What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to flame)

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What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to flame)

Post by ecstatistician » Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:31 pm

Firstly, this is a really long post, I don't expect many people to read it in its entirety so I have put in blue and italics the parts that get to the crux of the post.

Been a long time stalker of this site, have never posted because any question I have had I used the search function first, and sure enough it had been asked before and answered in its entirety, such is the utility of the users to this site. (I actually signed up about a year ago or so, and such is the depth of this site that whenever I had a question I didn't need to sign in and post it, because the search function always answered it. I actually forgot my username, is it possible to recover this?) My background is nothing technically relevant to F1(background is psychology.)

I have followed F1 for a long long time, but only recently (maybe last 6 years) have I had the passion to understand the technical side of F1 to its true magnitude, and this site has been invaluable for that. So I thank you.

So my girlfriend, who has a mild interest in F1, but is more into MotoGP, posed this question to me. Why was Ayrton Senna so important to you? Why not Alan Jones, or Prost, or Schumacher, or Hakkinen, or Alonso? Why Senna?
The answer for me is simple, its because of Adelaide, and I'll share (copy + paste) the answer I said below (was somehow compelled to write it down). Again, the crux will be in bold, if you're bored, interested, really high, then by all means read it in its entirety.

My first real hero, like any boy I guess, was my Dad. I remember him coming home from working 12 hour shifts in fern green matching long sleeve top and slacks, fresh because miners showered before leaving the site. And wanting to work as hard as him. It didn’t matter in what, and I would do mock jobs of whatever just to fool myself into the strangely enticing feeling of having worked hard on something that earned you the right to be tired. Digging holes in the backyard and pretending I was actually building something. Moving crate fulls of empty glass bottles from one back corner of the yard to the other. Why these were kept I still do not know. Or even creating small bmx bike tracks around an insignificant part of the backyard, and riding it over and over and over until I was exhausted. This would later possibly be the source of my interest in motorsports, or racing in general.

But my first sporting hero ever was Ayrton Senna. I remember as kids, living in Eyre St my two brothers and I shared a room, but I was only small then,maybe 3 or 4, and my memories can be counted with both hands, maybe even room to spare. Then we moved to McGowen St, and my oldest brother and I shared a room. Around this time, late 80′s or maybe 1990, F1 was really beginning to take off (as I would only find out many years late), but as a small kid from Broken Hill, Australia, I knew nothing of this, or of championships and world wide series, of FIA and politics or aerodynamics. Not even tire wear or fuel consumption. All I knew was that once a year in Adelaide there was a race of these cars that looked so radical from anything I had ever seen[/b], the only place I really knew for sure existed outside of Broken Hill. And that every year that I have memory there was one driver that dominated this race. Ayrton Senna.
I remember that leading up to what was more than likely the 1991 season, there was a middle page poster of Ayrton Senna in his day-glow Malboro sponsored McLaren in the Adelaide paper, which we received. Number 1 emblazoned on his nose cone, a fact I would later learn meant he had won the drivers world championship the year before. My brother stuck this poster on our wall, because being much older, he understood the significance of such an athlete, and was a racing fan as well. But you didn’t have to be an F1 fan to understand this, much like you do not need to know much about basketball to understand the magnitude of two words, Michael Jordan.
But he put that poster up on our wall, and I would wake up every day seeing it, and naively fantasising about driving around Adelaide in this white and fluoro red car, not even understanding there were other tracks that counted towards a championship. But I looked forward to that one day a year when the Adelaide Grand Prix was on. I’d draw race cars in my spare time, constantly debating how to draw what would later be not so intricate details of an engine.

My grandparents had little trikes. The old school type with metal everything, including wheels. But instead of sitting and pedalling, I would stand on the rear axle and push, like a scooter, and like many kids did I would imagine. After all, you could go a whole lot faster, and kids aren’t risk obverse, in fact usually opposite. I would set up little tracks and belt around them. And then I discovered an old lawnmower that was no longer used, but had two rubber wheels with plastic spokes, and this was even more realistic so I was determined to fit them onto my trike, and even at that age I did. With a screw driver and a hammer I knocked off the caps from the axle, fitted the tyre, then hammered the metal reverse barbed caps back on. With this new found accessory I could even simulate realistic pit stops, provided I had a supply of these wheels. The only thing was that the lateral forces applied to these cheap plastic rims while cornering, and especially when standing on the rear axle and ‘scooting,’ would sooner rather than later just break the plastic spokes acting as a rim. So my grandfather was on a constant mission for old lawnmowers, trikes (of which I amassed plenty) or wheel barrows to salvage the wheels.
I would do this for hours, and days.

