Some people have an impact that cannot be fully defined or measured. Only someone truly special can create a cult legacy so powerful, it has remained strong for nineteen years. Ayrton Senna, is quite simply, a legend. Please excuse my use of the over used “legend”, but there is no denying it is true. Even those who choose the tyre-saving strategists Alain Prost over his great rival, would still struggle to overlook his talent.
Motorsport generally, and Formula 1 in particular, has a habit of becoming too corporate in nature. The terms ‘pay drivers’ and ‘team orders’ sometimes force fans to feel that the sport is losing itself under a cloud of hierarchal dictatorships threatening to control the outcome of a race. I admit, this would mostly be the view of a Motorsport pessimist, but the emotional force of Ayrton Senna is perhaps more poignant now than ever before.
Renowned for his faith, Ayrton Senna drove because he wanted to, because the feeling of racing made him feel that the duty, he had been given by the God he believed in, was being fulfilled. All racing drivers love what they do, the sacrifice of travel and time would not make it worthwhile otherwise. Fortunately, the events of that fateful day in 1994 have not been repeated since. The safety measures endorsed following his death has seen the loss of the great man not appear in vain. Whilst an incredible talent lost his life, every time a driver leaves a crash unharmed, a small piece of Ayrton returns.
Perhaps this, above all else, is the Brazilian’s greatest achievement? After all, very few inspire a generation to this extent. Very few create a legacy so powerful, that the mere mention of their name forces fans to sit, contemplate and wonder what else he may have achieved.
I am yet to meet someone, within Motorsport or not, who does not acknowledge this talent. Ayrton Senna was what I call “an emotional driver”. Intent on championships and nothing short of victory, I question whether he would settle for the formation of the new teams in the current era of Formula 1.It is very difficult to imagine him accepting the HRT that his nephew Bruno once drove.
I did not witness the crash on that woeful day in Imola, but everyone I have spoken to has remembered where they were. Some may regard it as odd that he was able to get back in a car just one day after Roland Ratzenberger’s fatal crash the previous day. I instead applaud a man who was willing to jeopardise his future for one last racing thrill. Sadly, the safety measures he so badly craved, came too late.
Today is a sad day. Ayrton himself had once said, “If I have an accident that costs me my life, I hope it is in one go. If I am going to live, I want to live fully”. He may not be strutting down the paddock or conducting his infamous pre race prayers, but Ayrton Senna still lives on in the minds and hearts of the racing world.
An ambassador for the sport, and an incredible one at that, we will forever be indebted to him. To describe him as a “legend” does not seem enough. Maybe, just maybe, Ayrton Senna deserves a more unique and fitting title?