| |

F1: What is it about Senna's legacy?

Bryan Edwards

There are few that argue with the assertion that Ayrton Senna was Formula One's greatest driver. Driven, tortured, ruthless on the track yet a man of considerable humanity off it, Senna knocked down records like a bowler knocks down pins. Even as his records are equalled, drivers that do so find that matching his performance is an emotional experience.

At the end of the 2012 Indian Grand Prix, Martin Brundle spoke to Sebastian Vettel on the podium. Brundle said "You've led every race, every lap for three consecutive races now. The last man to do that was the great Ayrton Senna in 1989, you're in great company." Vettel, who's talent one has to admire but, with his arrogance and demonstrations in victory, is hardly likeable, paused slightly, then responded very quietly. "Don't say things like that! It's very, very special. I think we all will remember Ayrton forever, not just because he was successful and he had these kinds of numbers speaking for him but he was a great person," he said.

It was an uncharacteristic response, all the more valuable for being spontaneous and clearly said with considerable emotion.

In 2000, Michael Schumacher broke down, not just in tears but sobbing when, at Monza, he equalled Senna's 41 victories. Senna was killed at the Italian Grand Prix - that year held at Imola in 1994 - a race that Schumacher won. The trigger for Schumacher's sudden descent into tears was a question about equalling Senna's record.

Lewis Hamilton, presented with the chance to drive Ayrton Senna's multi-race winning MP4 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yCsdnUW2Ww) was beside himself with joy because of the car: after a session, he was almost incoherent. But it was the talk of Senna that showed Hamilton's hero worship.

It's not only drivers. Professional cynic Jeremy Clarkson's piece for Top Gear on Senna, at the time of what would have been Senna's 50th birthday (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oLSYSJO5Ik) rendered Clarkson so emotional he was unable to complete the wrap to camera without choking, turning away from the camera several times. And after the segment, wrapping the edition of Top Gear, he was serious to the point of terseness, quickly getting out of shot.

During the segment, driver after driver made their feelings clear: one after another they say "Senna is number one."

Hamilton was nine years old when Senna died. Talking of that day, even now he can barely keep his emotions in check. He's not the only one. Indeed, very few who watched Senna drive week in week out, in cars that were ridiculously dangerous recall him without an emotional reaction.

And now we know: even young, arrogant, drivers have their heroes.

And, no matter what Vettel or Schumacher do or have done, they know that records may be equalled or even broken but it takes more than chalking up results to be a legend. And, in truth, the most legendary driver of all remains Ayrton Senna.


Senna @ amazon.co.uk Senna @ amazon.com