Formula 1 World on Ayrton Senna

now and forever
Alain Prost

Alain Proston SENNA

From the very beginning of Ayrton Senna’s Formula One career, back in 1984, his sights were set squarely on Prost. In a way it was inevitable, for Ayrton was a man of extraordinary intensity, one who needed to prove himself the best in all things, and at that time Alain was very much the king of the hill. It was their very first meeting that was to set the tone of their relationships down the years.

“AYRTON SAW IT ALL FIRST-HAND, HOLDING MY CRASH HELMET AND POSSIBLY WATCHING ME DIE ON THE TRACK. THEN HE WENT BACK TO HIS GARAGE, PUT HIS HELMET BACK ON,VISOR DOWN,AND WENT AND DID THE FASTEST LAP OF JEREZ EVER AT THE TIME.”

Martin Donnelly

ex-Formula 1 driver

Ayrton was definitely very determined on the track. He wouldn’t let anything get in his way, let’s put it like that. He knew he had the ability, the opportunity, and that he wanted it more than the other guys. That explains why he was always on the edge, why he was so committed to keeping pushing, and why he was so successful. That was his personality.

Bruno Senna

Brazilian professional racing driver and the nephew of the late Ayrton Senna

In the 1980s, I was blessed to drive against so many great drivers but Ayrton certainly stood out most among them. In the beginning, we were great enemies. He wanted to win at all cost with everybody, so we knocked heads quite a lot. And as the years ticked on, we developed a healthy respect and understanding for each other.

Nigel Mansell

ex-Formula 1 champion

The Japanese and the Brazilians saw him as a god. His passion was undeniable and I sincerely believe he wanted to make the world a better place.

Damon Hill

ex-Formula 1 driver and Senna's team-mate

When I was a kid I had all the books, all the videos … Ayrton was the driver I looked up to, way before I even started racing. He had the rare quality of greatness. A lot of the way I drive today is inspired by the way I saw him drive.You can still learn things from how he approached racing and how he drove. You like to think that one day you may be recognised as someone that was able to drive similarly to him. He was also such a magnetic personality. I particularly loved his vulnerability and his openness. I only met him once, the year before he died, but it left a lasting impression on me. As a kid, you see these people and you think they’re super-heroes. But everyone has weaknesses. And for all Senna’s brilliance and achievements, so did he.

Lewis Hamilton

Formula 1 champion

More than anything he was so focused on what he wanted to do – determined. If you are like that you can get there. Without a doubt he was very special.

Keith Sutton

Formula 1 photographer

This man right on the very edge, just doing something better than anyone else had ever done before. And doing it day after day, keeping that edge. He had an inner peace.

Professor Sid Watkins

Was English neurosurgeon

There was an aura about him, something that’s difficult to describe. He most certainly had a presence. Ayrton’s raw talent and determination… he tried to carry that car (1994 Williams F1 car) and make it do things it really wasn’t capable of. And it just seems such a shame and so unfair he was in that position. And then, of course, by the time we did get the car sorted, he wasn’t with us any longer.

Adrian Newey

British Formula One engineer

He was an inspiration. I remember I went to school and on my book I didn’t have pictures of girls, but I had Ayrton there, and the same in my room. I had a big poster of Ayrton and even my first go-karts were in the colours of Ayrton’s McLaren because my father also liked him. He made a huge impression on my generation as the best driver and also clearly on all the people here today.

Fernando Alonso

Two-time Formula 1 World Champion

AYRTON WAS THE MOST COMMITTED OF ALL. WHAT WAS OUTSTANDING ABOUT HIM WAS HIS MENTAL APPLICATION. HE HAD AN AIR OF INVINCIBILITY AROUND HIM. HE PUT HIS ENTIRE BODY AND MIND INTO WINNING.

Frank Williams

Williams F1 Team owner

AYRTON WAS, AND STILL IS, THE BEST FORMULA 1 DRIVER I’VE EVER SEEN.

