Only arch-rival Alain Prost exhibited the same interest in the inner workings of his machinery, and Senna’s ability to relate to his engineers precise technical feedback, not just from individual laps in different races on different circuits but, even more incredibly, in different years, has long passed into legend. That, and his innate speed and the willingness to push to the point where, at times, even he admitted that he felt as if he was having out-of-body experiences as a warning to ease back, made Senna almost irresistible.
Ayrton Senna’s tactics often bordered on the reckless, sometimes worse than that. As his teammate at McLaren in 1988 Prost discovered that winning meant everything to Senna when he was almost forced into the pit wall at Estoril at more than 180 mph. In Japan in 1990 Senna’s frustration at losing the title to Prost the previous year finally bubbled over as he deliberately rammed the Frenchman’s Ferrari out of the Japanese Grand Prix, and thereby recovered the crown he regarded as a birthright.
Ruthless and frequently misunderstood, Senna often did his best to hide a softer, highly emotional and compassionate side behind a self-constructed shell of aloofness and aggression. Yet this was the man who wept for Roland Ratzenberger and who, on the day of his own death, planned in victory to wave the Austrian flag as a tribute to his fallen contemporary.
Date of birth: March 21, 1960 – Sao Paulo, Brazil
Date of death: May 1, 1994 – Bologna, Italy