Ayrton Senna was already a star both in karting and in the British entry categories thanks to his victories and titles, but it was in only 1984, with his F1 debut, that the world started paying close attention to the driver that would soon be considered the best ever.
Coming out of a successful F3 season in 1983, Ayrton signed with the humble Toleman team. His debut took place in his home turf, in Rio de Janeiro, marking the beginning of a magical period in the most important category in motor sports. Even though the Brazilian GP was his first F1 race, a malfunctioning car meant he would score his first points only in the following GPs, in South Africa and Belgium.
In those races, Senna posted his first two points in F1 by finishing in 6th place. The good results gave the Brazilian confidence enough to start making a name for himself in his first year as an F1 driver. But what was about to happen on the streets of Monte Carlo would take things to the next level.
It was the race that put Ayrton Senna’s name among the greats for the first time: the Brazilian started in 13th place, drove brilliantly and scored his first-ever podium in F1, finishing in 2nd despite the heavy rain in Monaco – the race was suspended due to the weather conditions by race director, Jacky Ickx, after only 31 laps.
A few races later, Senna would secure his second podium-finish in the category – this time by finishing in 3rd at Brands Hatch, England. “On the podium, the crowd at Brands Hatch, already used to Ayrton’s triumphs in other categories, cheered louder for him than for Niki Lauda himself. And Ayrton also celebrated in style, spraying champagne on everyone”, described Reginaldo Leme, a TV Globo reporter, on the British GP broadcast.
And his team’s lackluster performance didn’t stop Senna from scoring another podium-finish in the season’s final race, at the Portuguese GP, which took place at Estoril, where he was only beaten by that year’s champion and runner-up: Niki Lauda and Alain Prost, respectively, both McLaren drivers. The three motor sports giants that climbed on the podium, on that day, would eventually go on to boast a total of ten world titles.
At the end of the season, Senna signed with Lotus, his first top-shelf team in F1, with which he would attain his first win in the category, in April, 1985 – coincidentally, on the same track where the driver had climbed on the podium, with Toleman, as the 1984 season came to a close.