist. This is the only premeditated (that being key) action of its kind, and could have easily killed either driver. Any claims to justify it based on Balestre's bias, are simply not credible. Senna deserved better in '89, and Prost should have been punished, but I fail to see how anyone can truly believe Senna was justified for his actions.

Still, a true legend.


killing it's wrong, we all know that, but if someone killed his son's murderer? Wouldn't it be less wrong? That's what senna did, take matter's into his own hands, when justice was not served by the authority.

Schumacher on the other hand, did the wrong, without any provocation, just trying to get an unfair advantage.

To me there is a big difference.

Carlos Eduardo Del Valle

The 1990 collision was not premeditated to that point. He admitted that if Prost was on the outside, he wouldn't brake first. It was not like "I'll ram him the first chance I have", like many people are driven to think. Don't forget the grid position, which was the opposite of what it is today, with the pole on the dirty side, despite Senna's complaints at the time. Interistingly, I was reviewing Melbourne 2009 footage this week, and you can see that the 1990 Senna vs. Prost collision was not unusual, it was only a matter of the inside car not giving way. Check the Vettel vs. Kubica crash on YouTube.


Well, to be honest, I consider the sayings "If he's in front I won't brake," and "I'll ram him the first chance I have," to be one and the same.

I'm a huge fan of Senna, but the bias inherent in the vast majority of his fans has always troubled me. People have been excusing his actions for years, and excuses is all they'll ever be.

Senna was too proud to ever admit he did wrong. Even in the famous conference, he didn't explicitly admit fault, but simply laid the blame on Balestre. Many of his fans are following this same path.


Yeah if you look at the Senna vs Prost footage

it's obvious that it's Senna's fault (same as it was indeed Vettel's fault when he collided with Kubica), but it's hardly as blatant as the Schumacher fans seem to feel the need to make it out.

It's two cars going into a corner side by side and they collide, because both don't give way.


Exactly. Three podiums driving a crappy-toleman? Now that's something I doubt Schumacher could do.


i agree with crom, the victories in 1996 were first class in second class equipment. And what historic places, monza, spa, and the great in the wet at barcelona.


Who knows, but Schumacher's three victories in in 1996 in what was a truly dire Ferrari - that's pretty impressive


The BEST,no questions about it.The difference between him and the rest was huge.

For those who says that Prost was more intelligent or that he "nurse" the car better please search for what Prost said right after 1988 Belgian GP.

They were the very best 2 but Senna beat him fair and square,he was so much better than the rest of the field that in 89 he was about to be asked formally not to race in a couple of GP's in order to keep the championship alive.

He made a mistake in Susuka 89,it was a racing incident but did not deserve to be disqualified,the dictator Balestre manipulated the GP and the championship and he tried to do it again after Senna grap the pole for the 90's GP in Japan,and that is why he did what he did.

Just look for the video of the drivers meeting before 1990's Japan GP and you will realize that FIA did as much it could to disqualified him in 89.

RIP Master


Senna was truly exceptional and there were days that Senna did beat Prost fair and square. However, there were also many days that Prost beat Senna fair and square. This is something that Senna found very difficult to handle and this is what made their rivalry so intense and compelling to watch that we still talk about it 20yrs later.

I'm not sure what you are referring to with Senna being asked not to participate in some 1989 races as he was behind Prost in the points for the majority of the season? Senna won the championship in 1988 but only because of the best 11 results rule, Prost scored more points overall.


Which to me demonstrated the value of that best 11 results rule because Senna edged Prost that season for performance in most people's view.


Because he was so superior,after Mansell won in Rio Senna won 4 in a row,by a huge difference except for San Marino,then the car broke down 3 races in a row and that is why he was chasing Prost until the end of the season,he had a lot of mechanical problems that year,lot of them while he was leading the races(Canada,Monza).

Senna did not win in 88 because of the points system,he was the best,that was the system back in the days and drivers changed their strategies based on that system,had he needed to score more points he would have done it,no questions about it.


Happy Birthday Ayrton wherever you are.


I was at Donnington in 93 and it was cold and wet Williams lost out to a brilliant Senna. Warms the heart. He never was so obviously genius when he was in a GOOD car. Like Hamilton last year He won races.

