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Ayrton Senna

3 Time World Champion

Ayrton Senna

Toleman - 1984

In 1983, Ayrton Senna tested for Formula One teams Williams, McLaren, Brabham, and Toleman, receiving offers for testing in 1984. Despite impressive performances during testing, Williams and McLaren had no openings for the 1984 season. Lotus wanted to replace Nigel Mansell with Senna, but their sponsor insisted on a British driver. Senna ultimately joined Toleman for the 1984 season, where he faced various challenges, including issues with tires and fuel pressure.

His debut at the Brazilian Grand Prix saw him retire due to a turbocharger failure. Senna scored his first World Championship point in his second race in South Africa, and he replicated this result at the Belgian Grand Prix. However, he failed to qualify for the San Marino Grand Prix due to tire and fuel-pressure problems.

Senna's standout performance in 1984 came at the Monaco Grand Prix, where he climbed through the field in wet conditions before the race was stopped. His ability to provide detailed technical feedback about the car and track conditions was notable.

Senna had a season with two more podium finishes, finishing third at the British and Portuguese Grands Prix, and he ended 9th in the Drivers' Championship with 13 points. He was suspended by Toleman for breach of contract after entering talks with Lotus for 1985 without informing Toleman.

At the end of the year, Senna developed Bell's palsy, which paralyzed one side of his face, possibly due to a virus. Sid Watkins provided steroids to preserve the possibility of recovery.

Lotus (1985 - 1987)

In 1985, Ayrton Senna joined Lotus-Renault, partnering with Elio de Angelis. Despite setting impressive testing times at Rio, Senna faced challenges in his first year. The Renault-powered Lotus 97T was fast but unreliable, leading to several retirements due to engine failures and fuel issues. Senna's breakthrough came at the Portuguese Grand Prix, where he secured his first pole position and won the race in wet conditions, dominating by over a minute. He considered it one of the best drives of his career.

Senna led races at San Marino, Monaco, Britain, and Germany but retired from all due to technical issues. He had a notable accident at the French Grand Prix. His second victory of the season came in Belgium under wet-dry conditions at Spa-Francorchamps.

Senna's relationship with De Angelis deteriorated as both sought top driver status at Lotus. Senna and De Angelis finished the season in 4th and 5th place in the driver rankings, with Senna establishing himself as the top qualifier with seven poles.

In 1986, Johnny Dumfries replaced De Angelis at Lotus due to Senna's veto of Derek Warwick. Senna had a strong start to the season, winning in Spain and finishing second in Brazil. However, the Lotus 98T had reliability issues, and Senna drifted behind Williams and Alain Prost, ultimately finishing fourth in the driver's standings.

Senna's 98T was one of the most powerful cars in history, with over 1,300 bhp in qualifying. He introduced his tradition of waving the Brazilian flag after wins and briefly explored rallying.

In 1987, Lotus secured Honda engines, and Senna had a new teammate, Satoru Nakajima, with preferential treatment for Senna. He won races in Monaco and Detroit, leading the championship. However, the Williams cars proved superior, and Senna announced his move to McLaren for 1988. Senna finished the season strongly but was disqualified at the last race, ending his successful tenure with Lotus. His relationship with Honda began to solidify during this season, leading to McLaren's supply of Honda engines for the following year.

McLaren (1988 - 1993)


In 1988, Ayrton Senna joined the McLaren team, building on the relationship he had developed with Honda during the previous season with Lotus. This marked the beginning of a fierce rivalry with McLaren's double world champion, Alain Prost. Despite their personal competition, Senna and Prost recognized the need to collaborate, especially during testing, to stay ahead of their main rivals from Ferrari, Williams, Benetton, and Lotus.

During the season, Senna faced several notable incidents. At the Monaco Grand Prix, he out-qualified Prost by a significant margin but crashed while leading the race. Instead of returning to the pit lane, Senna went to his apartment and only contacted the team later that night.

At the Portuguese Grand Prix, Senna made a daring move to block Prost, forcing him to nearly run into the pit wall. Prost was angered by this maneuver, but Senna later apologized for the incident.

