|Born||21 March 1960|
São Paulo, Brazil
|Died||1 May 1994 (aged 34)|
|Formula One World Championship career|
|Team(s)||Toleman, Team Lotus, McLaren, Williams|
|First Grand Prix||184 Brazilian Grand Prix|
|Career Points||610 (614)|
|Drivers' Championships||3 (1988), (1990), (1991)|
|Final Grand Prix||1994 San Marino Grand Prix|
Ayrton Senna da Silva (March 21, 1960 – May 1, 1994) was a Brazilian racing driver and three-time Formula One world champion. He was fatally injured in a crash while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. He was among the most dominant and successful Formula One drivers of the modern era and is considered by many as the greatest racing driver of all time.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Pre-Formula One[edit | edit source]
Senna started racing karts at Interlagos and entered a karting competition at the age of 13. He started his first race on pole position. Senna faced rivals who were some years older than him, but managed to lead most of the race before retiring after colliding with a rival. His father supported his son and Senna was soon managed by Lucio Pascal Gascon. Senna won the South American Kart Championship in 1977. He contested the Karting World Championship each year from 1978 to 1982, finishing runner-up in 1979 and 1980. He was the team-mate of Terry Fullerton in 1978, from whom Senna later felt was the rival he got the most satisfaction racing against.
In 1981, Senna moved to England to begin single-seater racing, winning the RAC and Townsend-Thoreson Formula Ford 1600 Championships that year with the Van Diemen team. Despite this, Senna initially did not believe he would continue in motorsport. At the end of the season, under pressure from his parents to take up a role in the family business, he returned to Brazil. Before leaving England however, Senna was offered a drive with a Formula Ford 2000 team for £10,000. Back in Brazil, he decided to take up this offer and returned to live in England. As Silva is a very common Brazilian name, he adopted his mother's maiden name, Senna. Senna went on to win the 1982 British and European Formula Ford 2000 championships under that surname.
In 1983, Senna drove in the British Formula Three Championship with the West Surrey Racing team. He dominated the first half of the season until Martin Brundle, driving a similar car for Eddie Jordan Racing, closed the gap in the second part of the championship. Senna won the title at the final round after a closely fought and, at times, acrimonious battle. In November that year, he triumphed at the inaugural Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix with Teddy Yip's Toyota powered Theodore Racing Team.
Formula One[edit | edit source]
1983[edit | edit source]
In 1983, Senna tested for Formula One teams Williams, McLaren, Brabham, and Toleman. Peter Warr of Lotus, Ron Dennis of McLaren, and Bernie Ecclestone of Brabham made offers for testing in 1984 and presented long-term contracts that tied Senna to driving later on. Neither Williams nor McLaren had a vacancy for the 1984 season. During his test for Williams at the 3.149-km (1.957-mi) Donington Park circuit, Senna completed 40 laps and was quicker than the other drivers, including Williams' reigning World Champion Keke Rosberg.
Senna's test for Brabham occurred at Paul Ricard in November 1983, and he set lap times two seconds slower than the team's lead driver, Nelson Piquet. Senna impressed the team and was linked to their second seat, however it was eventually shared by brothers Teo and Corrado Fabi. His only option was to join Toleman, a relatively new team, partnering Venezuelan Johnny Cecotto, a former Grand Prix motorcycle racing world champion.
1984[edit | edit source]
Senna made his debut at the Brazilian Grand Prix in Rio de Janeiro. He scored his first World Championship point in his second race at the South African Grand Prix with severe muscle spasms, replicating that result two weeks later at the Belgian Grand Prix. A combination of tyre issues and a fuel pressure problem resulted in his failure to qualify for the San Marino Grand Prix, the only time this happened during his career.Senna's best result of the season came at the Monaco Grand Prix, which was affected by heavy rain. Qualifying 13th on the grid, he made steady progress in climbing through the field, passing Niki Lauda for second on lap 19. He quickly began to cut the gap to race leader Alain Prost, but before he could attack Prost the race was stopped on lap 31 for safety reasons, as the rain had grown even heavier. At the time the race was stopped Senna was catching Prost at 4 seconds per lap.Senna finally passed Prost during the 32nd lap at the end of which the red flag was shown. However according to the rules, the positions counted were those from the last lap completed by every driver, lap 31, at which point Prost was still leading. Senna's second place was his first podium in Formula One, and his performances in rainy conditions became a hallmark of his career.
He took two more podium finishes that year—third at the British and Portuguese Grands Prix—and placed 9th in the Drivers Championship with 13 points overall. He did not take part in the Italian Grand Prix after he was suspended by Toleman for being in breach of his contract by signing for Lotus for 1985 without informing the Toleman team first.
