It would be unjust to look back on some of the greatest moments in F1’s history without mentioning Ayrton Senna himself and particularly, his monumental achievement on the 30th October 1988.
It is a year synonymous with McLaren-Honda, the Senna/Prost partnership and their car, the MP4/4. The year of dominance for McLaren and its famed driver pairing ended with the Brazilian securing his first title at the penultimate round of the season.
The 1988 Japanese Grand Prix, however, almost wasn’t for the great three-time champion. He nearly stalled on the grid with the sloping starting grid at Suzuka proving to be his saviour. Alain Prost, who was second on the grid for the team’s seventh front row lockout of the season, inherited the lead.
Despite heavy rain, Senna’s protests to stop the race (he was on dry tyres at the time) and electrical failures, the race somehow reached its full distance in a drenched Suzuka. It was 51 laps of sheer uncertainty at the wheel of the McLaren; Senna would need to perform at his best if he was to win this championship in the rain.
The race itself was hit with two notable collisions; mostly involving Nigel Mansell it must be said. With disputes taking place behind him, the great Brazilian remained on top to score a famous hat-trick that weekend – the elusive pairing of pole position, race win and fastest lap. Even the lap record was his. What a truly outstanding drive it was.
It was the start of an illustrious career for Senna. He would later go on to achieve three world championships, 41 wins and 80 podiums. His last race is sadly the one he is best known but today, please spare for a thought for Senna and his first championship win, against a competitive field on October 30th 1988.
On this day, Senna made history.
“You will never know the feeling of a driver when winning a race. The helmet hides feelings that cannot be understood.”
– Ayrton Senna