Can we take time to remember one if the bravest things ever seen on a race track, Damon Hill getting back into the car for the restart, he didn't know what had gone wrong but he knew it was bad. To race hard in the same car takes a special breed of man.


I was lucky enough to be standing at the bottom of the Craner Curves at Donington - Senna was awesome that day...


everybody talks about donington, but when senna was asked about that race, he said it was a good one, but nothing compared to estoril in 1985. No traccion control, and the brutal turbo power. I was in estoril that day, and i was lucky enough to watch ayrton senna's first f1 victory live. We were just 25000 people at the track.


Thanks James. My heart still aches whenever I thought of Ayrton. He was THE F1 driver, a samurai character who fought for fairness when the FIA was biased. He had his flaws and that made him even more human. He had class, elegance and genuinely cared for people, especially children.

I saw him race at Macau when I just started watching motor racing. His drives were always magical, even in the most processional type of races. In the last 10 years or so, qualifying is not really about the fastest driver and no matter how many poles they got, it was no comparison to Ayrton's. There are just too many unbelievable qualifying laps.

Another thing is that he and his teams never had his teammate blocking others for him and gave him the lead. In fact, one example is that 1991 Japanese GP where it was a title deciding race between him and Mansell. He let Berger disappeared into the distance and raced with Mansell himself, albeit it was only 10 laps.

There are just too many examples of his race craft. You may say I am biased but I have not been touched by such extraordinary talent and passion in F1 since Ayrton.

He was there at the right time at the right place when F1 was competition among men controlling wild machineries.

Thank you Ayrton!


Roland Ratzenburger died the day before. The flag mentioned above was from the era when the lap of honour was always done with the winers national flag held by the driver. That would have been a great mark of respect by Senna on the podium, or even if he had not won, on the lap of honour.

One wonders whether Senna would have died in todays equipment, the HANS device and the ultra strong survival cells cockpit padding, driver side head restraint etc may have allowed him to survive.

Health and safety stopped the flags as obviously flags are lethal devices, but remember Mansel getting a lift back to the pits on a sidepod, this would cause massed coronaries nowadays, and yet it was better back then, there was scope for innovation, there were several seconds between the front and back of the grid, there was overtaking!!!


In all likelihood the HANS device would not have done much to save him, though who knows, the stronger helmets they have today might have, as might the wheel tethers, but it's all conjecture of course. He was desperately unlucky that the trajectory of the wheel came back at his head with a suspension arm flying.. it was this that killed him. Had the wheel missed his head he would have survived relatively unscathed. There is a quote in the Brazilian media today from Alain Prost in which he says that "some drivers are unlucky".. it's a shame, but true.


I can understand the adulation of Senna, even though I don't feel it myself - I reserve that kind of emotional investment in a driver for Schumacher (in fact, both of them!)

But I do feel that there is a huge imbalance in how Schumacher's been unfairly derided as a dastardly driver while Senna's been eulogised as a demi-god. I think that some of the basic flaws in human nature have played a part in which of the two has been more raised up in popular consciousness as a hero; Senna was movie star handsome, Michael, to be fair, isn't, and in fact has a harsh ruthless cut to his jib even when he's relaxed. Schumacher is German, which, let's be honest, is a nationality all-too-often associated with ruthlessness, a lack of humour, calculatedness and a lack of warmth, while Senna was of course Brazilian, in a world that treats the concept of Brazil almost like a brand whose values include warmth, happiness, passion, being the underdog, overcoming adversity etc.

Factor in Senna's deep religious convictions, which he often used to justify his on-track actions in the name of 'justice', and it's not difficult to see how a wide array of fans and non-fans alike could end up worshipping a religious, handsome, passionate Brazilian driver and not a superficially emotionless, harder-looking German who claims no higher power as a reason for his actions.

Perhaps this view places me in the minority, but come on - marketing men have for ages valued good looks above challenging looks, passion above alleged coldness, and all things Brazilian over anything German, with the probable exception of engineering, which is meant to be efficient and clinical anyway!

Had their nationalities and basic personalities been interchanged, then I believe that since their on-track actions were so often directly comparable, it would be the passionate, handsome Brazilian Miguel Schumacher who'd be now eulogised, while the cold, 'ruthless' German Adolphe Senna wouldn't...

