One name that triggers shivers through the spines of F1 drivers and fans alike!
Regarded as the greatest Formula One driver of all times, Ayrton Senna was a drivers driver. For me he is synonymous with pure racing. Just drive to be the fastest, to be Number 1. Nothing else. No other driver would actively involve in technical discussions with the team and plan every minute detail about the car, like Senna did. This zest to be the best & technical prowess only added to his unbeatable talent on the tracks. Even the drivers from other teams acknowledge that Senna had an uncanny ability to know which part of the track had the best grip. He was a fierce competitor. To quote the man himself
“By being a racing driver you are under risk all the time. By being a racing driver means you are racing with other people. And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, competing to win. And the main motivation to all of us is to compete for victory, it’s not to come 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th. I race to win”
Every race he was a part of, is a delight to watch. Thrilling moments guaranteed! From his mind numbing manoeuvres that won him record number of pole position, to his ruthless overtaking to win the podium: Breathtaking! It is tough to pick out a particular race as the most thrilling, because there are so many! Be it the Monaco Grand Prix of 1984 where he started at 13 and won the 2nd place, or the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix where he went on to win even after a crash, or the practice lap at Spa in 1992 where he risked his own life to jump out of his car and save Erik Comas who had crashed. Every race of his has its own story. But what can be called as a race that defines Senna and is incredibly thrilling, is the 1991 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Having won two world championships and many more accolades, Senna had never won an F1 race in his home country. That was to change on 21 March 1991, co incidentally, his Birthday.
What would have been a routine race with its share of memorable moments, took a dramatic twist 60 laps into the 67 lap race. The omnipresent clouds started to pour rain onto the tracks, making it greasy. But that did not stop Senna, in fact he thrived on the wet track. But then, his McLaren’s gearbox got jammed in 6th gear. A car powered by 1250 horses, stuck in 6th gear is essentially undriveable, leave alone on a wet track through the curves. But Senna was determined to win this for his countrymen and pushed beyond his physical limits, chewing away every corner and leading through the entire race, while stuck in 6th gear. After the race, his body was so physically spent that his hands were numb and stuck on the steering wheels. After being ‘extracted’ out of the car, he could not move properly or be touched. Later on the podium, he struggles to lift the Brazilian flag and the trophy, but still manages to hoist it up for a few seconds, dedicating the victory to his Country.
Senna later summarized it , saying “God gave me this race”.
This, for me is one of the most thrilling races I have ever watched. This is what F1 is all about, pushing boundaries to an extent where you have extracted everything there is to get. Years of research and resources are poured into cars to achieve half a second more. Every single part is refined over and over again to achieve greatness. F1 is not just about speed & stamina. For me, it is about determination, to achieve excellence of the highest order. Ayrton once said “On a given day, a given circumstance, you think you have a limit. And you then go for this limit and you touch this limit, and you think, ‘Okay, this is the limit.’ As soon as you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high.”
Senna, you are missed.
(watch the highlights of the race in this 03m 22s video)