Who Is Ayrton Senna?

On May first of 1994, after a mechanical problem that rendered the steering of his car useless, Ayrton Senna would be found dead at the Tamburello corner on lap 7 of the San Marino Gran Prix. Senna hit the concrete retaining wall at around 217 kph. The cars telemetry later showed that Senna had reacted incredibly fast, having the brakes fully on at the moment of the accident. However, there was nothing he could have done to prevent his death. The reaper had scheduled him that day.

I have seen hundreds of hours of footage of his driving; I have also raced for part of my life and have seen countless hours of racing. I have lived through many things that have impressed me deeply, but I have seen very few that have left me in awe once experienced.


Ayrton Senna’s driving is the closest thing I have seen to divine revelation. Seeing anyone on the very edge, in the last stretch of human consciousness, is hands down one of the most beautiful, mystical displays of sheer brilliance that have filled me with joy. I compare his driving to Bernini’s sculpting, to Tchaikovsky’s compositions and is, to this day, one of the single most stunning things I have ever seen.

His discipline and commitment was astonishing; his bravery, determination, self-drive and ambition made him unique. He displayed an uncanny level of attention to detail that made him a titan in a land of giants. The names of Prost, Mansell and Schumacher all appeared amongst his rivals. They all raced against him and were all beaten. He understood that he needed to do whatever it took to reach his goal whether that was dying or spending several hours tuning his car.


In 1990’s Japan’s Gran Prix, Senna would become world champion if Alain Prost did not finish. In the first lap he crashed Prost on purpose to take him out of the race, risking both his and Prost’s lifes. That was his level of determination. That is what it takes.

His level of sintony with both car and track, his ability to take body, mind, soul and machine to their very limits while still keeping absolute control of it all was almost supernatural. I recommend you watch some of his footage; maybe you will be able to appreciate the intensity of his driving. It will elevate your spirit and nourish your soul once you see what he understood; that he was to fulfill a destiny of greatness that had given him an almost divine right to win. He was a regular visitor in that unexplored world where passion, excellence, and untamed talent meet.

He once said:

Once you are in it you are in it, you got to go all the way to the end because you commit yourself to such a level where there is no compromise. You give everything you have absolutely everything. Sometimes you find even more because it requires more if you want to stay ahead and you want to win. (…) So every time you are close to those limits the excitement increases, and your heart goes quicker, and your breath goes stronger.

It has occurred very few times in history that a man who has not won the most still manage to be the best. This is the case with Senna. He was undoubtedly the greatest racing driver that has ever lived. His grace on the wheel remains unchallenged and unrivaled. The Grand Prix venue misses him, I miss him, but he now rests among his equals, side by side with among greats.


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39 thoughts on “Who Is Ayrton Senna?”

  1. I really like this dude. I was never into Formula 1 but I happened to catch the “Senna” documentary a few years ago. Really great, worth seeing. Senna comes off as both a player and celebrity, but he also a very spiritual guy. He’s both humble and family-oriented, yet displays flashes of arrogance. A walking contradiction.
    In the end, what I really noticed is that Senna ultimately remains unkownable. When he won his first world championship, he’s looks into the camera and says, “Yah I just feel peace.” Simple as that. But you know he’s thrilled to death inside. Very charismatic guy.

  2. I really don’t like this dude. He was a winey little bitch who went on and on about unfair treatment… while driving in a F1 bloody car! And he went on and on about God… while driving in a man made machine thinking he was The Chosen One. But, hey, most of the best drivers are assholes, don’t get me started on Hamilton or Vettel. In fact at least half of them are assholes – apart from Raikkonen, he’s cool.
    Oh yeah, and I reckon Alonso’s better than Senna. Debatable since they can’t race each other, since one of them’s dead and all. Anyway…

      1. Senna better than Alonso huahauahhuha, OK… See, we can both laugh at each other’s opinions.

  3. Faust, the laps leading up to Ayrtons accident during the 88 Monaco GP were absolute perfection, and hearing him talk about how divine he felt in that moment is crazy.

  4. Many of the military aviators I have known were of this type of personality. It is not so much what you see on the race track or while they are flying, but what they do in between.
    Greatness is not dedication to just one thing, but dedication to one great thing that encompasses the whole of its many, many parts. Racing is obviously no different.
    It is easy to say that chasing women is one of those things. It can be, but only for a handful. True greatness is not the pursuit of one thing, but a cause or theory if you will that embraces multiple disciplines. Game can do that, but racing is greater. For off the track a man must have game to get the best girl; not just take any of the hundreds of losers that throw themselves at them, but the highest quality taken is what we all respect them for.
    Truly, an asshole arrogant enough to view himself as “chosen” to win would fall into that category, like the military aviator who always feels he can overcome any obstacle, a man like this had to feel nothing was beyond his reach. You have to fight for what you want, and if a little arrogance is what you need to start, well, get where you want, and expect humble pie along the way; but get to where you want to be.

    1. Come on, man. Why the one-line trollery? Worse: why the lemming agreement?
      It seems every article on this great website brings out the coolguys who demonstrate their manly “independence” by hating on the author. And seventeen others passively, anonymously agree. Chump behavior.
      I agree with some of what Faust said and disagree with some. Above all I’m glad he introduced me to a subject before which I hadn’t known anything beyond “Michael Schumacher.” It inspired me to watch the Senna documentary, which if a little hagiographic, was still thought provoking.
      We give Senna more attention because he is a young martyr to his life’s pursuit. And when we scratch below the surface, even if he’s not the G.O.A.T., there was some intriguing substance to the effort behind that pursuit.
      And to those haters who see only inconsistency between one author telling you to give up sport and another author praising a sportsman: that’s the sign of a well-rounded magazine, not contradictory messaging. The editors presume their readership has independent judgment and can reconcile opposing points of view with discernment. Seeing the trolls come out in every post, however, indicates the editors may be presuming too much.

