Some say he was the greatest Formula 1 racer of his time, some say he was the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time, while some go a step ahead and say he was a saint, the greatest sports person of all time. And going by his funeral procession in his hometown in Brazil, which saw millions of people flocked to bid him a final goodbye, we can easily accept all the above sayings.
But the sayings and words alone, can't define the heroics of a person, facts also does. A total of three World championship titles, 41 grand prix wins, and 65 pole positions, all this in mere 162 grand prix entries, do say a lot about the magnanimous personality of Ayrton Senna. This late Brazilian driver was the last of the F1 driver to die in a car accident, and left a huge impact among the upcoming crop of the drivers.
Born on 21 March 1960 to a wealthy Brazilian family, Ayrton Senna da Silva never faced the problem of money, as many other racers do. That being said, he was interested in Motorsports from a very young age of four years, after he got his hands on a miniature go-kart, his father gave him. And, Senna didn't take much time to show his skills, as he did his first professional kart race when he was 13 years old, and won the race.
Senna raced for another eight years in various kart series before moving to single-seater racing in Britain, where in three years he won five championships. Senna's big day came in 1984, when he debuted in Formula 1 with Toleman in 1984, racing in front of his home crowd in Brazil. Although he finished 17th in the race, and couldn't score much of the point in the rest of the season, his season best was the race in Monaco, where he came a sensational second to Alain Prost's McLaren.
But Senna has bigger dreams, to win the races and be a champion, and Toleman's limited resources were inadequate for his towering ambition. So he bought out his contract and moved to Lotus in 1985, for whom he raced for three seasons and started from the pole 16 times before moving onto McLaren in the 1988 season. It was this six year long stint at McLaren, where Senna proved his worth and won three world championships with 35 races win.
Back in the days, McLaren and Honda had a successful collaboration (which they again are taking forward from 2015 season) to a tune that, in 1988, they won 15 of the 16 races. This was also the maiden championship win for Senna who won eight races, beating his team mate Alain Prost. And hence started the Senna-Prost Feud! Senna won his second title in 1990 and third in 1991, only to dominate the F1 circuit. In 1994, he moved to Williams, the team with whom, he took his last breath.
As we said earlier, records only doesn't make a man great, the person himself does i.e. the personality of a person makes him great. Like most of the F1 drivers, he was not too huge in size, but possessed a powerful physical presence. At the press conferences, when he used to speak, all the sounds would go mum, like he hypnotized everyone to listen to him.
As much Senna was calm and composed of the track, he used to act as a possessed man behind the wheel. His teammate, Alain Prost, openly criticized him for being too ambitious, to a level that he cared only for his win, rather than living. Even Senna admitted that he pushed himself to dangerous levels sometimes.
One evident example came during his maiden grand prix championship winning season, 1988, when during the qualifying session of the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, he pushed himself to a different dimension altogether. Even after realizing that he will achieve pole, he went faster and faster and was eventually over two seconds quicker than Prost in an identical McLaren. "Suddenly, it frightened me," Ayrton said, "because I realised I was well beyond my conscious understanding. I drove back slowly to the pits and did not go out anymore that day."
"For me, this research is fascinating. Every time I push, I find something more, again and again. But there is a contradiction. The same moment that you become the fastest, you are enormously fragile. Because in a split-second, it can be gone. All of it. These two extremes contribute to knowing yourself, deeper and deeper," said Senna, who used driving as a mean of self discovery.
Senna was a multifaceted personality and used the fear of mortality to stop himself from pushing the boundaries. People were awestruck with his personality and his intellectual level. His last race was at the Imola circuit on 1st May 1994 in the Williams car. Millions saw his death on television and he left a void among the people he touched during his short but meaningful life.
He donated an estimate of $400 million to underprivileged children in Brazil and this is the reason, his funeral ceremony was one of the biggest procession in the world. Almost anyone and everyone attended his funeral and among the several drivers escorting the coffin was Alain Prost and his team boss and owner of William, Frank Williams, who said: "Ayrton was no ordinary person. He was actually a greater man out of the car than in it."
Senna was so content with life that he used to cherish every moment he lived, "I want to live fully, very intensely. I would never want to live partially, suffering from illness or injury. If I ever happen to have an accident that eventually costs my life, I hope it happens in one instant." This was his way of living and thinking about life in such a young age, when many still search the meaning of their life.
Senna might not hold a very impressive record like some of other bigwigs of the racing arena, nor did he shatter many records. But, what he achieved in his short life was, the respect. His mysterious life, his way of living, his words, his persona, his charisma, charmed many and so did his death left many shattered. But he is still alive in the Formula one arena, with a head held high. We salute to such a great personality.
Story Source: Formula1.com