Bernie Ecclestone

British business magnate

HE IS THE BEST DRIVER I’VE EVER SEEN. HE ONLY RUN FOR 4 YEARS … IN THE FIRST YEAR IN FORMULA FORD HE WON EVERYTHING, HE WON EVERYTHING IN SECOND YEAR, HE WON EVERYTHING IN THIRD. AND NOW HERE IN FORMULA 1 HE IS ALREADY A WINNER. HE IS EXCEPTIONAL.

Peter Gethin

British racing driver

HIS SKILLS, CRAFT, SUBTLETY, AND COURAGE WERE OF SUCH MAGNITUDE THAT HE DWARFED HIS GENERATION OF DRIVERS.

Ron Dennis

Former owner, CEO, chairman and founder of McLaren Technology Group

HIS BRAIN COULD SIMULATE HIS ALL OPERATIONS ON THE TRACK SUCH AS RPM OF ENGINE, GEAR POSITION, BRAKING POINT, STEERING OR SO WITH THE ERROR BY LESS THAN A HUNDREDTH SECOND. HE COULD ADJUST HIMSELF PERFECTLY IN LINE WITH HIS ANALYSIS SO THAT HE ACTUALLY RAN IN 0.6 SECOND FASTER IF HE SAID THAT HE WAS ABLE TO RUN FASTER BY 0.6 SECOND. BESIDES, HE COULD MEMORIZE ALL DATA FOR THE PROCESS AND CONDITION OF HIS MACHINE. HIS MEMORY WAS PERFECTLY SAME AS THE TELEMETRY DATA.

Yoshitoshi Sakurai

ex-Honda Formula 1 head

ACTUALLY, HE WAS AN EVEN GREATER MAN OUTSIDE THE CAR THAN HE WAS IN IT.

Frank Williams

Williams F1 Team owner

HE WAS THE REMARKABLE DRIVER. ONCE RACE STARTED, HE HAD NEVER TAKEN ANY MISTAKE DURING THE RACE. IN SPITE OF HIS LOW EXPERIENCE, HE HAD AMAZING SKILLS TO SET UP HIS MACHINE.

Martin Brundle

ex-Formula 1 driver

SEEING HIM ON A QUALIFYING LAP – EITHER IN YOUR MIRRORS OR FROM THE PIT WALL – WAS ELECTRIFYING: HIS VERY DISTINCTIVE HELMET COLOUR AND HIS VERY DISTINCTIVE STYLE IN THE CAR. HE HAD A GIFT – A SIXTH SENSE – FOR WHERE THE GRIP ON THE TRACK WAS. I’D ALREADY REALISED THAT IN F3, BECAUSE HE SEEMED TO ALREADY HAVE THAT UNDERSTANDING BEFORE THE CORNER – NOT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CORNER OR AFTER THE CORNER – OF WHERE THERE WAS GOING TO BE GRIP. HE HAD THAT SPECIAL GIFT OF DRIVING A RACE CAR – IT WAS NATURAL FOR HIM.

Martin Brundle

ex-Formula 1 driver

WHEN SENNA DIED, A PART OF ME DIED WITH HIM.

Alain Prost

ex-Formula 1 driver and Senna's team-mate

HE WAS THE PROFESSIONAL DRIVER EVER KNOWN TO ME.

Alain Prost

ex-Formula 1 driver and Senna's team-mate

AYRTON WAS WONDERFUL TO WORK WITH – HE HAD AN UPLIFTING EFFECT ON EVERYBODY. HE MADE A LOT OF DEMANDS, BUT YOU COULD SEE MOST OF THEM HAD MERIT. HE WAS LIKE JIMMY, LIKE JOCHEN, LIKE RONNIE: IF HE WASN’T ON POLE THERE WAS SOMETHING WRONG. EVERYBODY LOVED HIM, AND WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR HIM.

Peter Warr

Peter Warr was an English businessman, racing driver and a manager for several Formula One teams

HE WAS THE BEST DRIVER WHO EVER LIVED.

