The greatest ever lap? New video of Senna on Monaco 1988 and a new book of his races
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 May 2014   |  11:24 pm GMT  |  126 comments

Twenty years after the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola and McLaren has issued a video of the great man talking about his incredible qualifying lap at the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest laps ever driven in Formula One, which resulted in Senna finishing over 1.4s ahead of nearest rival Alain Prost, the performance seemed to mystify even the Brazilian himself.

“I was kind of driving it by instinct,” he said of the lap. ” I was in a different dimension, I was in a tunnel, well beyond my conscious understanding. Some moments when I am actually driving just detach me completely from anything else.”

Watch the video below:

Also there is a sumptuous new book of all Senna’s races written by veteran F1 journalist Tony Dodgins, which has been published this week. It features photos of all periods of Senna’s career from his friend and supporter Keith Sutton and Tony has done a great job in falling the story of Senna’s stunning career.

Here is the blurb of the book:
“This definitive record of Ayrton Senna’s racing life provides detailed coverage of every single car race in which he competed, including Formula Ford, Formula 3 and Formula 1, in addition to one-off appearances and tests in other categories, such as the World Sports Car Championship and Indy Car. The engaging text features insightful new material drawn from interviews with many of Senna’s rivals and colleagues and is accompanied by a rich array of high-quality period photographs. This lavish book provides a fitting tribute to a Formula 1 legend whose legacy today extends far beyond the world of motor racing.

Page extent: 304pp, colour throughout
Illustration: 260 photographs, mainly colour
Word count: 110,000
Published by Evro Publishing Ltd (

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Mr.Allen, in your opinion, how do you think about Ayrton Senna?


The greatest ever


How do you mean by the greatest ever?


James, did drivers share telemetry in 1988 like today? One of the mclaren men says senna had a particular method changing gear with left hand into lowes hairpin, would prost then not have has access to this info and copied him?

Steven Pritchard

Would have been nice to see the lap itself rather than some pretentious artsy clip! 😛


“F1 should be about hard racing, pushing to the limit and fighting.”


Which wasn’t given a high profile when Pirelli came in a few years ago. They said it was great. I thought great that drivers were tip toeing around the track with the cheese tires year after year?

Great that the Hamilton’s of this world could not push to the limit providing that visual excitement?

Great that like Senna…we no longer see Hamilton dancing the car around the track steering with his rear axle?

But what I don’t understand is why this message is coming out now. Though I have a theory, it’s either because:

1) Mercedes are winning OR

2) Hamilton is winning

Here’s a hint to the answer:

Before the season:- Cerebral qualities we were told is needed to win in this formula. Certain drivers would be disadvantaged.

Now:- Cerebral qualities is not even mentioned anymore and not being credited to the ones that seem to make his tyres last longer PLUS save more fuel PLUS all while being faster than the rest.

What’s the world coming too? where is the justice?

Senna would have said Pirelli tyres no good for racing at the limit.

Schumacher said Pirelli tyres no good racing at the limit.

Funnily – I actually think they are now racing much more at the limit than the last 3 years because the Pirelli tires have hardened up.

Fuel consumption is not an issue – we’ve been told this by the teams already.

There’s also DRS – Senna would be turning in is grave because where before you had to be talented to overtake now you just press a button. It would have taken away Senna’s advantage, and today probably nerfs Hamilton the most.

In summary this year is much better than the last 3 years which was all Pirelli Pirelli Pirelli.


I see that too…….

The cars look better than ever, the racing between teammates closer than ever. (the Merc and Ferrari make Senna’s Macca look like a box)

The racing is better even the sound gets a decent growl out of my sub when turned up.

But many are still not satisfied……


Three words:





It’s the “greatest” because the differential between him and an all-time great like Prost was so large. The problem with comparisons for Schumi is that Schumi never had an all-time great for a teammate. For Vettel, the same. I’m sure one can find examples of one teammate out qualifying another by 1.4secs, but are they comparing anyone to the quality of Prost?