In the end, Senna and Prost dominated the 1988 season, winning 15 of 16 races in the McLaren MP4/4. Senna secured his first Formula One world championship by taking eight wins to Prost's seven, despite Prost scoring more points over the season. Senna's record-breaking achievements included eight wins and 13 pole positions, surpassing previous records held by Jim Clark and Nelson Piquet. However, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza was an exception, as Senna's race ended with a collision with the Williams of Jean-Louis Schlesser, allowing Ferrari to secure a 1-2 finish, marking the only race McLaren did not win that season.


In 1989, the rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost intensified both on and off the track. Tension grew when Ron Dennis, McLaren's team principal, suggested differences in the Honda engines favored Senna over Prost. The feud escalated when Senna overtook Prost at the San Marino Grand Prix, violating what Prost claimed was a pre-race agreement. Senna denied any agreement, but Prost's version was supported by the team's sponsor, Marlboro.

Senna initially led the championship with victories in San Marino, Monaco, and Mexico, where he led every lap. He also won in Germany, Belgium, and Spain. However, a series of mechanical failures in Phoenix, Canada, France, and Britain, as well as more reliability issues in Italy, along with collisions in Brazil and Portugal, tilted the title race in Prost's favor.

Prost clinched the 1989 world title after a collision with Senna at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan, a race Senna needed to win to stay in the title race. Prost's car was modified to be faster on straights but slower in corners, making it harder for Senna to pass. On lap 46, Senna attempted to overtake Prost, but Prost cut him off, causing a collision that led to both cars sliding to a stop. Prost abandoned the race, while Senna received a push-start, rejoined, and won the race. However, he was later disqualified for various infractions, including the push-start, cutting a chicane after the collision, and crossing into the pit lane entry.

Senna criticized the FIA and its president, Jean-Marie Balestre, accusing them of favoring Prost. Senna finished the season second with six wins and one second place. Prost left McLaren for Ferrari the following year due to his strained relationship with Senna and even severed ties with Ron Dennis due to a trophy-related incident in Italy.


In 1990, Ayrton Senna established a strong lead in the Formula One championship with six wins, two second places, and three third-place finishes. With Alain Prost now at Ferrari, Senna had Gerhard Berger as his new teammate. He won races like the season opener in Phoenix, battling Jean Alesi's Tyrrell, and Germany, where he had a fierce competition with Alessandro Nannini of Benetton. As the season progressed, Prost in his Ferrari made a comeback with five wins, including a crucial victory in Spain, narrowing the championship gap to just nine points with two races remaining.

Senna collaborated with Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball, on artwork for Weekly Shōnen Jump featuring McLaren-themed illustrations of Dragon Ball characters. He was also featured in GP Boy, a manga series published in Weekly Shōnen Jump to celebrate Shueisha's sponsorship of McLaren.

At the penultimate race in Japan at Suzuka, Senna took pole position ahead of Prost. However, a dispute over the pole position position on the track and crossing the yellow pit exit line before the first corner left Senna frustrated. During the race, Prost got ahead of Senna, who attempted to regain the lead at the first corner. The two cars collided, and Senna went off the track, eventually crashing into a tire barrier. Senna became the world champion due to this collision.

In an interview with Jackie Stewart after the race in Australia, Senna defended his aggressive racing style, stating that being a racing driver means going for gaps and not yielding, despite the pressure and controversies. In a later admission, Senna revealed he deliberately crashed into Prost at the previous year's Japanese Grand Prix, explaining his motives and frustrations with the FIA's decisions, including his 1989 disqualification and the pole position issue in 1990. Prost criticized Senna's actions as "disgusting" and revealed telemetry data suggesting that Senna had taken him out intentionally.


In 1991, Ayrton Senna secured his third Formula One world championship, becoming the youngest three-time champion at the time. He achieved this by winning seven races and increasing his pole position record to 60 out of 127 events. Alain Prost, his main competitor in the past, was no longer a serious threat due to Ferrari's performance decline.