Niki Lauda

ex-Formula 1 driver

HE WAS THE KIND WHO COULD PULL OUT A SECOND AND THAT SECOND WOULD COME FROM HIM, NOT THE CAR. SAY HE’D BE HALF A SECOND OFF THE POLE. NEXT MINUTE HE’D BE SITTING THERE ON HIS LAST SET OF QUALIFYING TYRES, OUT HE’D GO AND FIND A SECOND, JUST LIKE THAT. HE DID THAT SO MANY TIMES IN THE FINAL MINUTES OF QUALIFYING: SIT THERE, WAIT, DO IT.

Nigel Stepney

Nigel Stepney was a British mechanic. He worked for several teams in Formula 1 before being appointed chief mechanic at Ferrari.

I’VE NEVER SEEN A DRIVER LIKE THIS.

Angelo Parilla

DAP Karting manufacturer

I REMEMBER ONE WEEKEND IN IMOLA WHERE I WENT OUT, I SET THE TIME. HE WENT OUT, HE WAS A BIT QUICKER. I WENT OUT, I WAS QUICKER THAN HIM. HE WENT OUT, HE WAS QUICKER THAN ME, AND THEN IT GOES FORWARDS, BACKWARDS – PING PONG – UNTIL CLOSE TO THE END OF THE QUALIFYING AND IT WAS THE LAST SET OF TYRES, AND HE WAS SITTING IN THE RACING CAR, ME IN MY ONE, AND HE GOT OUT OF THE RACING CAR, WALKED OVER TO MY ONE AND SAID, ‘LISTEN, IT’S GONNA GET VERY DANGEROUS NOW,’ AND I SAY ‘SO WHAT? LET’S GO.

Gerhard Berger

ex-Formula 1 driver and Senna's team-mate

I KNEW THE GUY WAS GOOD. A GREAT SIGN OF A GOOD DRIVER IS THAT YOU FORGET THEY ARE INEXPERIENCED – AND THAT WAS THE CASE WITH AYRTON. HE WAS JUST SO AT HOME IN FORMULA ONE THAT YOU FORGOT HE WAS A ROOKIE.

Pat Symonds

British motor racing engineer.

WITH AYRTON SENNA, WE DON´T NEED TELEMETRY.

Gerard Ducarouge

French Formula 1 car designer

HE WAS CERTAINLY THE FIRST DRIVER SINCE RONNIE PETERSON TO HAVE PEOPLE EXCITED ABOUT THE THINGS HE COULD DO WITH A RACE CAR – YOU KNOW, THINGS YOU COULDN´T BELIEVE.

Peter Warr

Peter Warr was an English businessman, racing driver and a manager for several Formula One teams

AYRTON HAD A PERFECT SENSE OF THE BOUNDARIES OF THE ACHIEVABLE. IF HE SAID HE HAD MISSED EIGHT-TENTHS OF A SECOND, YOU COULD COUNT ON HIM GOING OUT THE NEXT DAY AND MAKING IT GOOD. EIGHT TENTHS: NO MORE, NO LESS.

Gerard Ducarouge

French Formula 1 car designer

Ayrton touched so many people’s lives in so many different ways – racing fans with his genius in the race car and non-racing fans with his character and charisma.

Bruno Senna

Professional racing driver and the nephew of the late Ayrton Senna

HE IS THE GUY. HE´S BRILLIANT, WE´VE JUST GOT TO HAVE HIM. [ Chief designer Rory Byrne after Ayrton´s first Toleman F1 test ]

Rory Byrne

South African engineer and car designer

AYRTON WAS THE BEST FRIEND I EVER HAD IN F1, CLOSER TO ME THAN ANYBODY ELSE IN THE BUSINESS. DURING MY THREE YEARS DRIVING WITH HIM AT MCLAREN, I CAME TO REALIZE THAT HE WAS THE BEST, ONE LEVEL HIGHER THAN THE REST OF US.

Gerhard Berger

ex-Formula 1 driver and Senna's team-mate

YOU KNEW HE WAS GOING TO PUT THE CAR ON POLE. THAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF GOING OUT IN QUALIFYING.

Bob Dance

Chief Mechanic

SENNA WAS MUCH MORE CEREBRAL THAN PROST, MUCH MORE. HE WAS ALWAYS A FEW STEPS AHEAD OF YOU AND YOU COULD SEE THE NEXT MOVE PERFECTLY CLEAR – LIKE A CHESS PLAYER.