Zobra Wambleska

I think the real difference between the two comes down to how they each played the game. Neither were/are saints and I for one find both behaviors on track to be unacceptable. Senna's transgressions came out of a sense of perceived injustice and hard but fair competition, something thought about and decided upon before the event. Michael's, to me, have been reactions to situations that caused him to react from his basic nature; that is, to win at any cost. There was no right or wrong for him. The calculations for Michael came more in the political arena of F1 and team dynamics and I feel that these choices may have given him the upper hand, but diminished his stature as a champion. His wins were orchestrated off the track as much as on the track.


Zobra, your Senna was just as ruthless as Schumi. It's utter nonsense to try and excuse Senna's dark side as being somehow ok because he felt persecuted. It's amazing to me how many people on this board have taken cheap shots at one great driver (Schumacher) on what should be a day of rememberance for another (Senna). Senna was great. That's about all that needs saying today. Leave your personal issues at the door.

Zobra Wambleska

I wasn't favoring one over the other, as I find both behaviors unacceptable, as I stated. In fact I have never been a fan of either for the very reasons we're discussing. I was simply noting the different approaches.


Good post, but if two old grannies get bashed over the head and their purses taken by two thugs, it doesn't matter if one of them perceived that she'd insulted him in the street 20 minutes earlier. They were both as ruthless and calculating as each other - in fact I would argue that Senna's questionable moves were utterly premeditated, whereas Michael's, eg Jerez 97, were pure red mist / spur of the moment type reactions...


Schumacher will never be a legend like Senna because he never,NEVER,allowed a top driver to be in his team,and the third class drivers he allowed were not allowed to get close to him.

These are FACTS.

Was Schumacher good in his best days?


How good was he compared to the other drivers?

We will never know.

The only champion he raced with was Piquet on his final races,when he was far far away from his best days,and it was even,Schumacher beat him in Monza and Spain,Piquet did it in Portugal and was ahead of him in Australia until the german went off,in Susuka Piquet started from the last row so we can't be sure about that one.

Not a very impressive record.

And for those who talks about that 7th postition in the grid on Schumacher's first race,please remember that De cesaris driving the same car lead the race until 10 laps to go,that car was not a dog.

Not a great record


Bones, if Senna were given the opportunity to have final word on who his teammates were he would have taken it in a minute. There is zero evidence to back up your position. Senna partnered with the drivers he did because he HAD to, not because he chose to. If you read anything about Senna, you would know that he was as ruthless as they come. To a person like Senna or Schumi, eliminating one variable (choosing your teammate) is just a sensible thing to do. Using the anniversary of Senna's death to slag off Schumacher is classless.


Was Prost who allowed him at Mclaren,true,but after the french left Senna did not care who the other driver was going to be,only Prost could beat him and everybody knew it.

I think that the only driver he would never allowed in his team was Piquet.


Even more difficult that beating team mates in the same car, is beating the best drivers of your era (Hakkinen, Alonso, Raikkonen anyone?) in an INFERIOR car. Which, let's face it, Michael did again and again and again and again etc

I was trying to make a different to the now tedious 'who's better' debate that will never be quenched. It was about how some basic elements like appearance, background and the perceived positives and negatives of respective nationalities might have contributed in some way to the relative perceptions of the two drivers years on from their last championships...

And to use the words 'not a great record' in relation to Schumacher is kinda daft.


senna was the greatest ...thanks james for putting in a nutshell what we all knew for years


The problem with 1990 is that he endangered Prost's life because of someone else - Balestre. That was not called for in my opinion.

Other than this, a greater driver never did walk this earth.


What of 89?

Prost on Senna?


Dear James

I really admire your knack for saying just enough -- not too much nor too little.

Keep it up!




Henry Carruthers

There was and always will be only one Ayrton Thanks James for reminding us that there was and will be only one Ayrton Senna - the excitement and passion he generated every time he drove was breathtaking. I will never forget watching that fateful day and Murray Walker's sombre commentary captured the moment.

A colleague used to marshall at the British GP in the 80's and talked about how the whole atmosphere around the track changed during Sennas qualifying lap - he said it "crackled" with excitment as he took every corner to the limit.

