Ayrton Senna started in Formula One in 1984, after a few triumphant years in motor sports’ entry categories – karting, FF1600, FF2000 and F3. Hired by Toleman, one of the humblest teams on the starting grid, the Brazilian driver stood out from the moment he arrived in the category, making the podium three times in his debut year in F1 and scoring points in five important races.
Check out Senna’s finest moments with team Toleman:
South African GP – Kyalami
Ayrton Senna scored his first point as a Toleman-Hart driver at the South African GP, finishing in sixth. The driver, taking part in his second F1 GP ever, had to fight against exhaustion in a 1.5-hour race, since most races in his previous categories lasted 40 minutes at most and he had retired after eight laps in his first F1 contest.
Overcoming the obstacles imposed by the race, the driver was taken to the Kyalami Raceway medical center before being released to celebrate the result.
Belgian GP – Zolder
Senna scored his second point in F1 at Zolder, Belgium. It was only his third GP in the category, but it was a good omen for what the future held for him in Belgium, where he won five times in F1.
It was one of the races in which Ayrton climbed the most positions, comparing to where he had started. The Brazilian driver finished in sixth place after having started in 19th.
Monaco GP – Monte Carlo
The race in which Ayrton Senna made sure his presence was noticed by the F1 world took place in the Principality of Monaco, in 1984. Starting in 13th place, the young driver had a spectacular performance under a downpour in Monaco and, before the first lap was over, he was already in 9th place. The Toleman driver took advantage of his good pace – and of his adversaries’ hardships and mistakes – at the difficult and wet track in Monte Carlo to quickly close in on the frontrunners. On the 10th lap, Senna was already in 7th.
On the 16th lap, Nigel Mansell lost control of his Lotus, crashed into the guard rail and gave up the race’s lead. In third, Senna was only behind the two drivers – Niki Lauda and Alain Prost – from that season’s dominant team, McLaren. He overtook the Austrian in one of the race’s – and the whole history of the traditional GP – most beautiful maneuvers. At the start of lap 19, before the Saint Devote corner, Ayrton took the outside lane – on a wet track, no less! No one could believe that a Toleman had so easily outpaced a McLaren, the team that had won four out of five races up to that point in 1984.
Senna’s superiority in the rain shocked everyone in Monaco, and Prost’s 35-second lead shrunk dramatically. On lap 31, when Senna was only 7 seconds behind the Frenchman, Jacky Ickx, the race director, suspended the race, claiming that the conditions were too unsafe for drivers. According to journalist Reginaldo Leme, only years later Ickx revealed he had been pressure by Jean-Marie Balestre – the FISA chairman – to declare Alain Prost the winner of the race before he was overtaken by Ayrton.
British GP – Brands Hatch
It was at Brands Hatch that Ayrton Senna was the fastest in a qualifying session for the first time in F1. The practice session took place on July 20, a little over a month after Senna’s incredible performance on the streets of Monaco.
But Ayrton didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate, since his teammate, Johnny Ceccoto, had a serious accident during the same session at the British track. Two days later, Senna would climb on the podium for the second time since starting in F1, by finishing third in a race that was won by that year’s champion, Niki Lauda.
Portuguese GP – Estoril
When he arrived at Estoril for the 1984 Portuguese GP, Senna had already signed with Lotus. Nevertheless, the Brazilian secured the third place on the starting grid, behind Nelson Piquet (Brabham) and Alain Prost (McLaren). During the race, he fought Michele Alboreto (Ferrari) for the third place up until the final lap. By winning that particular duel, he closed out his partnership with Toleman with another podium finish.
After the Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna received an homage from his team’s mechanics in the form of a sign that turned out to be prophetic: “Toleman will never be the same without Senna”. The 13 points Ayrton Senna scored with the team in 1984 ended up being half of Toleman’s total as an F1 team, from 1981 to 1985.
In 1985, the team was sold and renamed Benetton. And Ayrton Senna went even further in his new team, scoring his first F1 wins with Lotus.