The results of the carnival competition, in Rio de Janeiro, are usually announced on Ash Wednesday – February 10th, this year. Senna would probably score a 10 in every category. You probably remember his wins at Monaco and Interlagos, but let’s recall a few other great performances.
1- 1989 Mexican GP
Ayrton Senna was on fire, that season: during the qualifying rounds, he scored his seventh pole position in a row. Despite his good position on the starting grid, he decided to be bold and bet on a totally unusual set-up: he put on hard tires on the left side of the car and soft tires on the right side. At the time, the rules allowed for that, and the result was an easy victory, without a pit stop, while Prost had to change tires. 10 in strategy.
2- 1993 Australian GP
Since his F1 debut, Ayrton Senna’s only season without a single pole position had been his first one, in 1984, when he drove a humble Toleman. In 1993, now at McLaren, the Brazilian had his last chance to score a pole position in a year completely dominated by Williams. Ayrton beat Prost and Hill with a time of 1min13s371, 0s436 quicker than the Frenchman. In the garage, engineers and the team’s principal, Ron Dennis, were on edge. They all thought that Senna didn’t have enough fuel for a final attempt. Due to a failure in the radio, Ayrton stayed on the track and completed an amazing lap. That race marked Prost’s F1 farewell and the end of Senna’s run at McLaren – and Senna won. It wasn’t exactly a samba, but Tina Turner did sing “Simply the Best” in honor of the Brazilian driver.
3-1987 Detroit GP
Senna’s most talked about performance in Detroit took place in 1986, but the 1987 win deserved a perfect 10. Using his Lotus’ active suspension, Senna took the lead at the start, overtaking odds-on favorite Mansell, with his Williams. After that, his adversaries lost sight of Senna. The Brazilian was the only one among the first six drivers who didn’t stop to change tires. In the end, Senna finished the race 33s819 before Piquet, who took second place and 45s327 before Alain Prost, rounding out the podium.
4- 1989 Spanish GP
The only way to take the title away from Prost’s hands was if Senna won the season’s last three races. The Frenchman was 24 points ahead in the standings, but Senna wasn’t thinking about math when he won at Jerez de la Frontera. The Brazilian did a “Grand Chelem” – when a driver takes the pole position, wins from start to finish and, to boot, does the race’s quickest lap.
5- 1990 Monza Grand Prix
Another “Grand Chelem”by Ayrton Senna took place in Italy. He didn’t need a perfect victory, but that was what the driver behind the wheel of the #27 McLaren wanted, to put an end to the so-called “Monza curse”, which plagued him since 1987, when he spun out at the Parabolica corner close to end of the race. In 1988 he was taken out by a backmarker (Schlesser), which cost him the victory (not to mention that it was the only race not won by a McLaren that year). In 1989, his McLaren’s engine blew-up, once again when he was on the lead.
In 1990, however, things changed: Senna took the pole position on Saturday and kept the lead, closely followed by Berger. The Austrian’s car had performance issues and he ended up being overtaken by Alain Prost. The Frenchman tried, but wasn’t able to beat the Brazilian. At the end, Senna had one more reason to smile: he had bet with Ron Dennis that if he won the race, the car would be his. Today, that McLaren can be found at the Ayrton Senna Institute’s headquarters, in São Paulo, Brazil.