Weekend Docco: Tyrrell – Surviving Formula 1

Few, if any, would question the pure talent of Ayrton Senna.  No driver, past or present, has been able to wring as much single-lap pace from a car. The Brazilian often left his most distinguished rivals trailing far in his wake.  But some of Senna's on-track tactics, and his win-at-all-cost attitude, divides opinion to this day.

A highly successful kart racer, Senna's first season in single-seaters was 1981.  He won the Formula Ford 1600 series and followed up by taking the FF2000 title the next year. 

In 1983 he drove in Formula Three, adding a third championship in as many seasons.  His talent drew the attention of both Williams and McLaren, but in the end Ayrton signed for the little-known Toleman team. He would begin his F1 career in stunning fashion. 

In only his fifth start, and in treacherous conditions at Monaco, Senna climbed from 13th on the grid to 2nd, and began catching race leader Alain Prost.  The race was stopped just as Senna caught his future rival, but despite losing a possible victory, the world of Formula One now knew his name. 

Two further podiums in a car which had no business achieving them took Senna to 9th place in his first F1 season, and he moved to Lotus for 1985.

While fast enough to challenge for race wins, the Lotus 97T lacked reliability.  Senna won his first Grand Prix at Estoril by over a minute in torrential rain, but despite six pole positions he was let down by the car too often to mount a championship challenge. 

Two more seasons with Lotus brought more poles and several wins, but Senna finally received a car worthy of his talents in 1988, joining Alain Prost at McLaren.

In a season dominated by the awesome McLaren-Honda, Senna took a staggering 13 pole positions and won a then-record eight out of the 16 races to claim his first World Championship.  Thirteen more poles followed in 1989, and after a season-long battle the McLarens collided at the penultimate race at Suzuka, handing the title to Prost.  Whether Prost deliberately caused the accident or not, Senna believed he had, and the incident added fuel to an already fiery relationship between the two.

In 1990 the Brazilian was partnered by close friend Gerhard Berger, while Prost moved to Ferrari.  Another close season developed, and as the teams returned to Suzuka, Senna was in touching distance of his second title.  Prost got a better start and was leading into the first corner when Senna drove into the back of his car at high speed, taking both men out of the race.  Ayrton later admitted it was deliberate, and for some the incident cast a shadow over the rest of his career.

The next year produced little controversy, and Senna held off Nigel Mansell's mid-season charge to successfully defend his title. 

In 1992 the Williams and Mansell combination was simply too strong, and while Ayrton won three races he had to settle for fourth in the championship. 

The McLaren of 1993 was powered by a weak Ford V8 and stood little hope against the Williams of Prost, but Senna still managed to drive it to five race wins, including a masterful performance at a wet Donnington Park.

After two seasons without a championship, Senna moved to the dominant Williams-Renault team for 1994.  Two pole positions led to two retirements in the opening races, and heading to Imola a win was needed to stay in touch with Championship leader Michael Schumacher.  It was to prove the darkest weekend in modern Formula One history.

The tragic death of Roland Ratzenberger had a deep and profound affect on Senna.  Now something of an elder statesman of the sport, and already badly shaken by Rubens Barrichello's horrific accident the day before, Ayrton commandeered an official's car and went straight to the scene of the crash.  By many accounts Senna did not want to race the following day, but after leading a reformation of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association on the morning of the first of May, he did.

Few fans will ever forget where they were when they heard of Senna's death, and no event of the modern era has shaken the world of motorsport as much. 

Formula One and the world lost an unparalleled genius on that day, a man whose raw ability behind the wheel may never be matched and will certainly never be forgotten. 


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Source : http://www.bleacherreport.com/articles/860354-statistically-ranking-the-top-10-formula-one-champions-of-all-time

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