Senna’s biggest fan really was Senna.


I saw this video the other day. It was an incredible lap. I am still stunned by the first lap at Donnington in 1993.

I saw Senna once, in Montreal in 1993. He started 8th, and was 3rd after about 3 laps. Stunning passes at the hairpin on the V12 Ferraris of Alesi and Berger.

Would have loved to watch him fight Schumacher. That was a great loss.


RIP, Ayrton

I was wondering in the this new F1 era where there are so many regulations and restrictions, where races are managed by the engineers and drivers cannot push to the limit and beyond, are we going to see any “the greatest ever lap” once more by any of these brilliant drivers like LH, FA, SV, KR, …?

When I’m thinking about it, one of the major contributor factor to the F1 popularity mostly is the way the drivers were racing in the past beside the raw power of the cars and technology.

“You are competing to win, and if you no longer go for a gap, you are no longer a racing driver”. Senna told former F1 champion Jackie Stewart.

“You must understand,” said the Honda engineer. “To them, you are The Professor [Prost]. But he [Senna], he is the Samurai.”.


Alain Prost’s tribute to his nemesis is a fascinating read:


Kimi’s lap at Monaco 2005 was quite something. 1 second faster than Montoya and the best part was Alonso thought that he’s lap was not going to be beaten (by half a second!)

H.Guderian (ALO fan)

And now, Kimi is being beaten by Alonso by *ONE SECOND* in the same car. Funny, isn’t it???


Senna pulled out some wonderful committed pole laps.

I do think people get into a touch of hysteria about this one due to Senna’s trance comments as if it was other worldly. Reality is ever car has a physical, mechanical limit around every corner and Senna nailed this one on the limit of the car. You can’t go ‘beyond the limit’ without spinning or hitting the wall hence the definition of limit!

kenneth chapman

@ paul D… a sensible approach which is totally defensible.


Surely Senna’s first lap of Donnington 1993 was the best ever.

German Samurai

He had an electronics package far superior to the opposition. This gave him a great advantage in the wet.

Schumacher in the Benetton was powerless as he didn’t have traction control, no semi-automatic gearbox, no active suspension.


Benetton Ford B193 : “The car was very advanced in the technological sense and featured active suspension, a semi-automatic transmission and traction control from the Monaco Grand Prix onwards “


This anniversary has definitely rekindled a lot of nostalgia and love for F1 that I struggle with in todays format. Its a completely different sport from what it is now and I feel we have definitely lost that something special in it.


We all know he was a great driver but… there are honourable ways of winning. I still remember the darker side and things that he did that were questionable. I also remember donning ton in the rain though where he was outstanding. I mean in another league. As for Monaco and the Mansell defence. Mansell was so much faster in the Williams and defending at Monaco is not the most difficult track in the world.

kenneth chapman

how can it be the ‘greatest lap ever’?

Fernando "150%" Alonso

@kenneth! We got your point man! Stop it!

kenneth chapman

@ fernando etc etc etc….as far as i am aware this site is open to all and if i receive a query then i will have the good manners to answer it whenever possible.


It’s surely a contender? Obviously there is no footage, but the result relative to his team mate – the great Alain Prost no less – was astounding and still is. For me Senna’s first lap at Donnington is up there for driver skill as is the last lap in Brazil ’08 for drama. It depends what you would use as your measure of ‘great’. The greatest race is not necessarily the one they finish the quickest!


McLaren released a video of the Senna ‘Talking’ about his lap.

None of you have been deceived. Just read it properly


So… where is the video of the lap?


There is no footage of the best lap in F1 history, the only onboard camera that weekend in Monaco was attached to the Lotus 100T. F1 coverage back then was terrible at best and I find it a travesty we won’t ever see Ayrton sawing at the wheel as he drove ‘that’ lap. I can’t even find trackside footage from qualifying…

PS The footage you see in the film Senna etc is actually footage from 1989 etc spliced to fit the profile



The mistique on that lap is great and actually contributes to the legend of Senna and Formula 1 itself.