1985[edit | edit source]
Senna was partnered in his first year at Lotus-Renault by Italian driver Elio de Angelis. At the second round of the season, the Portuguese Grand Prix, Senna took the first pole position of his Formula 1 career. He converted it into his first victory in the race, which was held in very wet conditions, winning by over a minute from Michele Alboreto.He would not finish in the points again until coming second at the Austrian Grand Prix, despite taking pole three more times in the intervening period. (His determination to take pole at the Monaco Grand Prix had infuriated Alboreto and Niki Lauda; Senna had set a fast time early and was accused of deliberately baulking the other drivers by running more laps than necessary, a charge he rejected.)Two more podiums followed in Holland and Italy, before Senna added his second victory, again in the wet, at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.Senna's relationship with De Angelis soured over the season, as both drivers demanded top driver status within Lotus and, after spending six years at the team, De Angelis departed for Brabham at the end of the year, convinced that Lotus were becoming focused around the Brazilian. Senna and De Angelis finished the season 4th and 5th respectively in the driver rankings, separated by five points. In terms of qualifying, however, Senna had begun to establish himself as the quickest in the field: his tally of seven poles that season was far more than that of any of the other drivers.
1986[edit | edit source]
De Angelis was replaced at Lotus by Scottish peer Johnny Dumfries after Senna vetoed Derek Warwick from joining the team, saying that Lotus were not able to run competitive cars for two top drivers at the same time. Senna later admitted "It was bad, bad. Until then I had a good relationship with Derek."Senna started the season well, coming second in Brazil and winning the Spanish Grand Prix by just 0.014s from Nigel Mansell—one of the closest finishes in Formula One history—to find himself leading the World Championship after two races.However, poor reliability, particularly in the second half of the season, saw him drift behind the Williams pairing of Mansell and Piquet, as well as eventual champion, Alain Prost. Nonetheless, Senna was once more the top qualifier, with eight poles, and he took a further six podium finishes that season, including another victory at the Detroit Grand Prix, and finished the season fourth in the driver's standings again, with 55 points.
After winning the Detroit Grand Prix, two days after Brazil was eliminated in 1986 World Cup, Senna asked a supporter for the Brazilian Flag and drove one lap waving the flag. Later on, he repeated that act every time he won a race.
1987[edit | edit source]
Lotus had a new engine deal in 1987, running the same Honda engines as Williams had used to win the previous year's Constructors' Championship, and with them came a new team-mate, 34 year-old Japanese driver, Satoru Nakajima. Senna started the season with mixed fortunes: a podium at the San Marino Grand Prix was tempered by controversy at the following race at Spa-Francorchamps, where he collided with Mansell and was confronted by the angered Englishman in the pits afterwards.Senna then won two races in a row: the ensuing Monaco Grand Prix (the first of his record six victories at the Principality) and the Detroit Grand Prix, his second victory in two years at the Michigan street circuit, to take the lead in the World Championship. As the championship wore on however, it became evident that the Williams cars had the advantage over the rest of the field, the gap between the Honda-engined teams made most obvious at the British Grand Prix where Mansell and Piquet lapped the Lotuses of Senna and Nakajima. Senna became dissatisfied with his chances at Lotus and at Monza it was announced that he would be joining McLaren for 1988.Senna finished the season strongly, coming second in the final two races in Japan and Australia, however post-race scrutineering at the final race found the brake ducts of his Lotus to be wider than permitted by the rules and he was disqualified, bringing his last and most successful season with Lotus to a sour end.Senna was classified third in the final standings, with 57 points, one pole position and six podium finishes. This season marked a turning point in Senna's career as, throughout the year, he built a deep relationship with Honda, a relationship which would pay big dividends, as McLaren had secured Williams' supply of Honda's V6 turbo engines for 1988.
1988[edit | edit source]
In 1988, thanks to the relationship he had built up with Honda throughout the 1987 season with Lotus, and with the approval of McLaren's number one driver and then-double world champion, Alain Prost, Senna joined the McLaren team.The foundation for a fierce competition between Senna and Prost was laid, culminating in a number of dramatic race incidents between the two over the next five years.At the 1988 Portuguese Grand Prix, Prost got away slightly faster than Senna at the start but the Brazilian dived into the first corner ahead. Prost responded and went to pass Senna at the end of the first lap. Senna swerved to block Prost, forcing the Frenchman nearly to run into the pitwall at 180 mph (290 km/h). Prost kept his foot down and soon edged Senna into the first corner and started pulling away fast. Though Prost was angered by Senna's manoeuvre, the Brazilian got away with a warning from the FIA. Senna would later apologize to Prost for the incident. Ultimately, the pair won 15 of 16 races in the McLaren MP4/4 in 1988 with Senna coming out on top, winning his first Formula One world championship title by taking 8 wins to Prost's 7 (Prost had scored more points over the season, but had to drop three 2nd places as only the 11 best scores counted).
