Senna Movie Poster

Ayrton Senna beyond the speed of sound.  The legend of the greatest driver who ever lived.

The story of the monumental life and tragic death of legendary Brazilian motor-racing Champion, Ayrton Senna. Spanning the decade from his arrival in Formula One in the mid 80′s, the film follows Senna’s struggles both on track against his nemesis, French World Champion Alain Prost, and off it, against the politics which infest the sport. Sublime, spiritual yet, on occasion, ruthless – Senna conquers and transcends Formula One to become a global superstar.

Privately, he is humble, almost shy, and fiercely patriotic, donating millions to his native Brasil and contemplating a life beyond motor-racing. Yet he is struck down in his prime on the blackest weekend in the history of the sport, watched live on television by 300 million people. Years on he is revered in Formula One as the greatest motor racing driver of all time – and in Brasil as a Saint.

Senna movie review and analysis

After many years in the making, and many expectant fans waiting, the documentary film about the life of Ayrton Senna will be released in the United Kingdom on the 3 June, and in Australia on the 11 August. I have been very fortunate to see the film before it will be released, and it opened my eyes on the life of Formula 1’s most famous driver.

It is a perfect time for the film to be released in the United Kingdom and Ireland – during the weekend of the jewel in F1’s crown, the Monaco Grand Prix. Senna was the master of Monaco. He holds the record for the most amount of wins around the Principality, with a total of 6. He won 5 in a row between 1989 and 1993, and but for a lapse of concentration in 1988, it would have been 7 successive wins at F1’s most famous race.

What I was expecting was a very pro-Senna documentary, and a very anti-Prost, anti-Balestre and eventually anti-Schumacher film. What I found was that only one of these was partly true, and the rest were false. It did not reflect too badly at all on Prost, Balestre or Schumacher (except in small sections with Prost and Balestre – more Balestre than Prost), but it did however show all that was great about Senna.

The film begins at his first podium in F1 – the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix where he finished second to Alain Prost in the Toleman.

From there it looks at his three-year stint with Lotus, his highly successful 6 years with McLaren, and of course ends with his untimely death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix and his funeral.

The film shows what we all knew about him as a driver – his undoubted speed and ruthlessness to win. The scenes around his first F1 win in Estoril in 1985 are something to watch out for! The film also reflects on the two most controversial moments of his career – his collisions with Alain Prost in 1989 and 1990, and shows pieces of film never before seen by the public on both incidents.

Although it ignores the two major incidents between the two that precedes these events (1988 Portugese Grand Prix, where Senna pushed Prost towards the pit wall; and the 1989 San Marino Grand Prix, where Senna broke a pre-race agreement between the two to overtake Prost), it’s focus and coverage of 1989 and 1990 were very good – despite the slightly pro-Senna angle. The coverage from the time that we are able to see for the first time gave me a glimpse of the politics behind the sport, rather than the sporting side of it.

Senna movie posterBut what struck me the most about the whole film is how humble Senna actually was. As a three-time Formula 1 world champion, winner of 41 grand prix and god-like status in both Brazil and Japan, nobody would have been surprised had he had an ego bigger than his country.

But it did not show at all in the film. The film shows Senna away from the grand prix circus at home in Brazil, and it shows Ayrton doing work for his foundation (which continues to go from strength to strength today) and more. It ends with his final race weekend at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, and his funeral that followed.

The film shows how he was affected by accidents to other drivers (notably Barrichello and Ratzenberger at his final race weekend), and how much Ayrton was emotionally attached to the sport that weekend. Watching it makes you feel he was distracted that weekend, and that he just didn’t seem himself at all. The scenes after he hit the wall at the Tamburello corner are very hard to watch as an F1 fan, and the pain from that weekend can still be felt watching these pictures all over again.

But the main thing that comes from the film was his ability behind the wheel. There is no doubt that Ayrton Senna has been one of the greatest drivers to grace a Formula 1 car. His unrivalled will to win comes through to the fore in the film, and his God-like status in his homeland is clear for all to see.

Having seen very little of Senna’s career myself, his film shows me just how great of a driver and a person he is, and how much he is missed by all. It will surely go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, films ever made about motor racing.

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