Ayrton Senna was more than a race car driver. He was a poet behind the wheel, a relentless perfectionist, one of the fiercest competitors in any sport, ever. He was very religious and passionate, and tended to talk about racing in spiritual terms. He was maddening and exhilarating and a true champion. He was one of the best drivers of all time.
He died twenty years ago today at the Imola circuit in Italy, while leading the field in the San Marino Grand Prix. He was 34 years old.
Senna was (and is) a hero in his native Brazil. He drove for the Lotus, McLaren and Williams Formula 1 teams. There has not been a fatality in Formula 1 since his death in 1994. Tragically, the day before he died, another driver, Roland Ratzenberger, died in an accident during qualifying. Following Senna’s own accident, the rescue crew discovered an Austrian flag in his car, with which he apparently intended to honor Ratzenberger (who was Austrian) after the race.
I wrote about Senna recently, and I have had the pleasure of seeing his nephew, Bruno, race in both Formula 1 and the World Endurance Championship. I wrote about seeing Bruno’s car here. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I recommend the fabulous documentary Senna, as well as this very cool video, which features several of Senna’s quotes. I think Senna expressed, better than all of us, the joy and wonder of racing, of living life on the edge – and sometimes past it.
They don’t make racers like Senna anymore.