21 years ago this past Friday, the greatest racer Formula 1 has ever seen passed away after massive head injuries sustained while racing at Imola. His death was part of F1’s so called “Black Weekend” where, Reubens Barichello had a massive accident, Roland Ratzenburger died after a crash during Saturday Running, and Aryton died during the race on Sunday. Fans where also injured after a crash at the start, that sent debris into the crowded stands.
Everyone and anyone involved in the world of F1 writing has written their piece on Ayrton Senna, and I thought that this would have to be my time to have my say as well. I can’t say anything about watching him racing at the time though, as I’m 19, and that math doesn’t work out. However, ‘Senna’ the wonderful documentary about his F1 career was all it took for me to dig into the past, and watch as much of his brilliant, manic style as I could. I have watched Senna more times than I can count since it was released, and I still get choked up near the end. Seriously, if you have even the passing interest in a good documentary, go watch Senna. You won’t regret it, and you will come away with more respect and reverence for the man.
As a McLaren fan, I was obligated to like Senna from the beginning, after winning 3 drivers titles for the team while he drove for them. And to this day, the McLaren domination of the 80’s and early 90’s is still what fuels the teams fans, even when they are in a slump, such as right now. Ayrton Senna, and the legendary McLaren Honda partnership has been more than trumped up since Honda returned to the sport this year. Things might be rough, but memories of past dominance rings through the halls of Woking. Senna is as close as F1 gets to a mystic figure. He did the impossible, channeled his faith in god, and his relentless speed into legend.
There is something about Ayrton, that stirs my non religious sensibilities into a very spiritual place. As the film reaches it’s grim conclusion, there is a quote about Aryton finding a Bible verse on the morning before he died. Hearing that, and combined with his talk about visualizing God after winning his first championship stirs something within me. I hate to say that Senna would not be the legend he is if he hadn’t had died, but you have to admit, it makes all the difference to the story. Ayrton Senna is a legend of the sport, and will always be here. His death spurred a race for safety that we are only now seeing being relit, after Jules’ terrible accident in Japan last year. Ayrton, thank you for everything you did. Rest in Peace.