50 Facts About Ayrton Senna – Greatest Formula One Driver of All Time

Ayrton Senna was a Brazilian racing driver, who has often been voted as the best and most influential Formula One driver of all time. Here are 50 facts about Senna:

  1. He was the Formula One Champion in the year 1988, 1990 and 1991. He was considered the greatest driver of all time by many and is credited with the most successful and dominant Formula One driver of the modern era.
  2. For 17 years from 1989 to 2006 he held the record for most number of Pole Positions in the F1 circuit with 65. He was surpassed only by Michael Schumacher with 68.
  3. He is the proud owner of the record for most Grand Prix wins in Monaco with 6, starting from 1987 and ending with 1993.
  4. Ayrton Senna da Silva was born on 21 March 1960 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He was born in a wealthy family to Milton da Silva who was a factory owner and landowner and Neide Senna da Silva.
  5. He has two siblings: older sister Viviane and younger brother Leonardo.
  6. He developed an interest in motor sports and car at the age of 4. During those times he grew up in his grandfather Joao Senna’s house near Avenida Aviador Guilherme just 100 meters from airport.
  7. Ironically he was treated for poor motor coordination at the age of 3. He also had trouble climbing stairways at the same time.
  8. At the age of 7 he started driving a jeep at the family’s farm. He was nicknamed “Beco” by his parents.
  9. He entered the Karting competition at an early age of 13. His first kart was made by his father with the engine of a lawnmover.
  10. He started his first kart race from pole position against rivals some years older than him. However he retired after colliding with another racer, after managing to lead most of the race.
  11. After 4 years in the karting circle he won his first championship in 1977 at the South American Kart championship. He was 17 at that time. He finished runner up in the same event in the year 1979 and 1980.
  12. He moved to England in 1981 and joined Van Diemen team. In that year he won Townsend Thoreson Formula Ford 1600 championship with Diemen team.
  13. Due to immense pressure from parents to take up family business he quit racing and returned to Brazil. However he was offered Pound 10000 to join a Formula Ford 2000 Team and he accepted it.
  14. Driving for West Surrey Racing team he won the British Formula Three Championship in 1983. It was a hard fought race against Martin Brundle of Eddie Jordan Racing.
  15. In the year 1984 he joined Toleman, a new team despite test driving for big names such as Williams, McLaren and Brabham. There were no vacancies during the 1984 season.
  16. He made his F1 debut with Toleman at the 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix. However he retired from race due to engine failure at the lap 8. He was the first retirement of the season.
  17. He was renowned for his specific technical details of car performance before the advent of telemetry. Pat Symonds, his first F1 race engineer came to know of this during his first season.
  18. His first Pole Position of the career was in 1985 driving for team Lotus- Renault at the Portuguese Grand Prix.
  19. He won his first race of his career at the Portuguese Grand Prix in 1985. By winning his first pole position and by setting the fastest lap he completed the first “Grand Slam” of his career.
  20. He vetoed another top driver Derek Warwick from joining the team Lotus once his co driver De Angelis moved to Brabham. Since then his friendship with Warwick worsened. He stated that Lotus cannot support two top drivers with new equipments.
  21. He got a Brazilian Flag from a spectator and drove one victory lap at the Detroit Grand Prix, waving it in support of the Brazilian football team which was eliminated from the 1986 World Cup the previous day. Since then he made his practice to do so during his victory.
  22. He collided with English Mansell during the Belgian Grand Prix in 1987. Angered Mansell greeted Senna in the pits and grabbed him by the throat.
  23. During 1988 he joined McLaren with the approval of its top drover Alain Prost. Though they worked together during testing to keep ahead of other rivals, their own rivalry produced many incidents that year.
  24. During Monaco Grand Prix in 1988 Senna qualified 1.4 seconds ahead of Prost and led for most of the race before crashing on the lap 67. He went straight to his apartment before returning to the pits late at night when everyone was packing to leave.
  25. At the Italian Grand Prix in 1988 Senna who was leading to win the race did not give enough room for Williams Jean Schlesser, who collided with him. Ferrari’s won the race 1-2 for the first time after their founder Enzo Ferrari’s death.
  26. He won 8 races in the 1988 season beating the old record of 7 held jointly by Jim Clark and Prost. He also bettered the record of 9 pole positions by Nelson Piquet with 13.