I don’t even remember when he died. I didn’t find out for a long long time after it happened. Adelaide was the last race of the season, and the only race I was able to watch. With no internet, a media that had no interest, and no way to source the information, I was unaware of anything to do with F1 outside of the Adelaide race. That year 1994, the year of Sennas death, I was 10 years old. I watched the warm up to the race, expecting to see that yellow with green stripe helmet sat in the familiar red and white colours of the McLaren on the front row, waiting for the start, not even understanding that he had signed and driven for Williams Renault that year. But two McLarens were there, none with a Yellow and green helmet. The championship that year had come down to the last race, and only one point separated Michael Schumacher in the Benneton and Damon Hill in the Williams (who was Sennas teammate), and as Senna had died in the 3rd race of the season, and this being the last and the decider for the championship, nothing of Senna was said pre race, or nothing that I can remember.
Then the race finished, Schumacher and Hill had crashed giving Michael his first championship, and Hill only denied because the incident left him with a broken front suspension and unable to complete another lap. Then the commentator explaining how remiss it would be of him to not mention the likelihood of Ayrton Senna being champion if he had not died, and Schumacher saying just as much. I was shocked, devastated, but I didn’t cry. I got on my own personal McLaren trike out the back of my grandparents and turned lap after lap of my own self designed, in some parts imaginary track. And the satisfaction was hitting each apex and the addition of the rubber tyres I had fitted leaving black marks around each corner, just like the F1 cars on tv. And the more black marks, the more in unison congruent with the racing line around each corner, the more satisfaction. The escape from those feelings while being more close to the idea seemed to sum up what mourning was all about. Forget the death while acting out the very things that made you love them in the first place. Forgetting through indulgence. Healing through immersion.

That’s what Ayrton Senna da Silva meant to me. 20 years ago to this day he crashed at the Tamburello corner of the Imola race track, in San Marino, Italy, abruptly ending his life. Such tragedies often befall those who risk everything to reach for the stars. Usually only after they have reached them, also. Such is the seemingly suicidal tendency that drives someone to be the greatest at anything.

What did he mean to you?

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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by turbof1 » Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:37 pm

He's a legend to me. Not for his success, his world titles or whatever, that was all before my time so I never the chance to experience it. He is however a legend to me because of this:

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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by ecstatistician » Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:47 pm

Have not seen the alternate angles of that incident, or read Como's account of it, so cheers for that turbo.

Him talking about not being able to drop it reminds me of Sid Watkins story in the Senna doco. Suggesting, post Ratzenberger crash, he has achieved everything and they should both retire and go fishing. Of course knowing no racing driver worth their salt could be able to make that choice, but still so poignant knowing what would follow.

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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by zonk » Wed Apr 30, 2014 6:13 pm

He ment a lot I can't describe, but please don't forget about Roland Ratzenberger. Today is 20 years since his death.

Last edited by turbof1 on Wed Apr 30, 2014 6:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: raTzenberger

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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by ecstatistician » Wed Apr 30, 2014 6:38 pm

Very true, as a kid I was completely unaware of Rolands death, it wasn't until many many years later upon investigating Senna that I learned of his death. It may have been from hearing Brabham talk about it on TV here. But you're right, by all means detail what Ratzenberger meant to you as well.

*Edit: is it also true that upon retrieving Senna from his car they found an Austrian flag in there, which was Senna's personal tribute to Roland?

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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by mikeerfol » Wed Apr 30, 2014 7:19 pm

Yup, it's true....

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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by Daliracing » Wed Apr 30, 2014 11:33 pm

i was born in 1993 and my dad always told about him so i start searching for him and he was a great driver and he had a great personality. thats what makes him special to me. okay i haven't seen him racing live but i know enough off him to know what person he was.

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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by manchild » Wed Apr 30, 2014 11:56 pm

I just want to pay my respects on the 20th anniversary, although I‘m not following F1 and participating in forum anymore. This seamed to me as the only apropriate place. I wrote so much about him in previous years, in various topics, on various issues. It can be looked up.

The only thing that I would add is in the light of one of his interviews I‘ll quote below, that was unknown to me untill few days ago. It may sound cruel to people who fortunately never witnessed or experienced horrors of terminal illness and agony, but he really left the stage the way he hoped to, oposite to what he feared of, the same things we all hope for and fear of, and despite these tears of mine that you can't see, let me just say that I‘m glad for him.