    2. He reminds me of the Dos Equis guy….
      “They used to cast him as Antonio Banderas body double…to film sex scenes.
      “He moonlights on Top Gear as The Stig”
      “He’s currently banging BOTH Sofia Vergara’s daugters”
      “The prostitutes in Cartagena pay him for his company”
      “He is…Faust, the most interesting man in the world”
      “I don’t drink beer, but when I do, I drink Dos Equis. Stay thirsty my friends, but not that thirsty.”

  5. If here were still alive he would not be worshipped so much. Prost (his principal rival) has one more championship than him and he gets about 5 stories max per year written up in the motorsport press. His driving tactics would have his superlicence pulled in modern F1 for safety too.
    Personality wise I prefer James Hunt myself and you should too. He was a playboy and hellraiser.

  6. Ever since the “Senna” documentary, I’ve noticed a crazy cult spring up around Ayrton. Don’t get me wrong, he was one of the best drivers of his time, especially during Monaco or when it rained. But if you watched formula 1 during the early 90s, a lot of his performances were inconsistent and he was by no means dominant. A lot of the time he would complain about unfair rules, then exploit them the next race. During his last year, he was getting beaten by Schumacher, and he probably would have faded away in memory if he hadn’t died early. Everyone loves Ayrton because he was such an animated character and his rivalry with Prost (who was absolutely demonized in the “documentary”) makes for good print.

  7. He was such an amazing driver with divine & superior skills to the mortals that he had to crash another guys car in order to stop the other guy from winning. I call him a bullshiting, wimpy, petulant little rich boy with a good eye for self promotion and a death wish who cried whenever he couldn’t get what he wanted.

    1. obviously you are not willing to do what it takes, whatever that is, to achieve your goals and are therefore unable to recognize when somebody is willing to do so.
      calculated risk and ruthlessness are essential charactaristics of greatness.

      1. >literally crashed a guy to prevent him from winning
        Go fuck yourself.

    2. Well that crash wasn´t explained properly in the Post. It was a revenge
      crash since Prost had done the same thing to him in the previous year,
      1989, in the same race, Suzuka.
      That year Prost was ahead with 2 races left in the Tournment. Senna needed to win to have a chance, and when he was going to pass Prost, the French didnt allow by crashing into Senna. Prost calmly walked off the race, while Senna was able to still get back into the race and win it. But he was later disqualified for having cut through the chicane on his way back after the crash. That was one of the most controversial disqualifications in F1 history.
      In the following year, 1990, the tables had turned, Senna was ahead, if
      Prost didn´t finish he was the Champion, so with 30 seconds in the race
      Senna crashed in to the French.
      This is just a major summary of the whole story. Senna had many other good reasons to want to hit Prost and demoralize the F1 organization.
      In the next year 1991 Senna set the story straight by winnig the Championship again, against Nigel Mansell, but that is a whole other great story.
      Senna is a true hero, everyone who has closely followed him knows that.

    1. The god who cried when informed he had equalled Senna’s number of victories, in a moving tribute from a great man to another great man:

    1. Totally agree that the Top Gear segment on Senna was better than the film. The Top Gear segment was short and sweet and tied the past to the present by having Lewis Hamilton drive Senna’s old car. I’ve shown it to people with no great interest in cars or knowledge of F1 and they still loved it.
      But the film was drawn out and boring and wasted way too much time on interviews with Senna’s rival, the eminently boring Alain Prost.

      1. Of course and it would be that way though. Top gear, clarkson, may and hammond are genuine gearheads they appreciate cars, speed, racing and driving on a deeper level than most, and [aside from hammond] they’re old men who could give a shit about women anymore.
        They’re there to have fun, fuck around and drive cars, its almost a religious thing with them, the culture of speed. Makes them perfect for this sort of thing.
        The film on the otherhand was just trying to cash in on glory and story

  8. Contrast this piece with the earlier, “Stop Watching Sports.”
    One one hand, you’ve got an author and legions of commentators (primarily to let strangers on the internet know how Scottish they are) going on about how no true Scotsman spends his time watching other men achieve things, on the other, a week later, you’ve got a post holding up a famous sportsman as an inspiring example of masculinity. Ha.

  9. One week it’s “stop watching sports”, the next week we have some author beating off to a race car driver.

    1. There’s a slight difference between passively watching sports game endless hours and writing an article which encourages to give the best.

  10. This guy was crazy, you cannot condone him crashing into Prost. Very talented driver who thought he had a divine right to win.
    Schumacher was beating him that year because he had the faster car, I read an article recently where by they claimed his car might have been rigged.

  11. Huge fan of Senna myself, even before the documentary came out, but then again I follow F1 closely.
    Senna’s speed, accuracy and drive set him apart from the rest of the drivers. Look at his ability to churn out Pole positions? He’s 2nd all time behind Schumacher who has driven way more races than Senna too.
    I don’t care what people say about Senna’s inconsistency or whatever because he was a racer, he went for it. It didn’t matter if it was one sector, one lap or one race, when Senna was at his best he was in a league of his own. Prost played the long game for points rather than giving it everything like Senna did.
    R.I.P. Ayrton

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