Gordon Murray

Designer of Formula 1 racing cars and the McLaren F1 road car

WHEN I FIRST CAME ROUND IN THE MEDICAL CENTER AFTER MY ACCIDENT, THE FIRST FACE I SAW WAS AYRTON’S, WITH TEARS IN HIS EYES. I HAD NEVER SEEN THAT WITH AYRTON BEFORE. I JUST HAD THE IMPRESSION THAT HE FELT AS IF MY ACCIDENT WAS LIKE ONE OF HIS OWN. HE HELPED ME A LOT WITH MY CAREER AND I CAN’T FIND THE WORDS TO DESCRIBE HIS LOSS.

Rubens Barrichello

ex-Formula 1 driver

TWENTY MINUTES BEFORE THE START I WENT INTO THE WILLIAMS GARAGE. HE WAS BEHIND THE COMPUTERS, ALL ALONE LOOKING AT THE DATA. I WENT TO WISH HIM GOOD LUCK FOR THE RACE, NOTHING MORE. AND AT THAT POINT – AND THERE IS NO OTHER WORD FOR IT – HE LOOKED VERY UPSET. HE WAS NOT WELL. THAT IS THE LAST IMAGE I HAVE OF HIM, NOT IN THE GRID BUT IN THE GARAGE – ALL ALONE WITH HIS THOUGHTS.

Alain Prost

ex-Formula 1 driver and Senna's team-mate

EVERY ERA HAS SOMEONE WHO CHANGES THE SPORT AND I THINK HE WAS ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. HE CHANGED THE SPORT, HE CHANGED THE APPROACH. HE WAS FAR MORE AGGRESSIVE AND FAR MORE COMMITTED, TO THE POINT OF ALMOST CRAZINESS. BUT HE HAD SUCH SELF-BELIEF, AND I THINK THAT INSPIRED PEOPLE – I THINK THEY WERE FASCINATED BY HIM.

Damon Hill

ex-Formula 1 driver and Senna's team-mate

THERE WAS ONE ARE AT DALLAS WHERE JUST ABOUT EVERYONE HIT THE WALL. HE HIT THER TOO. WHEN HE GOT BACK TO PITS HE SAID: "I just cannot understand how I did that. I was taking it no differently than I had been before. The wall must have moved." - WE THOUGHT: ‘Yeah, right, sure the wall’s moved.’ HE WAS VERY INSISTENT ON THIS SO AFTER THE RACE WE WENT OUT AND HAD A LOOK. The wall had moved. It was concrete blocks and someone had clipped it, moved it, moved it just a few millimetres – and I mean just a few millimetres – and he had been judging it that perfectly.

Pat Symonds

British motor racing engineer.

The trouble with asking for good memories of Ayrton is that I do not have any bad ones. Perhaps my very vivid memories are of his strong opinion, and most of the time he was right.

Bernie Ecclestone

British business magnate

I think it’s because he was so good for the whole time he was on the planet. I can see no positives from the fact that he had an accident and lost his life, but it means that you didn’t see his decline. There are lots of drivers that stay in the sport too long and tarnish their greatness. I also think he’s remembered because he was just so unbelievably competitive. He was great, but he had good, human values. He had a few lapses in his life, but he was incredibly principled. And he was a good human being.

Ron Dennis

Former owner, CEO, chairman and founder of McLaren Technology Group

My abiding memory of Ayrton is not his world-class ability as a racing driver but as an intellectually unbeatable businessman. Throughout the several meetings that took place between me and Ayrton regarding his joining Willams, it became apparent that he arrived for each and every meeting fully prepared on every point for discussion. He had prepared in his mind at least three counter moves to every possible counter move by myself. He was gifted with a propensity for extraordinarily clear thinking and an outstanding ability to out-guess, out-think and out-manoeuvre his business opponent. Ayrton knew what he wanted and he knew of the various people inside the company who could deliver, and he went after those guys and got them onside.

Frank Williams

Williams F1 Team owner