“If I ever happen to have an accident that eventually costs me my life, I hope it is in one go. I would not like to be in a wheelchair. I would not like to be in a hospital suffering from whatever injury it was. If I’m going to live, I want to live fully, very intensely, because I am an intense person. It would ruin my life if I had to live partially.“
Last edited by manchild on Thu May 01, 2014 5:56 am, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by bhall » Thu May 01, 2014 12:26 am


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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by flyboy2160 » Thu May 01, 2014 12:51 am

Great-unsurpassed- driver, religious wackjob.

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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by Kiril Varbanov » Thu May 01, 2014 7:15 am

It meant the start of my F1 addiction. I was at age of 7 at this time...

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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by Greg Locock » Thu May 01, 2014 7:44 am

To me he meant...Zero.

I liked him as a driver to watch, I thought the fillum was great.

But he seemed a lairy non technical driver who whinged when things didn't go his way. if you can't articulate what is wrong with the car then you just have to go with the race engineer. That is a slow method for developing a car.

He was better than that, but yech on hero worship.

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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by Cam » Thu May 01, 2014 8:23 am

Although I was a not a child when I was watching Senna, I didn't really know or appreciate what he brought until much much later. In fact, I'm still discovering a veritable treasure trove. When you are in the moment it's difficult to see everything in it's entirety. What Senna means to me? A magnificent back catalogue that I get to discover and appreciate for the first time, however now with the added knowledge and experience of almost 30 years as an F1 fan. Having this knowledge and now looking back with fresh educated eyes... is awe inspiring. Not just for the driving either, for his character, his resolve, strength and unwavering self-belief.

A champion in all senses.
“There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.”
― Socrates
Ignorance is a state of being uninformed. Ignorant describes a person in the state of being unaware
who deliberately ignores or disregards important information or facts. © all rights reserved.

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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by Manoah2u » Thu May 01, 2014 8:27 am

Senna means the most to me as an F1-driver. To me, he cannot be surpassed by any other driver.
Even if the figures show that other drivers had more 'success', there will never be a driver to me greater than Ayrton.

I started watching F1 since i can remember. My Dad was a keen F1 follower and i grew up seeing F1 races.
It was indeed some late 80's early 90's. My dad had a collection of F1 magazines, and bought a bunch of stuff from his
visit to Spa-Francorchamps back then. My mom got me a magnificient poster of a full-yellow Camel Lotus. Gorgeous.
And a black-and gold JPS lotus with the famous yellow helmet.

I didn't know much about f1 back then - but i remember what i saw. A battle between Senna and Prost. Since day 1 i was
a fan of Senna. He just breathed speed, and i watched in amazement how he blazed across the track, indeed, in his white-red Mclaren. In the meantime i clearly remember figures (though not in the same season) as Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet.
Remember the backmarkers aswell. I had 3 favourite races throughout the season: Spa-Francorchamps, Monaco and Brazil.

My dad worked in the computer branche so i had a computer since i can remember and my dad bought me a game of the legendary Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix. I played that game to the death, sometimes even playing the game during a grandprix because in my fantasy somehow i thought i was driving along.

But whenever I saw F1, it was Senna. His racecraft, his personality ; he was my hero. While the other boys were pretending to be superman, i was pretending to be Senna.

Then came that aweful race. I was just 9 but i saw it happen live on tele. I believe it was eurosport channel. Just 2 months before i lost my grandfather, which was the first death i was confronted with. Then my hero passed in a horrible crash. I don't know why, but i knew right away he was dead. I was waiting and waiting to hear he didn't, but it wasn't to be.
I cried back then.
I didn't watch f1 for a while after that. I remember his funeral. The funeral of a King. I guess that would describe Ayrton well. The 'King' of Formula 1.

Yes, Schumacher is a great driver with a great legacy. But he's nowhere up to the level of senna.

In the years, ive watched many interviews, many races, and read many things about Senna. Senna was on his own level.
A lion on the track. He was bold and daring. I know not everybody agrees with this, but I'm not of opinion Senna ever put another driver in danger. That's where I think schumacher loses greatly. And then there's the warmhearted Senna. When another driver was in peril, he'd stop right there get out and help. He was a friendly person in general. And he dared to face the 'dictatorship' of the FIA.