But the fact is, there is no footage.

One could argue that Keke Rosberg’s lap around (old) Silverstone in 1985 was equually daunting. Or Lauda at the Nurburgring in 1975. Or…

It is great to remember great champions but sometimes things are blown out of proportion.


Shows what can be achieved when a supreme talent has as great car in which he has supreme confidence.


What a waste of mobile bandwidth – its just an actor putting on a Senna helmet & overalls.


Greatest ever lap? That is a very big call. We will never know the greatest ever lap, but of course it is great to discuss.

Senna’s quali lap at Monaco was certainly a great one, but I would pull short of lofting to the top of the pile until I have seen all the candidates.

With that in mind I would love to see links to some other great single laps in F1.


Goose bumps…James i think this is the perfect lap you were posting about


Just look at the Marlboro McLaren in the picture above. That was a clean simple car, front wing, back wing, and bloody great tires and gobs of downforce. A sweet looking car without all the gee gaws we have today sprouting out of every where on the car. Probably has a 1000 hp and a hoot to drive and watch.

To bad we have gone down the road we are on today.


yeah so much downforce they have learnt nothing since!

Get serious.

all those little bits you complain about are all there to maximising downforce. That is why they can go faster these days. All that see-sawing at the wheel was about snatching little bits of grip here and there when available. Today’s downforce means a fast lap can be driven very smoothly.


It’s really incredible to qualify ahead of your teammate by 1 second at any track. It’s even more incredible to do so at a track like Monaco and what’s even more amazing is beating a champion teammate in Prost who knew his way around the track with 4 wins to his name.

Yes, I recall Lewis being asked if there was one question he would ask Senna that would be how he was able to qualify over 1 second ahead of the rest at Monaco.

As usual it was a shame Mclaren were able to once again shoot themselves in the foot by asking Senna to come out of the zone when they told him to slow down which in turn lead to his lose of concentration and subsequent crash out of the race >>> but oh well, that’s racing for you.

Actually, this lap has made me look forward to the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix qualifying >>> it’s going to be so much fun seeing Lewis going toe to toe with Vettel in equal cars (surely Rosberg won’t be on pole this year)


Goferet, unfortunately I haven’t got Sky, so I will miss live coverage of this years Monaco qualifying – but you are right, it should be a mighty battle for the important pole position/front row start of the year! You’re also right about Nico Ros; the way he is getting kicked in the gonads by Lewis (metaphorically speaking) he will do well to be within half a second of Lewis in qualifying. Prove me wrong Nico, prove me wrong!

As for Senna at Monaco, I wonder if his early apex technique was more conducive to a faster qualifying time, especially Monaco? Professor Prost used less rotational mass than Ayrton, that is well known, so that could be part of the reason for his massive advantage over the little Frenchman.


@ Gaz Boy

M8, how about watching quali from a pub.

It’s not to be missed, I reckon.


I’m not a fan of Rupert, but I will listen to a certain radio show on the BBC fronted by a certain Mr James Allen for that session!

To be honest, the race, if dry, will probably be processional……….but if it rains on the other hand………..remember 1996 or 2008?


The two most memorable races of Senna were the drenched race at Monaco when he wringed the Toleman and should have won from Prost if the race was not stopped, I still feel there’s a racial element involved. In fact Prost looked so stunned during podium ceremony that it showed obviously on his facial expression. Then the fight he had to put up with Mansell also at Monaco, brilliant defense all the way and Senna could not even lift the trophy up while Mansell needed assistance to get on the podium. Year after year we follow F1 hoping to catch races we can talk about for years to come. Well I guess it’s a gamble fans have to take too and I’ll keep watching even though this season is lack lustre. Something good and thrilling might just happen, you never know. The closest we had was at Bahrain between Lewis and Nico.


now that’s my favourite!


Bellof was catching both of them at the time, so his Tyrrell could well have won (before the team were thrown out of the championship).

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