Senna had initial concerns about the car's competitiveness with the new Honda V12 engine, but he won the first four races of the season. Nigel Mansell in the Williams-Renault later became a strong rival. Senna faced challenges, including an injury from a jet-skiing accident, a dramatic car rollover in testing at Hockenheim, and a close encounter with Mansell at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Despite these obstacles, Senna's consistency, car improvements, and Honda's engine development helped him secure the championship. He won three more races and clinched the title in Japan, where Mansell's race-ending incident handed victory to Senna's teammate Gerhard Berger.

Senna initially planned to move to Williams for the 1992 season but decided to stay with McLaren-Honda out of loyalty at the personal request of Honda's CEO, Nobuhiko Kawamoto.

During the year, Senna received the "International Racing Driver Award" from Autosport magazine and gave one of his helmets to Jean-Marie Balestre, his renowned foe, as a gesture at the Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) gala dinner in Paris.


In 1992, Ayrton Senna faced challenges with McLaren's inability to compete with Williams' dominant FW14B car. McLaren's new MP4/7A model had delays and lacked active suspension, causing reliability issues and unpredictability in fast corners.

Senna won races in Monaco, Hungary, and Italy but struggled for consistency and reliability throughout the season. One notable incident occurred during the Mexican Grand Prix when Senna's car hit a bump, leading to a crash into a concrete retaining wall. While he raced the next day, gearbox failure forced him to retire from the race. Senna finished fourth in the championship, behind Williams' Mansell and Patrese and Benetton's Schumacher.

Senna's relationship with rising star Michael Schumacher was strained, with incidents at the Brazilian and French Grands Prix leading to confrontations on and off the track.Questions arose about Senna's future in Formula One as he didn't have a contract by the end of 1992. He declined an offer from Ferrari and explored the possibility of testing an IndyCar with Penske, which garnered significant attention. Ultimately, he did not participate in the 1993 Indianapolis 500 due to McLaren boss Ron Dennis' intervention.


In 1993, Ayrton Senna's attempts to secure a competitive car led him to consider leaving McLaren for Williams, but Alain Prost's veto prevented him from joining the team. McLaren faced challenges with customer Ford V8 engines and an inferior power output compared to other teams. Senna initially agreed to stay with McLaren on a race-by-race basis after testing their 1993 car, the MP4/8.

Senna began the season with a second-place finish in South Africa, followed by wins in Brazil and Donington, which is considered one of his greatest victories. He set a record for the fastest lap in an F1 race during this event. Senna won in changing conditions and achieved a record-breaking sixth victory in Monaco.

As the season progressed, mechanical failures plagued Senna, and Alain Prost and Damon Hill in Williams-Renault cars asserted their dominance. Senna won the penultimate race in Japan but was involved in an incident with Eddie Irvine, resulting in a suspension threat. However, the suspension was lifted due to a compromise reached between Senna and the FIA president. The season concluded in Australia with Senna's 41st and final F1 career win, marking an emotional victory as he defeated Prost for the last time.

Senna finished the championship in second place behind Prost, with the season ending on a more pacifying note between the two rivals.

Williams - 1994

In 1994, Ayrton Senna joined the Williams team after Alain Prost's retirement, signing a contract with a reported $20 million salary. He drove for Williams alongside Damon Hill, with Rothmans International as the primary sponsor.

However, the 1994 season brought significant rule changes, banning electronic driver aids like active suspension, traction control, and ABS. During preseason testing, Senna expressed discomfort with the handling of the Williams FW16 car, fearing that it would be a season with many accidents.

In the first race of the season in Brazil, Senna took pole position but retired after spinning out while trying to catch Michael Schumacher's Benetton. The second race in Aida also ended in retirement after a collision. These setbacks marked Senna's worst start to a Formula One season, with Schumacher leading the championship by 20 points.

The 1994 season was marred by controversies, with suspicions of foul play, particularly involving the Benetton team. Senna expressed concerns about illegal traction control systems, and his teammate Damon Hill later suggested that Senna had detected unusual noises from Benetton's engine.

The season concluded at the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide, where Schumacher controversially won the driver's world championship title after a collision that forced both him and Hill to retire. The first-corner chicane at the Adelaide Street Circuit was renamed the "Senna Chicane" in honor of Ayrton Senna. Schumacher dedicated his championship to Senna at the official FIA conference after the race.