The Formula 1 circus travels to some of the most glamorous and exotic places in the world . Ayrton Senna started in 161 races , won 41 times , was 80 times on the podium and recorded 19 fastest laps . He had his first win in the charming circuit of Estoril (1985 ) , won the prestigious GP of Monaco  no fewer than 6 times ( 87/89/90/91/92/93 ) , finally realised his dream of winning the GP BRAZlL in 1991, exhausted, stuck on sixth gear! It was on the truncated Donington circuit, in England , however, that he had what , according to most experts , his greatest performance . That first lap is historic. And in the end , when the Brazilian crossed the finish line , was the first and only time I saw all the journalists in the press room stand up and applaud.

Donnington promised a ‘ good fight ‘ between the two top teams . Disappointed to have been vetoed by Prost to join the dominant Williams team – a single clause required by the French driver, when he signed with Frank Williams , was that Ayrton would not be his team mate- the triple world champion was negotiating race per race with the Woking team and arrived optimistic in  Derbyshire. . ” Without a long straight , the engine ends up being less important ,” he explained before the race. And, of course , also admitted that the forecast of rain during the race benefited him. But , contrary to what many assumed , Ayrton did not like racing in the rain . ” Any mistake can be fatal . It’s too dangerous . But , I admit , it gives us a chance to compete with the superior Williams  ”

a bit of magic in this documentary

Since his first go kart race , Ayrton learned that the rain should be tamed , conquered . My first race was in the rain and I got badly beaten.  I did not know where to turn the wheel .” From that day on, when started to rain , Ayrton would  ran to the track and trained , trained up ‘ until he wastired . ” That’s how I got the knack of it.”

With visibility and lower speed, braking must be delayed . ” Moreover , in the wet , you can make different paths which also increases the chances of overtaking ,” he affirmed . Logical words of clarity and good sense as most of his analysis . What we did not know was that they were prophetic .

Sunday woke up raining. And the water only stopped falling just before the start of the Grand Prix . The tension was visible on the drivers’ faces. Slick or wet tires? In the stands , only 30 thousand spectators , a small public for a Formula 1 race . In the VIP , Princess Diana brought some shine to the grid .

Primeira volta mais espetacular da históia da Formula 1

Most spectacular 1st lap in histor


At the start , the track was still very wet when the lights turned green. On the track , the triple world champion made ​​magic with his McLaren . MAGIC SENNA AT HIS VERY BEST . Even after so many years watching his races , I could not hide the shock. In fact , a mixture of disbelief and idolatry. In the press room , you could hear gasps , cries of wonder , laughter of disbelief .

His ability to find grip on that slippery asphalt helped ​​Senna to get rid of Wendlinger quickly ( outside the Craner ! ), to overtake Damon Hill in McLean ‘s with ease and to begin to chase Alain Prost – all this after being pushed off the track by the German on the Benetton. “I had to take two wheels off the track but got myself together .”

Three turns later, in the clip called Melbourne , Ayrton Senna would take the lead of the race . From fifth to first in just 10 corners! Spectacular ! ” To be honest , so much has happened in this race that I do not remember much about the first lap. But I do  know it was a psychological shot in all of the others, ” he’d tell me later, still fairly incredulous himself.

After proving his competence in the wet on the first lap , Senna pushed further and opened almost 4 seconds ahead at the end of the second lap. But the track was drying and already the mechanics were moving about in the pits , tires in hands . ( Little did they know that this would only be the beginning of the greatest sits and ups in the history of Formula 1 . Mainly in the Williams pits ! )

Senna e Prost

Senna and Prost

The Grand Prix was full of incidents , tire changes, skids , spins , delicate overtaking. There were 4 stops to Senna versus 7 for the French , a record that continues until ‘ today as far as I know. “I almost had a heart attack many times during  the race. I had to put the car in the wet , but had no choice. I knew that when it dried out a bit, Williams would be faster even on wet tires , ” he later recall .

On lap 57 , Ayrton Senna entered the pits . The McLaren radio system did not work well and Ayrton did not understand what he was told . And vice versa . The mechanics were not ready. The Brazilian went straight past and , due to the curious layout of the circuit , recorded the fastest lap 1.18.029! It was the last fastest lap of his career .

Ayrton Senna won the Grand Prix of Europe , his 38th victory , a lap ahead of all other drivers except the Englishman Damon Hill placed second .

” Unbelievable , unbelievable ,” Ayrton repeated to me, sitting alone in the team truck . Shortly before , he had greeted each of the mechanics and engineers who helped him to retain the championship lead .

Ayrton e bandeira com orgulho

Ayrton proud with the Brazilian flag

I still get a thrill when I remember this day and this race. A true master at the wheel. A show . Ayrton was exhausted at the end and I could see the adrenaline coming out of his , tense and tired body. On his face , however, an almost childlike joy, an unpretentious and authentic pleasure that I saw very few times. I was thrilled and  especially happy for him .

The Austrian Gerhard Berger , who was his best friend in Formula 1 , told me some time later in his jokey self . ” In Donington, Ayrton made ​​us all look stupid”. We had a good laugh .

Ayrton was also responsible for one of the happiest days in the life of Englishman Tom Weatcroft, owner of the circuit that only hosted the most famous circus in the world on this occasion. Not with all the creativity, imagination and desire in the world , the owner of the Donington circuit could have dreamed of as a sequence of events like those on Sunday, April 11, 1993 . One of those days that become History.

Senna e Tom

Senna e Tom

About Betise Assumpcao Head

Communicator, specialized in Media Relations, Reputation, Crisis Management, corporate or individual. I started as a Sports Journalist (7 years, Mains newspapers and magazines in Brazil) turned into World Wide Press Officer (Senna 1990/1994), been to Games in Barcelona Atlanta, London & Rio 2016. Italy, Germany & Brazilian World Cups.


  1. Nick Warner says :

    A lovely post about the famous Donington race in 1993. Although not able to be at the track on race day, I was a spectator on the (wet!) Friday qualifying session which, as it turned out, was the very last time I ever saw Ayrton ‘live’ at a racetrack. Donington is often hailed as his greatest race and, perhaps it may be. The first lap is without question Ayrton’s greatest ever single lap but also acknowledged by many over the years to be the very greatest single lap ever driven in F1. No doubt about that at all.
    His greatest ever ‘race’? For me personally, that is Brasil, 1991; when he spent the last part of the race stuck in 6th gear! In fairness, that car shouldn’t have been able to finish that race with a broken gearbox but it was sheer force of willpower on Ayrton’s part that dragged that car to the chequered flag, under great pressure from Mansell & Patrese in Williams cars. It must have taken incredible mental and physical power to finish, especially on a tight and twisty circuit such as Interlagos. I remember that Ayrton had to be lifted from the car at the end of that race. I also seem to remember in the press conference afterwards that he said ‘God gave me this race’. (I’m sure Betise will correct me if I’m wrong on that one!) Perhaps that win, out of all his wins, meant the most to him; his first of his two wins ‘at home’?
    I’d love to have been in the crowd at Interlagos that day. The atmosphere must have been electric. I remember him screaming into the radio as he crossed the finish line and embracing his father in the pits afterwards. Wonderful stuff….


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