Today marks the 18th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s death at Imola, in 1994 San Marino grand prix. The most charismatic – and for many the greatest – driver in the history of Formula 1 lived an incredible life, a life that came to a remarkable end. The story of Senna is best told in the SENNA documentary by Asif Kapadia. We recently had the chance to watch the film, and here’s our account, a mini review if you will. Well, not so much a review as a tribute to the big man.
SENNA film covers mostly Ayrton’s professional life, since the first time he came to Europe to compete in Karting, through the ups and downs of his career, his fights with the dark forces and of course his great achievements. But there are snippets of his personal life in there that are equally interesting; like all the beautiful girls he dated, or his character as a national hero.
It’s unbelievable the same ruthless guy who crashes into Alain Prost’s car, endangering both their lives, for a win, is compassionate enough to show up in TV and dance with kids, or hug an interviewer who’s just too excited to see him. Senna came from a rich family, and he went on to become a millionaire himself, but he never forgot his people and donated millions to help those in need.
Just a look at Senna’s funeral ceremony is enough to know what he meant to the people of Brazil.
But perhaps what interests us most about Senna is his passion for racing and winning. That was the reason he came to Europe all on his own to pursue his love of motorsport. That was what earned him his numerous F1 wins, and that was definitely what kept him going when everything turned against him. He had a world title taken away from him, he witnessed death of fellow drivers on the track, and he certainly did have some issue in his personal life. But he kept at it.
After all, you need more than talent to win 162 races, 3 world championship titles, 41 wins, 80 podiums, 69 pole positions.
Ayrton Senna always hated what he refereed to as politicians who ruin the sport, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t keep up the game with them. His interviews and his encounters with F1’s top brass featured in the film show a powerful character who won’t bow down, no matter how strong the force is. We absolutely loved his reaction to Jackie Stewart’s question about Senna’s record of crashing into other drivers. Big Stew was left speechless.
SENNA film is totally unmissable, not just for racing fans, but just as a documentary the film has undeniable cinematic qualities. It is a great watch even if you don’t know how Ayrton Senna was.