It seems like every fan, pundit, journalist has run out of superlatives to describe Ayrton Senna. What more can be said?
Fortunately the web has a treasure trove of interviews, on-board footage, passionate analysis, epic dueling, etc, etc. The amount of articles, videos, blogs, websites shows that everyone still, after all these years, appreciates what Senna has done and has given to F1. His fan base is not only widening but it is making his aura grow better still.
What it must feel like being a young fan discovering him for the first time, a truly wonderful journey they are about to begin. In Japan he is still so well revered that Japanese sound engineers and Honda put this commercial together in 2013.
Pole Lap Suzuka 1989:
The one aspect that has intrigued me for many years even as a child was how he could be so far ahead in qualifying in one particular Grand Prix, Monaco.
Many years later after scouring the internet it threw up many pieces of information and dissections of his telemetry that showed a mind boggling ritual that no one else was doing, or for that matter, could even replicate.
In a time when teams had a multitude of engines to plonk back into their teams cars allowing an all-out assault on any given track, this had the F1 fans grinning with pleasure as each one screamed past on the cusp of maximum output.
Senna would maximize the output of each one in an perfectly tamed juggling act of man v machine – a ear blistering beast around the tight cornering streets of Monte Carlo or other GP venues.
The telemetry of each lap when juxtaposed together in a 3D map would show perfected symmetry lap after lap (for example briefly shown in 2D in the above video after 30 seconds – his perfectly timed telemetry) – in a sort of heart-beat blipped precision, as his own heart pounded away as he fought with his car. And to think at Monaco this was necessary for 77/78 laps, it really showed the wizardry and talent this guy had.
Okay, he could back off now and again but even Senna would still push to the limit even if almost 1 min ahead of next rival; Monaco 1988 is a perfect example – and it dramatically backfired. The trademark accelerator tapping as he exited each corner showed that he had a unique style, his way of gaining that that extra tenth of a second as he navigated every corner.
He did this everywhere of course but it was all the more special around Monaco. The concentration required would give mere mortals an aneurysm but Senna was different.
I tried this technique whilst go-karting one time and I was like a ‘buckaroo’ on wheels, so know your limits and do not try to be a hero. Like Graham Hill before and Michael Schumacher after, during his time Senna owned Monaco.
He would qualify over a second quicker at Monaco than his rivals. As we know a second could mean a light-year in terms of development but Senna constantly outshone his rival Alain Prost in his McLaren for years at Monaco.
Describing his technique around Monaco shows his accelerator tapping trademark in all its glory- as shown in the video above. Up the hill past ‘Beau Rivage’ before entering the Casino Square, and in a split second – after downshifting – he’s tapping the accelerator again, maximizing his yardage gaining that extra tenth or hundredth of a second. Then, over the bump, before Mirabeau, full on the power.
The g-force as the steering wheel shakes, biting back is a sight to behold, almost tangible for the viewer. As he exits ‘Lowes Hairpin’ – again tap, tap, tap. Then through the ‘Nouvelle Chicane’, high-revs, flicks through – this poor engine. But as one would listen as again its man versus machine a real taming of a mechanical beast.
Again through ‘Tabac’ and the swimming pool section – brake, downshift, tap accelerator, by the time it takes to read this he’s exiting La Rascasse, again tapping away. His technique when testing this Honda NSX in this video below shows the world his mind-boggling technique in all its early 90’s white-socks and loafers glory:
Mind you the heel-toe pedal technique is used by the majority of professional racing drivers but Senna had his own unique style.
Keith Moon; ex-drummer of The Who, would applaud the foot-work required to do this. It’s a shame there is no camera pedal work from Monaco but the sound alone makes up for this and is another window in the world of one of F1’s greatest talents.
Liam Cairns, Pundit Arena