Don't forget either that Sennas Pole Position record was just about the last that Shumacher broke. Another testament to Sennas enduring brilliance.


"/some very human way it was a righting of wrongs/".

This sounds...err...uh...difficult to digest.

In 1989,Suzuka,I think Prost was way too late to close the door.And yes,it was not correct to penalize Senna there.

But we have seen on many occasions,before and after 1989,how Senna chopped across the road,for blocking.So then it would be fair to say that the 1989 title decider was also righting of wrongs?

It is very difficult to understand how people can tolerate weak(but very human,indeed) behaviour of a driver,that could drive circles around Prost,but decided not to fight ("...with your mind power and determination you can fly very high...") and prove that titles can be won even if there are balestres and other monsters around.I found that "lazyness" quite equal to parking the car in Rascasse.

Senna was such a talented driver,65 pole positions,race and championship victories are definitely great achievements,salute.

But just as we should remember his best races,I don´t think it is fair to soften or separate human weaknesses into categories(forgivable,unforgivable or whathever).

Ps.If I would be a journalist,I would use the same trick,talk about Schumacher,when it is the 50th anniversary of the birth of Ayrton Senna...


I wonder if Senna had lived, whether we'd revere him quite as much as we do?


he would be more or less, like schumacher.


nah...people would still like Senna a bit more, it's the charisma thing and the Senna-Prost rivalry. Schmarcher has a bunch of boring statistics and controversies, with Senna, besides controversies, you also have the drama of teammate battle and some inspiring/arrogant quotes which would become F1 folklore regardless.


It looks like Sennas car was as usual running very low and was tossed off course by grounding before the corner. The plank under the car was brought in to discourage this practice.
Seeing sparks at the last GP was a reminder of those days. It used to be every car every lap.


There's a theory that Williams radical anhedral rear wing is what made the FW16 so twitchy and unpredictable.

It seems that no one can confirm whether the steering column broke through fatigue or accident damage, which I must admit I find amazing - it should be obvious to any engineer.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Have a look at this. If it was the car bottoming because of low tyre pressures then why did Senna not crash on lap 6.

It seems very likely that the steering column broke off in Senna's hands before he hit the wall. Listen to what the legendary Mauro Forghieri says:




Happy Birthday Ayrton.

Touching tribute article James.

Such a shame we lost Senna in 94. Simply the best.

I dont want to lose focus on Ayrton, but the difference between Senna driving Prost off and Schumacher, is that Senna admitted to it, where as Schumacher parked his car in Monaco and pretended he couldnt get out. Form is temporary, class is permanent...

RIP Senna


I am totally with you, Malcolm. The press conferences of 1991 (especially the one for journalists) where he openly said what he did was wrong but it was his responses to the intense and sometimes unfair situations over the two previous years. People still say that he and Schumacher are the same and that is the biggest insult and misunderstanding.

Senna never resorted to cheating cars, contractually bounded teammates (saying no tho having Warwick was because of the team's resources. If it were MS, he would let Warwick or anyone else joined as long as they let him win), or dirty tactics.

For many of us, his qualifying records is still unbroken as he did not got them from yielding teammates or having a lighter car.


Oh dear, another desperate attempt from Senna fanboy.

Do you think he would say "Oh Warwick can't join because he was better." ??

Of course not. "Team resources" was just a lame excuse really.

In fact, Senna was massively favored by Honda, it was well document. These kind of drivers want to win more than they want to live. And that's mean they would take any unfair advantage get they can.

We had Mikka and Alonso had their teammates that let them pass. MS was NO different. A lot of what you stated were not facts. Only biased Senna fanboys would think MS was favoured unlike others Mikka or Alonso.

Oh yeah and don't forget that Senna was largely responsible for introducing the dirty driving. And MS followed the foot steps of his idol.


Here here, I hope that the race weekend in Melbourne doesn't pass by without some sort of tribute to Senna. Mind you the fact that within a week of what would have been his 50th birthday, Ayrton's nephew Bruno made his Grand Prix debut is very appropriate.

James, something I've always tried to find out is - how long was Senna's Williams contract for when he joined them in 1994? It may seem like a pointless question but it's something I've always been curious to know and no one seems to have the answer. Many Thanks.


