As a newcomer to F1, Ayrton Senna said in his first interviews that his main goal was to fight for a podium in his first year in the category. The Brazilian driver knew what he was capable of, and as soon as he signed with Toleman, he stated that his car wouldn’t allow him to win any races, but was certainly enough to score at least a podium before the championship was over. By the end of the season, besides scoring 13 points, the Brazilian was able to step on the podium three times.
After a promising start, with a sixth place in South Africa – his second F1 race ever – Senna achieved a very unlikely feat in the sixth race of the season: he finished in second place, in Monaco, after starting in 14th. The race went down in F1 history as Senna’s first great performance in the rain.
He beautifully overtook experienced drivers, such as Niki Lauda (McLaren) and Keke Rosberg (Williams), but the race was suspended on lap 31, with a red flag, when Senna was very close to Alain Prost’s McLaren, who was in the lead. In the end, just half of the points were awarded, and Senna walked away with a bittersweet feeling – he was happy with the podium, but sad for losing the chance of scoring his first win.
On July 22, exactly 33 years ago, Senna had his second podium in F1, this time starting in seventh place and finishing in third. The race took place at the Brands Hatch circuit, a track the driver was very familiar with, after spending years in Formula Ford and in the British F3.
During the free practice sessions, Ayrton had two very distinct experiences with his Toleman: on one hand, it was the first time he led a practice session in F1; on the other, he witnessed the serious accident suffered by Johnny Cecotto, his teammate, who fractured both legs after hitting a wall at the British circuit.
On Sunday, the defining moment for Senna took place on lap 65, just six laps away from the end, when he overtook Elio de Angelis, his soon-to-be teammate at Lotus, with a beautiful maneuver to take the fourth position. Two laps later, Nelson Piquet’s Brabham left the race, securing Ayrton’s place among the top-three.
Senna’s third and final podium as a Toleman driver took place at his last race with the team, in Portugal, the final contest of the 1984 season. He had the third place on the grid, his best starting position in the year.
After a rough start, Senna took advantage of Mansell spinning out and Piquet making an early mistake, and had a very consistent race. The Toleman driver also had to defend himself from Alboreto’s Ferrari during the final laps to secure his third place finish. The top spot went to Niki Lauda, who won his third world title with the triumph in Japan. Prost finished in second place, losing the championship to the Austrian by half a point.