A Y R T O N
S E N N A T
I V A N F O R E W O R D
R E N D A L L BY
S T I R L I N G
E N N A T
I V A N
R E N D A L L
First published in Great Britain in 1994 by PAVILION BOOKS LIMITED 26 Upper Ground, London SEI 9PD
Text © Ivan Rendall 1994 Designed by The Bridgewater Book Company/Chris Dymond Text research by Daniel Britten Picture research by Julia Pashley
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C O N T E N T S
B L A C K
T H E
W E E K E N D
B O Y
F R O M
A P P R E N T I C E S H
M U S I C A L
C H A M
P L A C E
C A R E
B R A Z I L
I P .................................
C H A I R S
R L D
P I O N ............................
H I S T O R Y
R E C O R D
A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S
R E W O
first m et A yrton Senna on a cold w et day at the N urburgring in May, 1 9 8 4 . M ercedes
had invited m e to drive in a celebrity race w hich included nine w orld cham pions,
past, present and future.
W e drove m atched M ercedes 190s. B u t out th ere in the cold rain, th e youthful A yrton
ran away from us all and only N iki Lauda was able to m oun t any so rt o f a challenge. That day I think w e all realized w e’d seen som ething rath er special; and I certain ly left Nurburg convinced that I’d seen a future w orld cham pion ... and m aybe a little m o re than that. H istory confirm s that A yrton Senna did indeed b eco m e a little m ore than that! I w asn’t close to A yrton in the way that G erhard B erg er was close, bu t w e w ere friends and I liked him . W e would exchange Christm as cards and ou r paths would cross; and w hen they did w e’d talk the way friends do. V isitors to my hom e often ask m e ju s t how highly I rated him . I show th em m y hallway. Along th e wall hang tw o large signed pictures o f racing drivers. O n e is Juan M anuel Fangio. T he oth er is A yrton. ‘T h a t’s how high,’ I say. T he w ord ‘genius’ is used rath er carelessly these days; but a genius is undoubtably what he was. In the hands o f a m aster such as A yrton, the m iraculous and the m undane can look deceptively similar. B u t I ’ve seen him overtaking on the outside o f a bend in heavy rain, and m arvelled at a talen t that was threatening to take car co n tro l across new horizons. As a pure racing driver, he was virtually w ith out flaw. A m an w ho didn’t have o ff days, who excelled on every type o f circu it, in sunshine and in rain.
He had an all-consum ing passion for m o to r racing, and fo r w inning, that few m en w ill ever know. It dom inated his entire life and perhaps explains why the public w ere so slow to recognize his true w orth b oth as a driver and a m an. Many accepted the im age o f a m an constantly at w ar w ith his rivals; and p referred to choose m ore peaceful, m o re equable heroes. And it was tru e. A yrton could b e difficult and he did occasionally do foolish things. But then m en who care often do. H ow ever th ere w ere oth er qualities that few ever w ro te about. He was totally loyal to his friends and to his family. He was honest to an unusual degree. And he could be touchingly kind, particularly to the younger drivers. W hen Rubens B arrich ello regained consciousness after his crash at Im ola, he found Ayrton seated beside the bed. And recou n ts Rubens in som e wonder, ‘T h ere w ere tears in his eyes.’ Having know n A yrton , that d oesn’t surprise m e at all. To go ever faster, to constantly find new m ountains to clim b ... this was an essential part o f Ayrton ’s n ature. He knew he had been given a very special talen t and he w anted the chance to display it to the w orld. He had always hoped that in the W illiam s he would be able to take the a rt o f driving across new frontiers. It was then that fate dealt him the cru ellest o f hands. Imola may have denied him his dream . But nothing can change w hat has gone b efo re or wash away the m em ories. A yrton can sleep in peace. H e had already clim bed th e highest mountain.
Stirling Moss, July 1994
C H A P T E R
B L A C K
W E E K E N D
he May Day holiday weekend o f 1994 should
brakes. The changes had been introduced to put more
have been a time o f high hopes and
emphasis on driver skill rather than technology,
expectations in motor racing. The arrival of
making racing more o f a contest between men rather
the Formula One teams at Imola for the San Marino
than cars. But the drivers had grown used to their
Grand Prix signalled the beginning o f the European
computer aids, and doubts about the safety o f the new
round o f the World Championship, and the drivers,
cars were widespread.
team bosses and fans would normally have been
Foremost among the doubters was Ayrton Senna.
looking ahead to a summer o f competition and
World Champion three tim es, in his eleventh season in
spectacle. The sights and sounds were familiar —the
Formula One, on pole position at Imola, he was
sea of advertising, the shriek o f engines —but the
acknowledged as the fastest, the most talented, and the
usually vibrant mood was missing. Nothing could lift
most determined driver o f the m odern, high-tech age.
the cloud which hung over Imola as the drivers
W ith over a decade o f Formula O ne racing behind
prepared for the start, each dealing in his own way with
him, he had the natural authority among the other
the closeness o f a rare visitor to modern racing —death.
drivers o f being ‘first among equals’ , and though he
Roland Ratzenberger, Formula O ne’s newest
supported the idea o f putting more emphasis on driver
recruit and driving in only his second race, had been
skills, he had made his views about the technical
killed in qualifying. His Simtek-Ford left the road at
changes plain before the season started: ‘It was a great
Villeneuve corner at around 190 mph, hitting a
error to remove the electronics... the cars are very fast
concrete wall nearly head on. W itnesses reported that
and difficult to drive. Its going to be a season with lots
part o f the front wing had come off just before the
o f accidents and I’ll risk saying w e’ll be lucky if
crash, causing a sudden loss o f downforce. Without
something really serious doesn’t happen.’
this, the cornering speed was far too high, making the
Senna visited the place where Ratzenberger had
crash inevitable. Ratzenberger died from massive head
died. It was against the regulations, but he ignored
injuries, the first death in Formula O ne for eight years,
them, he wanted to inspect the circumstances for
and the first on a race weekend for twelve years.
himself and talk to the track marshals. Having done so,
The normally tight safety regime at Grands Prix
he decided not to take part in the final round of
P acific G rand
qualifying, and his team, W illiams-Renault, with
Prix, A ida,
Ratzenberger’s death had followed a crash in the Friday
Benetton and Sauber-Mercedes, withdrew from
J a p a n , 1 7 April
practice session which left the Jordan-Hart driver,
the rest o f the session as a mark o f respect to
1 9 9 4 : Ayrton
Rubens Barrichello, badly injured. As the weekend
Ratzenberger. Senna, and several other top drivers
Senna q u alified
progressed there was increasing speculation that there
including his friend and form er team mate, Gerhard
was a problem caused by the new rules which
Berger, now with Ferrari, and Michael Schumacher, of
in his second race
governed the construction o f the cars. The computers
Benetton, discussed calling a drivers’ safety meeting
in th e W illiams
which controlled the active suspension and traction
before the next Grand Prix at Monaco, to
F W 1 6, on ly to
control systems had been banned, as had anti-lock
air their concerns.
crash on L ap 1 .
seemed suddenly rather ragged at the edges.
f o r p o le position
B L A C K
San Marino Grand Prix, Imola, 1 May 1994: Ayrton Senna in thoughtful mood in the pits just before the race.
W E E K E N D