Good question - don't remember but will find out


Thank you would be much appreciated!


From my memory it was 2 years with an option for a third


It's kindof a pointless excercise, but I think it's interesting to consider what might have been, and when you think Schumacher only beat Hill by 1 point in '94 it's highly likely Senna could have won a 4th World Title in '94 and the '95 Williams in Senna's hands would have been more than a match for Schumacher in the Benetton. And surely when Ferrari started to get itchy feet about the long wait since '79 for their next World Champion they would have turned to Senna rather than the man that in reality they did turn to. So they may have managed to lure Senna into a Ferrari for '96. I expect at this point Senna in his late 30's would be looking to end his career by finally bringing the World Title back to Maranello, a last hurrah in his career, the last big challenge with the sport's most famous team. I doubt he could have won the '96 World Title against the all conquering Williams', but maybe '97 or '98 would have been the year(s) he could have won it with Ferrari. And then retired, what a shame that the world was robbed of those final glorious years of Senna's career. Maybe Senna should have been the man to go down in history as Formula 1's first 7 times World Champion?


I am sure you are correct. I just finished reading "The Life of Ayrton Senna" and it was argued that if he survived, he could have won the 1994, 1995 and possibly championships with the types of cars Williams produced. It is also believed that the Ferrari contract offered to Schumacher in 1996 was previously on the table for Senna. Seems far fetched to me but believe what you will.


James, I think it was for 1 year only, but with an option to extend. He made no secret of the fact that he would take advantage of Williams winning form, but wanted to move to Ferrari for a career end. I'm pretty sure!?



There are lots of comparisons between Senna and Schumacher.

I am VERY grateful to have seen Senns and Schumacher and there are lots of what ifs if Senna had lived.

BUT I have seen the greatest driver ever (records) as have most of us on here - love him or hate him Scumacer is the greatest (and Im a Team Willy fan not a specific driver fan).


There are indeed tracks where starting from pole can be quite unfavourable even on the calendar today but it'll never be fixed


On that horrendous day at Imola, I was a 12 year old boy with no cares in the world, the previous day my father had told me a F1 driver had crashed and died, then the following day, he delivered the same message to me again. at the time being a kid, it didn't have the impact on me that it has had for the last 14 years of being a f1 anorak. I look back ashamed of how I failed to acknowledge how these men go out weekend after weekend risking their lives, to do what they love, just for those two hours, battle wheel to wheel to be the best. But I was a snot nosed 12 year old.

Now a 28 year old who has seen almost all of Senna's races, documentaries, countless books.... He is one of life's few heroes, once every now and then they come along in different form's and shapes, 50 years ago, one was born, Ayrton Da Silva, he went on to become a triple f1 world champion, but that wasn't just the person he was. Primarily he was one of those few people that battle for what is right and fair, and no matter how it is looked at, his life off thetravk was one of a great man, every year I contribute to the Senna foundation that he set up to help and educate homeless children in the slums of Brazil. I wear the S Senna t-shirts from the foundation, the senninha one's etc, and when someone asks about him, I give them a short but engaging review of the person he was. From helping on the track... (Eric Comas) to off the track. A great man, few have been seen, but knowing that people like that exist, should give us all hope.

Happy Birthday.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

James, I remember you talking once about being in awe of Senna after you saw him perform some type of "handbrake" turn at Spa.

Was it 1993 that you were talking about?


Apologies for the tewwible commentary by Jonathan Ross.


Yes, Spa in the aftermath of the Zanardi shunt in practice


50 years from now people will still remember him, he's deservedly one of the most legenday sportsmen of all time.


Statistics do not lie. Yes Senna was a great driver. Better than Michael may be...but in the years to come when first genaration Senna lovers cease to exist. One thing will remain and that is statistics. Numbers do not mislead! Michael's glory at the top of the list will only increase. The argument used for Senna to be greatest (if...scenario) could be used for a lot of other great racers i.e. gilles, jim clark. While Senna has my respect, but did Senna possess the ability to build a team around him ?! Something Michael mastered! Moreover, you must remember Senna and Michael backgrounds. Micheal had humble beginnings whereas Senna was pretty well off and could afford to go expensive racing. You need to analyze the whole story. In short, I wouldn't to sound rude, but Senna death made him into a leged...



