May 1 marks 29 years since the death of three-time Formula 1 champion Ayrton Senna – the Wizard, winner of 41 Grand Prix and a real legend already at 34. But the most beautiful and grandiose of all his victories will probably forever remain the European Grand Prix 1993 at Donington Park – when Senna, in the pouring rain, gave a “God’s circle” with a dash to the leaders from fifth place at the very beginning.
He gave way to Karl Wendlinger in the middle Sauber, but then consistently overtook the rising Michael Schumacher in the Benetton, gave revenge to Karl, and then removed the leading Williams dominant Damon Hill and Alain Prost. At the finish, Ayrton led more laps to all but second place (Hill was “only” 83 seconds behind).
But how did Senna succeed in that great “God’s circle”? Why was he so dominant in the rain? The official Formula 1 website spoke to the Wizard’s former rivals from that race and the technical staff of some of the teams – and compiled exhaustive explanations.
Ayrton – “immediately destroy everyone”, no “wait”
“I thought, “Oh. It must be him,” recalls Wendlinger, who initially managed to move up to third and be behind Prost and Hill. – On the other hand, during the warm-up I also chose the trajectory on the right, because it passed outside the main trajectory. On most tracks and in most corners in wet conditions, traction is usually just out of line, because the track is still not rubberized, there is no rolling.
Maybe I just focused too much on the cars ahead, just going down the hill and watching what was happening ahead. Of course, I understood that the opponent could be faster on the main trajectory, but I never expected that he (Senna) would be able to go through this corner so quickly: on the very first lap, on cold tires and with full tanks …
I remember it very well, I always had such an attitude, this is a property of character. And I thought something like this: “Okay, this is the first lap of the race, the tires are cold, the tanks are full. Let’s see what happens: we’ll just try to survive the first lap, find the rhythm, and then we’ll see.” When you watch the first circle of Ayrton, you understand that he has the opposite – no wait and see, immediately turn on and destroy everyone!
In the first laps of such a race, everyone makes sure that the cars are not washed away by rivers of rain. Except Senna
“Honestly, he just disappeared,” recalls the start of that race, Jean Alesi, who started the race as the 9th Ferrari driver. – Already on the way to the starting grid, we then faced some difficulties: rivers simply flowed along the track. Because this track has such a property: because of the large height differences, you run into a river over and over again, which flows right across the asphalt. And for the first two laps, your task is to make sure that the car can cope with the flow of water, especially with a lot of fuel on board.
So in the first laps, everyone tried to take care of just such things. Everyone but him! Again, at the start of the rain race, you experience strange sensations: because you see about five meters ahead. Already 50 meters after the start, the spray from under the wheels creates such a thick white fog that you can’t see anything ahead of you except him.
Everyone takes risks for speed. Perhaps Ayrton was simply willing to take more risks. Visibility we had with him was the same, and, as far as I remember, at that moment it was close to zero. We did not drive at full speed, driving along the rivers flowing along the track, but Ayrton flew at full speed. Perhaps for Ayrton, the risk limit is simply higher.”
“Let’s be honest: no one likes to ride in the rain when you can’t see anything,” said Christian Fittipaldi (who started that day as the 16th driver of the Minardi). – Yes, maybe when you are alone on the track, but not like that.
If you put me at the start of the 25th under such conditions, I will reset the next hour or something. He could adjust very, very quickly, faster than anyone – and squeezed as much as he could out of it.
“As if Senna was the only one who woke up and drank coffee”
“It felt like everyone just fell asleep, and only Ayrton woke up! – Admired the pilot of “Georgian” and the winner of three Grand Prix Thierry Boutsen (started in that race 19th). “It was just brilliant. I don’t think anyone has ever done something like this – everyone was so impressed. I enjoyed this spectacle and then reviewed everything several times.
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