SENNA: DONINGTON HIS GREATEST RACE. 21 YEARS TODAY
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 .
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 ! )
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 .
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.