1989[edit | edit source]
The following year, the rivalry between Senna and Prost intensified into battles on the track and a psychological war off it.Tension and mistrust between the two drivers increased when Senna overtook Prost at the restart of the San Marino Grand Prix, a move which Prost claimed violated a pre-race agreement. Senna took an early lead in the championship with victories in three of the first four races, but unreliability in Phoenix, Canada, France, Britain and Italy, together with collisions in Brazil and Portugal swung the title in Prost's favour.
Prost took the 1989 world title after a collision with Senna at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan, the penultimate race of the season, which Senna needed to win to remain in contention for the title. Senna had attempted an inside pass on Prost who turned into the corner and cut him off, with the two McLarens finishing up with their wheels interlocked in the Suzuka chicane escape road. Senna then got a push-start from marshals, pitted to replace the damaged nose of his car, and rejoined the race. He took the lead from the Benetton of Alessandro Nannini and went on to finish first, only to be disqualified by the FIA for cutting the chicane after the collision, and for crossing into the pit lane entry (not part of the track).A large fine and temporary suspension of his Super License followed in the winter of 1989 and an irate Senna engaged in a bitter war of words with the FIA and its then President Jean-Marie Balestre.Senna finished the season second with six wins and one second place. Prost left McLaren for rivals Ferrari for the following year.
1990[edit | edit source]
In 1990, Senna took a commanding lead in the championship with six wins, two second places and three thirds. His most memorable victories were at the opening round in Phoenix, in which he diced for the lead for several laps with a then-unknown Jean Alesi before coming out on top, and at Germany where he fought Benetton driver Alessandro Nannini throughout the race for the win. As the season reached its final quarter however, Alain Prost in his Ferrari rose to the challenge with five wins, including a crucial victory in Spain where he and teammate Nigel Mansell finished 1–2 for the Scuderia. Senna had gone out with a damaged radiator and the gap between Senna and Prost was now reduced to 11 points with two races remaining.
At the penultimate round of the Championship in Japan at Suzuka (the same circuit where Senna and Prost had their collision a year before), Senna took pole ahead of Prost. The pole position in Suzuka was on the right-hand, dirty side of the track. Prost's Ferrari made a better start and pulled ahead of Senna's McLaren. At the first turn Senna aggressively kept his line, while Prost turned in and the McLaren ploughed into the rear wheel of Prost's Ferrari at about 270 km/h (170 mph), putting both cars off the track, this time making Senna the Formula 1 world champion.A year later, after taking his third world championship, Senna explained to the press his actions of the previous year in Suzuka. He maintained that prior to qualifying fastest, he had sought and received assurances from race officials that pole position would be changed to the left-hand, clean side of the track, only to find this decision reversed by Jean-Marie Balestre after he had taken pole.Explaining the collision with Prost, Senna said that what he had wanted was to make clear he was not going to accept what he perceived as unfair decisions by Balestre, including his disqualification in 1989 and the pole position in 1990.Prost would later go on record slamming Senna's actions as "disgusting" and that he seriously considered retiring from the sport after that incident.
1991[edit | edit source]
Senna captured his third title in 1991, taking seven wins and staying largely clear of controversy. Prost, due to the downturn in performance at Ferrari, was no longer a serious competitor. Senna won the first four races, however by mid-season, Mansell in the more advanced Williams was able to put up a challenge. There were some memorable moments, such as at the Spanish Grand Prix when Senna and Mansell went wheel to wheel with only centimetres to spare, at over 320 km/h (200 mph) down the main straight, a race that the Briton eventually won. Quite a different spectacle was offered following Mansell's victory in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Senna's car had come to a halt on the final lap but he was not left stranded out on the circuit, as Mansell pulled over on his parade lap and allowed the Brazilian to ride on the Williams side-pod back to the pits.
Though Senna's consistency and the Williams' unreliability at the beginning of the season gave him an early advantage, Senna insisted that Honda step up their engine development program and demanded further improvements to the car before it was too late. These modifications enabled him to make a late season push and he managed to win three more races to secure the championship, which was settled for good in Japan (yet again) when Mansell, who needed to win, went off at the first corner while running third and beached his Williams-Renault into the gravel trap. Senna finished second, handing the victory to teammate Gerhard Berger at the last corner as a thank-you gesture for his support over the season.