George Best never played in the world cup, but he is still regarded as one of the best players ever. Many players who won one or more world cups have been long forgotten.

Many boxers have much better records than Muhammed Ali.

Statistically Schumacher is the most successful driver ever, but in years to come Senna will still be regarded by many as the greatest ever.

Senna embodies everything of legendary status. Schumacher just broke a lot of records.


Schumacher just broke a lot of records. You never really understaood my point. Fandoom would never let you! As F1 spreads into new territories, the first person the associate with it Michael Schumacher and not aryton senna. Like I said, no doubt senna was great driver. But please you cannot take anything away from Michael..if we go into ifs..Micheal would have ended up with about 9 championships...you need to remember facts. Senna did not heal aids ! When the first generation fans are not there anymore, statistics would prevail even more ! People in a lot countries would never know who senna is or was...but they for sure recognize Schumacher and his red helmet !


I was reluctant to respond at first as I felt that if someone started watching F1 when Ferrari was winning with MS, it is rather hard to have a discussion about F1 in a broader perspective.

I liked MS in 92 and 93 as he hard a fighting spirit even though he was still very green. However, the cheating car and fuel rig of 1994, the cheap shots at Damon Hill and Adelaide made it hard for some people to continue supporting him. Then, his Ferrari years of having yielding teammates (it does not matter whether it was Ferrari or his idea) and the assistance of FIA on numerous occasions really diminished what he achieved. His Qualifying records cannot be compared to records achieved in earlier era as it was not always the fastest car that was on pole in recent years.

While people are generally supporting the winners when they start watching a sport, that's why I understand many people who started watching F1 in the last 10 years think that MS is the best ever.

For me, Senna is one of the greatest F1 drivers not only of his skills, but also the impact he brought onto the sport. Having said that, I have to state that I also like many drivers across the 60 years of F1, not necessarily race winners or Champions like Moss, Alesi, Gilles Villeneuve, Rene Arnoux, Martin Brundle and so many others.


Unfortunately fandon has got to you, but I expected that before I even posted.

Once in a while drivers come along who transcend the sport, Senna, in F1, Ali in boxing, Don Bradman, Pele, in other sports.

It is these people who are long remembered, not for their records, but their impact on the sport.

You say that many people "for sure recognize Schumacher and his red helmet"

I can assure you that the Yellow helemt is considered far more iconic for fans of formula one.

I am not a particular fan of Senna, but Sennas charisma and impact on Formula one was far more than that of Schumachers and in years to come,. people will see Schumachers records, but Senna will forever be looked upon be most people as the greatest ever driver in the history of F1.

As for new territiries and people associating it only with Schumacher, again your hero worship has got in the way of the evidence.

The new territories as you put it, many people there are supporting the likes of Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel, etc, because they are the current superstars, but the people who go on to become fans of F1 and its history, for a majority, |Senna is looked upon as the greatest.

This post is irrelevant though, because it contradicts your beliefs, so you will never even consider any of its points.


Senna's ability to built and inspire a team? Look at Toleman, look at Lotus and what happened to De Angelis, look at McLaren and what happened to Prost. Look at how all those team managers, engine designers, engineers and pit crew regarded him.

Perhaps you need to find out what happened in Senna's times.



Did he we win consecutive 5 championships with them ?!


I just read two Senna quotes on another website and it struck me that we could possibly pay attention to them to improve today's racing.

On increasing technology: "The machines have taken away the character and it is the character that the sponsors and public are looking for. At the top, you have a few characters of conflicting personality; the rest, without good results, don't have any credibility. We must reduce costs so that we return to an era where the emphasis is on people not computers."

On computers in F1 cars: "I want to be challenged by my own limits and by someone who is made of the same skin and bone and where the difference is between brain and experience and adaptation to the course. I do not want to be challenged by someone else's computer. If I give 100% to my driving, which is my hobby as well as my profession, I can compete with with anyone, but not computers."


Senna was a hero of mine but that has to be contrasted with my massively partisan regard to Nigel Mansell.

Nice of you to mark his birthday James with such a fine tribute.

