Since the creation of the Formula One World Championship in 1950, the category has always raced during periods when another global event, the World Cup, was being held. To date, 37 Grand Prix have taken place during soccer’s premier competition. And on two occasions Ayrton Senna has won races during this period: in 1986 and in 1990.
The first of them is one of the most important victories of the driver’s career, and he created a gesture that would mark him throughout his F1 career. Senna won the 1986 United States Grand Prix on the Detroit street circuit. On that occasion, for the first time Ayrton celebrated his victory carrying the Brazilian flag. And this has everything to do with the World Cup.
The day before the race, the Brazilian National Team was eliminated by France in the quarter finals of the World Cup in Mexico. The only Brazilian at Lotus at the time, Senna saw many French professionals from the team celebrate the victory of “Les Bleus” in the penalty shootout. In response, after winning in Detroit, Ayrton took a Brazilian flag from a fan after the race and did the deceleration lap holding it.
It is worth remembering that another historic moment in world sport occurred on the same day as Senna’s victory in Detroit: Diego Maradona scored the most important goal of his career when he passed by almost all the England team players to put Argentina in the World Cup semifinals. The Albicelestes would finish with the title.
Senna would win once again during a World Cup period. This time, in Montreal, at the Canadian Grand Prix in 1990. On that occasion, the result was important for the Brazilian, who battled with Alain Prost for the World title that year. The Brazilian got the better of the Frenchman and celebrated, months later, in Japan, his second world title in F1.
Curiously, the Brazilian National Team played on the same day Senna won in Montreal. Sebastião Lazaroni’s team beat Sweden 2-1, in a match held in Turin, with two goals by Careca. Brolin pulled one back for the Swedes. Brazil’s campaign in Italy would end in the round of 16, with defeat to Argentina.
In the 37 F1 races held during World Cups, 25 drivers were victorious. If this is a select group, Senna is in an even more exclusive “club”: of those who have won more than once during this period, in a list that, among others, counts with other great names of world motoring, such as Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.
Senna was also remembered in 1994 by the Brazilian team that won the World Championship in the United States. After the agonizing penalty shootout victory against Italy, confirmed after Roberto Baggio’s penalty kick was saved, Carlos Alberto Parreira’s squad celebrated with a banner that read “Senna… We accelerated together. The tetra is ours!”.