Senna: A Brilliant Champion Who Created The Blueprint For Modern Drivers
Posted 21 January 2006 - 11:05 PM
Kevin Eason The Times
SOMEWHERE in the clamour this weekend, as thousands mourn their hero before the San Marino Grand Prix, will be a quiet Englishman who will prefer to blot out the tumult around him at the Imola circuit and think only about the glory. Sir Frank Williams is a master of understatement but a magician in Formula One, conjuring nine championships as a constructor in 25 years; Ferrari have 13 titles but needed almost twice as long to get them.
So when it comes to spotting raw talent, there was one driver above them all that Williams coveted. That is why his memories are of Ayrton Senna’s life and not his death. His memories are of those moments before qualifying when Formula One turned towards the driver who could make a car perform miracles over a flying lap on his way to achieving a record 65 pole positions, such as the one he took at Imola in 1994, the day before his death.
“You could always see it in his eyes,” Williams said, speaking for the first time about the loss of Senna, who drove for him only twice competitively in a tragically short marriage of potent talents. “When he left the pitlane, they were eyes of total concentration. He showed no mercy and it was for good reason that the television cameras would be glued to his car in these sessions. Concentration made his performances over a single lap the most compelling thing to witness on a race track.”
Yet Senna’s lasting influence has gone beyond those perfect laps, even to affect the driver who has replaced him: Michael Schumacher. Williams says that the Brazilian was the first complete racing driver, a man who could think as well as drive, whose body was a part of the total racing machine, as finely tuned as his Williams Renault car.
“In many ways Ayrton defined today’s Formula One,” he said. “He was the first person to realise the importance of absolute superiority over his rivals in every aspect of the job, whether physically or in terms of complete application and keeping an intensity of mental focus that moved seamlessly from a race to the next test and wherever next he could carve an advantage. He was always thinking.
“That awareness of absolute superiority was ahead of its time, I would suggest, and he was ruthless and relentless in the pursuit of that advantage. He introduced a whole new mindset to the sport in that regard, something you see Michael Schumacher using to great effect today.
“He drove for us, regrettably, for a very limited period but, in testing and in driving, he clearly applied his mind all the time. I also learnt to my cost in several negotiations that his business strategy was rather like a chess master. He had a number of moves and counter-moves well planned before the engagement. He was always ready, it was a very impressive performance.
“That is why the most important thing I feel on the 10th anniversary is to celebrate what Ayrton achieved. The considerable passage of time makes it more appropriate that now we celebrate his life rather than mourn his loss.”
Senna had walked out of McLaren, where he won his three World Championships, to get into a Williams that, at the time, was as dominant as Ferrari are today. Senna had emerged from a vicious rivalry with Alain Prost, whom he replaced at Williams after the Frenchman retired. Even today, they are often spoken of as the two greatest Formula One drivers: Prost was nicknamed The Professor for his thoughtful style, but Williams knew he was taking on a more turbulent driver when he captured Senna for the 1994 season.
“I may be dubbed a heretic, but I’ve always suspected that Alain actually had a greater skill [!!!] and I say that whilst remembering that Ayrton certainly pushed himself to the limit more than Alain did,” Williams said. “Alain never explored the edge as consistently or successfully as Ayrton. Alain remained very calculated in his risk-taking, whereas Ayrton was more flamboyant in his style and certainly examined and then drove right on the limit. He took no prisoners and was all drive and courage when he was in the car.
“But, as many differences as they had, they also shared a great many similarities and both were very cerebral drivers, great thinkers. The manifestation of that mental control was somewhat different. The Senna-Prost rivalry was, I strongly believe, good for Formula One. It made the sport more newsworthy and generated welcome attention for Formula One, which assisted with its business profile.
“The degree to which those two guys locked horns was absolutely compelling. And, yes, while a purist might pick through the record book and take issue with the manner of one or other of Ayrton’s results, no one would ever question his singular commitment to win and, surely, that is the very essence of a great sportsman? What I would say is that he was never dangerous in my view; a risk-taker certainly, but he was taking racing opportunities that other competitors were not prepared to countenance.”
His risk-taking, obsessive forward planning and meticulous eye for detail were, according to Williams, qualities that could have been used to great effect after his motor racing career was over. Williams speculates now that Senna’s stature and his dedication to changing the lives of his countrymen were so great that he might have made a political career. Unfortunately, Senna’s life was cut short before such ambitions could be realised.
That leaves just the memories that will be rekindled at Imola this weekend. For Williams, they will remain memories of a remarkable driver and a remarkable man.
Posted 22 January 2006 - 02:42 AM
"I reject your reality and substitute my own"------Adam--Mythbusters
Posted 22 January 2006 - 06:21 PM
Posted 22 January 2006 - 07:46 PM
Listening to: Cracker - Kerosene Hat
Dig that jive, Jack. Put it in your pocket, and don't look back.
Posted 22 January 2006 - 08:08 PM
Nobody bitched when McLaren and Williams dominated F1...
AutoRacer5 vs. Ecapdeville on Fight Night Round 3:
AutoRacer5 vs. Ecapdeville on Forza Motorsport:
My blog: http://openwheelrants.vox.com/
Posted 23 January 2006 - 02:21 AM
still doing a good job though so far
Jacky Ickx at La Source during practice for the 1970 Grand Prix of Belgium
The Masters have returned.
"People were being killed left, right and center back then," [Phil Hill] says. "I became hyper-sensitive to the danger, and wasn't sure that I wasn't going to kill myself. As a result, racing brought out the worst in me. Without it, I don't know what kind of person I might have become. But I'm not sure I liked the person I did become, because I was selfish, irritable and defensive."
Posted 23 January 2006 - 07:42 PM
still doing a good job though so far
Senna deserves attention. I shall consider your request…
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