Like most people who were around at the time the shock of the death of Ratzenberger followed so closely by Senna was of tragic proportions.

I've re-watched some of my favourite battles between Mansell and Senna via youtube.

Wish we has those kinds of battles today AND turbo horsepower and marginal tyres!


The discussion about his incredible driving skills will go on and on. Regardless of your standpoint he burns so bright in people’s memory because of his talent and because of his human touch. Senna's character made him stand out from the rest at a time when there were already a number of stars in the field.

I don't think the human touch is completely missing from the latest generation of drivers but for sure corporate influence has put a reign on emotional outbursts. If I remember correctly Senna was part of the reason Schumi cried in front of the cameras. It is significant that Senna also touched so deeply those he fought against and beat. Surely that is the greatest sign of respect from his peers.

James points to his intellect and passion. I think he was also extremely articulate, able to paint a verbal picture of what it requires to complete at the highest level. Now it is a shame that drivers and team owners have to retire before we can get a more detailed insight what it’s like to live so close to the edge.

He was no saint. But then he wasn’t looking for others acceptance. He was humble.

I think if Schumacher had been more human (emotional) fans may be more willing to forgive.


Senna was a legend, truly. Even coming into the sport well after 1994, I understand what he did for it - he is one of the true myths of F1.

But lets not forget Ratzenburger, either. The two drivers should be remembered together, as they represent two ends of the spectrum of drivers. Ratzenburger was a older man (37, I think) who had been trying to get into F1, his dream, for so many years.

Eventually, after becoming a pay driver, he got to drive for a not overly good team. Then he was killed in the accident, but at all times, had never given up on driving in F1.

Senna was a legend, driving some of the best cars in the best way. He had the skills to be the best in the world, and I bet he dreamed about it too. Ratzenburger was not anything like that, but he had his dream which he was trying to make good upon.

So, here's to the dreamers. They're not so far apart.


What Senna did in Suzuka in 1990 was unforgiveable. You don't intentionally crash someone out in front of an entire field of cars. I lost all respect for him on that day. He should of been banned from the sport for a year.

Prost had him beat, I give Senna no credit for his 1990 WDC.


I agree. I thought that the punting off of Alain Prost at that race sent a terrible message throughout open-wheel motorsport that it was OK to punt your opponent off the track when it came down to the championship. That single unpunished action set the scene for further blatant moves like Michael Schumacher driving into Damon Hill at the last race of 1994. The loss of Schumacher's points for 1997 after he drove into Jacques Villeneuve was an action taken 7 years too late.

I lost most of my respect for Ayrton Senna after that incident. He eventually more or less admitted that he did it deliberately, but never properly apologized. The FIA should have taken away his championship at the very least. He may well have been the greatest driver of the last 50 years of Formula 1, but IMHO he was allowed to drive in a manner not befitting world-class motorsport on several occasions, including 1990.


Senna was a genius at the wheel, but the problem was that being the leading light of F1 instead of adopting and practicing good and sporting racing he bred a new kind of mentality in F1 which believed in driving people off the track or intimidating them by threatening to crash into them. The Press was fully to blame in not criticising him for these acts but lionising them so they became legitimate in the eyes of junior F1 drivers like Schumacher, who took this unsporting behaviour to the next unsavoury level.

That's the tragedy that F1's two greatest drivers of recent times have taken the sport down an dishonourable route. A far cry from Stirling Moss or Gilles Villeneuve.


In the end when we are all dead and gone, The History books will show that Prost won 4 and Senna won 3 WDC.

Thats something that Senna nor his fans can ever change.(So Senna could never say he was better than Prost)

No doubt when Prost dies great things will be said about him as well, and he will be looked upon in the same like as Senna?


Ok... I should be doing other far more important things right now.. so I shall try and keep this brief..

I don't want to upset anybody, or annoy anyone but his has turned, inevitably, into a deluge of Prost was better.. Schumacher's not great.. Schumacher is wonderful.. look at statistics, etc etc etc.. and a whole load of ifs, buts and maybes and I can't help but think that this isn't what it was supposed to be.