1992[edit | edit source]
In 1992, Senna's determination to win manifested itself in dismay at McLaren's inability to challenge Williams' all-conquering FW14B car.McLaren's new car for the season had several shortcomings. There was delay in getting the new model running (it debuted in the third race of the season, the Brazilian Grand Prix) and in addition to lacking active suspension, the new car suffered from reliability issues, was unpredictable in fast corners, while its Honda V12 engine was no longer the most powerful on the circuit. Senna scored wins in Monaco, Hungary, and Italy that year. During qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, French driver Érik Comas crashed heavily and Senna was the first to arrive at the scene. He got out of his car and ran across the track to aid the Frenchman, disregarding his own safety in an effort to aid a fellow driver. He later went to visit Comas in hospital. Senna finished fourth overall in the championship, behind the Williams duo of Mansell and Patrese, and Benetton's Michael Schumacher.
1993[edit | edit source]
Questions about Senna's intentions for 1993 lingered throughout 1992, as he did not have a contract with any team by the end of the year. He felt the McLaren cars were less competitive than previously (especially after Honda bowed out of Formula 1 at the end of the 1992 season). Joining Williams alongside Prost (who had secured a drive for the team for 1993) became impossible, since Prost had a clause on his contract vetoing Senna as a team-mate, even though the Brazilian offered to drive for free. An infuriated Senna called Prost a coward in a press conference in Estoril. In December, Senna went to Phoenix, Arizona and tested Emerson Fittipaldi's Penske IndyCar. McLaren boss Ron Dennis meanwhile was trying to secure a supply of the dominant Renault V10 engine for 1993.When this deal fell through, McLaren was forced to take a customer supply of Ford V8 engines which were two specifications behind that of Ford's factory team, Benetton. McLaren hoped to make up for the inferior horsepower with mechanical sophistication, including an effective active suspension system. Dennis then finally persuaded Senna to return to McLaren. The Brazilian, however, agreed only to sign up for the first race in South Africa, where he would assess whether McLaren's equipment was competitive enough for him to put in a good season. After driving McLaren's 1993 car, Senna concluded that the new car had a surprising potential, albeit the engine was still down on power and would be no match for Prost's Williams Renault.Senna declined to sign a one-year contract but agreed to drive on a race-by-race basis, eventually staying for the year.
After finishing second in the opening race in South Africa,Senna won in changing conditions in Brazil and Donington. The latter has often been regarded as one of Senna's greatest victories.He was fifth at the first corner and led the race at the end of the first lap going on to lap the entire field in a race where up to seven pit stops were required by some drivers for rain or slick tyres.Senna then scored a second-place finish in Spain and a record-breaking sixth win at Monaco.After Monaco, the sixth race of the season, Senna unexpectedly led the championship from Prost in the Williams-Renault.As the season progressed, Prost and Damon Hill asserted the superiority of the Williams-Renault car, with Prost securing the drivers' championship while Hill moved up to second in the standings. Senna concluded the season and his McLaren career with two wins in Japan and Australia, finishing second overall in the championship.The penultimate race was noted for an incident where Jordan's rookie Eddie Irvine unlapped himself against Senna. The incensed Brazilian later appeared at Jordan's garage and after a lengthy and heated discussion, punched the Irishman in the face.
1994[edit | edit source]
Main Article: Ayrton Senna/1994 Season
The 1994 Formula One season was Ayrton's eleventh and last season in Formula One and his first for the Williams Team. In all three races he competed in before his death at the third; the San Marino Grand prix, he achieved pole position. At Imola, fighting to stay ahead of Schumacher, he crashed at the 190mph Tamburello corner. He should have walked away - several drivers before him had done so after accidents at the same place. But a suspension arm pierced his helmet and caused fatal head injuries. Senna's death at the age of 34 left behind memories of a multi-faceted and complex man who was so much more than a racing driver.
Helmet Design[edit | edit source]
In his karting days, Senna's helmet consisted of a plain white background with notable features absent. He experimented with several designs to satisfy him such as a white, yellow and green helmet before settling on a design that included a yellow background with a green stripe that surrounded the upper visor and a light metallic blue stripe surrounding the lower visor (both stripes are delineated in the other stripes color) that was first seen in 1979 with the design having been created by Sid Mosca who also painted helmets for Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet. According of Mosca, the blue and green stripes symbolised movement and aggression.
The helmet never had significant changes, apart from sponsorship. One such change that was Senna would occasionally alter the blue stripe to black. The tone of yellow changed a number of times, while usually a rich sunburst yellow, in 1985 and 1986 in some races he used a fluorescent neon yellow colour. In 1994 the helmet was a lighter, paler yellow to complement the blue and white of the Williams car. He used a number of helmet brands throughout his career. From 1984 to 1988 he used Bell, from 1990 to 1991 Honda's own Rheos brand, 1992 to 1993 he used Shoei and for 1994 he returned to using Bell.
Complete Formula One results[edit | edit source]
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)
‡ Half points awarded as less than 75% of race distance was completed.
† Driver did not finish the Grand Prix, but was classified as they completed over 90% of the race distance.