I want to paint in the background before saying anything. When you’re working with somebody like Ayrton there are lots and lots of extreme high: wow – what happened there?
Can you imagine that?
I have two thoughts. The first is the exhilaration that having somebody with that supreme talent brought to everybody on the team. You felt you wanted to give more than was required in order to provide the guy with what he wanted – and he was going to give it back to you in performance. In other words, my lasting memory is that when he was driving for us, everybody at Team Lotus was on a high – on their toes, spring in their step — so it is a collective memory. He generated a feeling in us that you could do no wrong. More than that, speaking as a team manager, all of a sudden sponsors were easier to get, all of a sudden you could get appointments that otherwise would have been turned away.
The second thought is that we felt that if he was on our side all the other teams had a problem: didn’t matter if it was Ron Dennis or Enzo Ferrari or Whoever.
You could single out Portugal, you could single out Monaco 1987 when he spent the last ten laps chatting on the radio, you could single out his stunning pole position at Jerez. There are lots of drivers who are capable of producing a singular performance but the difference was that he did it all the time. I remember Hockenheim when the active suspension collapsed and he finished the race in third position but the car was down on its ‘helper’ springs – which were only there to keep it up to the required ride level for scrutineering. It goes on and on and on like that.
In several cases during qualifying he didn’t need to go out again because he was already quickest by so much that it was unlike anyone would beat him – and if it was Schumacher today he’d say ‘I won’t bother, I’ll save another set of tyres for the race’. What Ayrton did was to say ‘no, the lap I have just done, which was quicker than everybody else, wasn’t the best I can produce. I am going to sit here and think about it for a bit and then go out and produce the lap I want to produce.’ I don’t think he was competing against himself at moments like that, I think he was in a continual pursuit of perfection.
Memories of Senna – Christopher Hilton