OK, Senna wasn't everyone's cup of tea, no driver ever is, but I think it's fair to say that whilst he was around, for far too brief a moment, he made the mad, bad and dangerous world of Formula 1 a much more exciting place to be, and the sport will always be the better for having had him in it.

*climbs down off soapbox and goes back to work*


Senna was better!:)

Seriously though lets just admire the great man.

Im an unabashed Senna fan, Prost etc are also greats. But none touched like Senna did, even if you didnt like F1, you listened when he spoke.

You FELT somthing. Could we say the same of Prost? Schumacher?


There is nothing in sport I can think so sad as that day at Imola.

I will never forget the scene after Estoril. Ayrton in that distinctive black of the John Player Special Lotus. What a pleasure it was to hear James Hunt on so many occasions to remark on Ayrton's driving or read his post grand prix report in the Telegraph on a monday. You could rely on Hunt to cut straight to the rub.


Senna was the greatest driver I can remember (F1 was so different in the days of Fangio, Clark etc, you just can't compare drivers).

Forget speculation about what might have happened, look at Donnington 93. He lapped everybody including the superior Williams of Prost and Hill.

Look at his test at Williams in 83. An F3 driver at the time with no experience in an F1 car. Within 40 laps he was nearly a second quicker than any of the Williams team, including reigning world champion Keke Rosberg.

One of the trademaks of the true greats is the ability to instantly adapt their driving style to suit the car (look at how far Schumacher was in front of Barichello when the Ferrari was not the best car, yet when the Ferrari was the class of the field, so didn't require the driver to compensate for it, Rubens was virtually as quick). Senna possesed this quality in abundance.

Prost deserved his title as the 'Prof'. He spent days testing, fine tuning, saving a few thousanths of a second here and there which all added up. He set the McLaren up to get the maximum he could from it. Compare that to Senna who just jumped in and drove it. If it oversteered on a particular corner he just adjusted his technique to suit.

Comparing Prost and Senna is difficult. Prost looked at the bigger picture, he was happy to consistantly collect points. He would plan his race for the full distance. Senna was an all out racer, second was never good enough.


Senna was the quintessential formula 1 driver, and champion. Mercurial, and temperamental to a fault, superstitious and lightning fast. That first lap in the wet at Donnington will always remain in my mind the absolute summit of F1 driving. Contemptuous, arrogant, and fearless, he backed down from no one. There are far too few drivers of his ilk. As a human being, he was generous, and charitable, and gave back to the community with great devotion. What more can I say. He is a hard act to follow for Bruno.


thank you james for reminding me how exciting it was to watch ayrton and alain battle. it seems ayrton was right, computers and technology are burying the human.


Senna was and is the greatest


The pressure is immense.You need everything you have,and you must lay it on the table.First qualifying,and then the race.You are looking for the best achievement you can possibly provide for your team and your fans.There can never be any deference to anyone.Ayrton knew anything less than total commitment would count him out of the championship,and he was there to win it.I also admire those with a more casual approach.They win championships too.But who in F1 history would you like to see at La Rascasse,Eau Rouge or the Variante Ascari?I saw Ayrton once.March 9-11,1990 was my brush with greatness.Phoenix,Arizona.All of the big four were there.The Saturday was wet.And on the Sunday Senna passed Alesi twice,on Jefferson Street,right in front of me.He never did much testing during the winter,preferring instead his time off with friends,rightly so.He was exausted,he had given his all.His fight with the FIA to keep his license,the fruitless battle for his Suzuka points.He regrouped that day,and set his eyes on a title he at least thought was stolen.He learned from the professor the year before how to win the championship,I guess he was guilty of not waiting until lap 46.


I always felt that what made Senna great was his unrivalled winning attitude and abillity to push the car beyond limits. He literally put everything on the line when he did so, many argue that Prost was the most complete driver, but I preferred Senna since he was more daring, which is what makes the sport so exciting and interested for all viewers. Senna was truly a great, his death unfortunate but his memory lives on brightly.


Senna`s strengths where qualifying (finding the perfect lap), overtaking and not losing anytime in traffic and in the wet he was simply on another level to his peers. His great weakness was "he was driving cars that where nowhere near as reliable as today's machines"!.

Prost`s great strength was managing tires with his beautiful smooth driving style and usually having the better rubber at the end of a race.

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