And his deep religious level made him a great character, too. Some people claim that senna thought 'God was helping him' win races, but i don't get that from any of Senna's comments. If he did believe that, then that's the only part where I disagree with Senna - not because I don't belive there is a God, but because i refuse to believe God helps a human with things like this. I don't believe the Lord helps a driver win, essentially picking one over the other, I don't believe he did that for Senna, for Schumacher, for anybody.
What I do believe is Senna understood he had a 'God-given' talent over others. I don't think that talent in itself is 'racing'.
But I do believe he had a talent that played in his hands regarding racing, like some people are talented in chess, sports, art, etc.
Senna's talent was clearly 'way above' all other drivers. Prost was a great driver, too, and Senna vs Prost was legendary because it were 2 different driving styles that were nearly matching in results. I still think Senna always had the upper hand, but Prost was better in gaining advantage on a 'political' level. I think Schumacher took some of that.

Senna will always be 'Senna'. His name is legendary, and always will. Way above any other, for the rest of F1 history.
Schumacher was a great. Vettel is great already. Lauda was great. Fangio was great, etc. But Senna is absolutely legendary.

Had Senna survived that race, had he not crashed - I do believe he would not have been remembered as legendary as he is now. I think his death puts him on a extra level, especially since he died 'in the harness'.
Had he not died, I still believe his results would have been legendary still. I don't believe he would have won that 1994 season in the end, since that Williams wasn't there. I think Senna would have bailed on williams for 1995, and either opted for Benneton for 1995, or go a year early to Ferrari in 95 instead of the planned 1996 Ferrari contract.

Imagine that; Senna at Ferrari instead of Schumacher. I think Senna would have taken more titles then Schumacher did in the end. I do believe it would have been a battle between Schumacher in the Benneton and Senna in the Ferrari. But it wasn't to be.

Senna died, the only fortunate thing about that is that his death caused a huge improvement in F1 car safety, especially neck protection. I think had that crash not happened, f1 cockpits would not have been changed for the forthcoming years, and that would have resulted in the Death of that huge crash of dutch driver Jos Verstappen at Spa in 1996.

So there you have it. Senna is not just a 'great driver'. Senna is legendary in so many levels that earns him a status above all other drivers. Above all i think, Senna is greatest because he wasn't arrogant. Imho, Prost was arrogant. Schumacher was arrogant. and I think Vettel is arrogant aswell. I think arrogance is a character flaw, and that's where Senna surpassed the rest. Even when you cold argue he has the 'right' to be more arrogant towards others, i didn't see the same level of arrogance as the others. There's a difference in 'proudness' and 'arrogance'. Senna was proud, not arrogant.

So if there is any driver to look up against, it's Senna. And no matter what the results are, no matter how many achievements, Senna will always be better.

You'd need a rookie driver in F1 that enters the season and is (nearly) able to win in one of the worst cars of the field (like Senna in the Toleman). Be able to go up against the greats to beat them. Be able to overtake multiple drivers boldy without crashing and without putting others in peril. Be able to get the team to do what you want. Get more out of the same car then your opponent on every level. Be king in the wet. Still be able to win even though you have the FIA against you, perhaps having Bernie against you today would be a tad similar to Senna's situation. Without any driver aid's. In a car with gigantic power. And nearly zero safety and protection. And be a great person outside of the track.
Only then will a driver be comparable to Senna.

that will never happen though, first of all becuase i think the driver safety should stay as it is now. Only because of that a driver simply can't ever be compared because even though F1 is still risky, it's not nearly as life theatening dangerous as every single f1 race was back then. And apart from that, today's rules and f1 tech doesn't allow the 'exploration' Senna could do with his car as he was able to do back then.

I must say though, that from all drivers, Hamilton vs. Rosberg is somewhat reminicsent of Senna Vs Prost - not similar at all, but somewhat reminicsent.

And i think it says enough that EVERY f1 driver holds Senna as his ultimate hero.
Dumpster sounds so much more classy. It's the diamond of the cesspools.

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Re: What did Senna mean to you? (long read, feel free to fla

Post by erlik » Thu May 01, 2014 9:28 am

I started to be a fan of Senna in 93 when he was up to much stronger Williams in that season, and when I was disapointed in Prost! Athough I was 13, I was looking forward to season '94 and I remember well horror of that weekend and death of Roland and Senna. It took me some years to realize what sport has lost that day. Couple years ago I visited Imola and that tragic curve to pay a tribute to this legend.

Too bad that his death has to be toll that people start thinking seriosly about safety.