  27. At the San Marino Grand Prix in 1989 he over took Prost in the first corner during the restart breaking the prerace agreement. On questioning after the race he stated that the agreement was only for the first time and not during the prerace.
  28. It boiled down to the winner take championship between Senna and Prost at the Suzuka circuit in Japan in 1989. Frustrated Senna who found it difficult to pass Prost collided with him during a tight turn, prompting the later to retire. He went on to win the race, but disqualified for push start and collision. Prost won the championship.
  29. In the penultimate race of the 1990 season Senna and Prost again met with 5 points difference. Prost was driving for Ferrari and needed to win for championship. Senna who was already infuriated over preference given to Prost, collided at the first corner at 270 km/h spinning both out of the race and thus winning the championship.
  30. In 1991 he met with a jet skiing accident near Sao Paulo resulting in stitches to his head.
  31. He again came to Suzuka with the winner take championship proposal but it was Nigel Mansell this time. Mansell spun off in the first corner and beached his car thus handling Senna an easy win.
  32. He won “International Racing Driver Award” in the year 1988, 1990 and 1991 presented by the British magazine Autosport.
  33. He also presented his helmet to Jackie Stewart at the Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile event in Paris.
  34. During a crash at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1992 involving French driver Erik Comas, he was the first to arrive at the scene disregarding his own safety. This changed his image and won universal praise.
  35. In 1993 he tried to join the Williams-Renault by driving for free which was declined by them. Prost who was joining the Williams after a sabbatical year vetoed Senna from joining as a team mate.
  36. Senna was again involved in an incident where he met Jordan team’s rookie Eddie Irvine and punched him in face after the conclusion of race in Japan. It was due to the latter’s actions during the race where Irvine twice un-lapped himself against Senna.
  37. He finally joined Williams after retirement from Prost and with the team’s lack of defending World Champion carrying race number 1 for the second year in a row. However the performance of the car has reduced due to new rule banning active suspension, ABS and traction control.
  38. Senna was suspicious of the Benetton cars and concluded that unusual noises came from their engine with special tweak which was giving them advantage over others. He went to the first corner and tried to detect anything from the passing cars after a first lap retirement.
  39. On May 1, 1994, at the San Marino Grand Prix he succumbed to his injuries during a collision and died at the age of 34. He was airlifted immediately to a hospital where he was pronounced brought dead.
  40. Before his final race he was disturbed by the crash of his protege Rubens Barrichello during the Friday afternoon qualifying session. Barrichello suffered a broken arm and a broken nose.
  41. During the Saturday qualifying Austrian Roland Ratzenberger was killed after colliding with the concrete wall at 310 km/h. His car’s front wing broke off around the corner and pushed him to the wall. Senna was at the accident site and visited the medical center.
  42. At the start of Senna’s last race a flying wheel landed in the stands injuring 8 people and an police officer, result of a collision between JJ Lehto of Benetton-Ford and Pedro Lamy of Lotus-Mugen Honda.
  43. An Austrian Flag was found by the medical staff inside his crumbled car on the crash site intended to be raised in honor of Ratzenberger after the race.
  44. Senna was deeply moved by the rising poor in his country. It was revealed after his death that he has donated around $400 million to the poor children.
  45. He was instrumental in establishing the organization “Instituto Ayrton Senna” dedicated to the Brazilian children. He had discussed about the development of the organization with his sister a month before his death.
  46. He was deeply moved by the dangers of his profession. He initiated the reformation of GPDA safety organization on the morning of his death.
  47. The Brazilian Football team after winning the 1994 World Cup dedicated their victory to Senna and collectively held banners on the field post victory against Italy in the final.
  48. He was inducted into International Motorsports Hall of Fame in April 2000. His 1993 European Grand Prix opening lap was listed at #43 among the list of 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.
  49. A comic book series with cartoon character based on Senna named as Senninha was introduced in 1993/94, but was cancelled after his death. It was re-launched in 2008 and all the profits go to IAS (Instituto Ayrton Senna) organization.
  50. Senna is still the national hero in Brazil. It is reported that more visitors throng to his grave than the graves of Elvis Presley, Marlin Monroe and JFK combined.

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