Ayrton Senna: 53 Years
Yesterday, the 21st of March 2013, would have marked the 53rd birthday of Formula 1 great Ayrton Senna. While it should be a celebration of one of the fastest drivers the world has ever seen, we can’t help but feel overwhelming sadness that such an inspirational athlete had his life cut short in a tragic accident. He is considered by many as the greatest Formula 1 driver in history based upon his astounding speed, unparalleled competitiveness and his success considering the quality of the opposition he faced.
Ayrton Senna was born on the 21st of March 1960 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He began karting at the age of 13, and contested the Karting World Championship from 1978 to 1982 before moving to single seater racing. Senna joined Formula 1 team “Toleman” for the 1984 season, and made his debut at the Brazillian Grand Prix in Rio de Janeiro. His best result of the 1984 season came at the Monaco Grand Prix in wet conditions, where he finished second after qualifying in 13th position. Senna raced for Lotus from 1985 to 1987 before signing to drive for McLaren with Alain Prost in 1988. Senna won his first world championship that year, followed by his second title in 1990, and third in 1991. Senna switched to Williams in 1994; however he would only ever compete in three races for the team. Senna endured a difficult beginning to his career with Williams; however he took pole position in qualifying at the San Marino Grand Prix. Senna led Schumacher early in the race, however shortly after an early restart, Ayrton’s car left the track at Tamburello and hit the concrete wall on the outside of the corner. He would lose his life shortly after.
The amazing thing about Ayrton Senna was the way that he captured the imagination of sports fans all over the world. He was an exceptionally competitive athlete, who had an unrelenting desire to win no matter the circumstance. He was a hero to many millions of people around the world, with fans who followed his journey every step of the way. Ayrton left a legacy that will never be matched. It has inspired a new generation of fans, many of whom never actually witnessed him race in person or on television. I was born just two months before Senna died, however when I’m asked for my favourite Formula One driver, I always reply “Ayrton Senna”. My father has told me incessantly about how much I would have loved watching Senna. He has told stories about staying up to all hours on a Monday morning to watch him race, and how special it was to travel to Adelaide every year to watch him compete live. I’ve heard how amazing he was in the wet, how he once approached the final corner at Adelaide with only three wheels, how exciting it was to follow Formula 1 when Senna was fighting with Prost, Mansell and the FIA.
As we approach the 19th Anniversary of that fateful weekend at Imola, Ayrton’s contribution to the safety of modern Formula 1 must also be appreciated. We have not seen a death in the sport for almost 20 years. Ayrton’s charity, set up shortly before his death, has invested nearly 80 million dollars into social programs to assist those less fortunate to achieve their full potential. His legacy, not only as racing driver, but as a humanitarian, cannot be overlooked. It’s important that we celebrate the life of Ayrton Senna, as we may never see another driver who could push a car so much harder than anyone thought possible. We may never see another driver with such a fierce competitive instinct. We may never see a talent like Senna again.
Rest in peace, Ayrton. You are an inspiration to us all.
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