Many thanks to Mark Jackson and Sonny Van Hook. They mailed me Ross Taylor's AUTOCOURSE editorial summaries on Ayrton Senna. I am reposting them for other people to enjoy:
Anupam Razdan, firstname.lastname@example.org
An unbelievable year. Ayrton Senna's ability to step from Formula 3 into turbocharged Formula 1 and drive with such authority and speed merely confirms his opinion that he will be world champion one day. The surprise, if anything, is that he didn't actually win a Grand Prix! His overwhelming self-belief is backed up by that natural flair and delicacy of touch which are the hallmarks of brilliance.
However, there is a long way to go. He needs to learn that success may not come as quickly as he believes it should. The accident during practice at Detroit, where he dumped the Toleman into the wall in full view of the pits, came just in time to deflate an ego pumped up by the accolades showered on such a deft performance at Monaco. In fact, he was luck to get away with a mistake at Monte Carlo but, in the event, he survived and went on to make the most of an excellent car and engine which did much for his flourishing reputation later in the year.
A driver of such staggering potential that he is widely disliked in the pit lane. Rivals, frustrated by his innate skill, question his Formula 3 tactics under pressure but when it comes to using his car - controlling it with deceptive ease - Ayrton Senna has no peers. Despite his inexperience, showed remarkable calm at Rio and Estoril and the manner in which he overcame an open dislike of Detroit to take pole gave some indication of a committment to succeed which is frightening in its intensity. And succeed he will, judging by the ability to shake off a disastrous day of practice at Spa, claim a place on the front row and then lead with ice-cold confidence. It has been a character building season for the man who led at Imola, Monaco, Detroit, Silverstone, the Nurburgring, Brands Hatch, and Adelaide, only to be criticised for the slightest indiscretion. He *knows* he is the best - but rivals who vaguely understand him say he will go to pieces if this belief is blown apart unexpectedly. Was his uncharacteristic performance at Adelaide a case in point?
Eight pole positions and two wins scarcely begin to tell the story, the statistics fading into insignificance when you stand at any corner and watch this man at work. The speed and control exercised by the Brazilian are simply breath-taking but, as the results indicate, his equipment was frequently unable to match such exceptional pace. At Estoril he kept in touch with the Williams Hondas in a car which clearly was not easy to drive, yet he showed intelligent use of back-markers to keep Piquet at bay. Elsewhere, the pacing of his race at Jerez took advantage of a tactical error by the Williams team and overall, the pole position laps were quite staggering and indicative of an almost error-free year. The acquisition of Honda power for 1987 may prove to be his equal. On the other hand, the mating of the new engine to the Lotus may not be as simple as it seems. If Ayrton Senna has a shortcoming, then it will be his reaction to achieve the success he richly deserves.
It was a pity Ayrton Senna allowed his emotions to run riot in Mexico, the unpredictable behaviour in and out of an admittedly difficult car tarnishing an otherwise mature season of perserverance with the Lotus. Most of the time, the active suspension was less than competitive. Monaco and Detroit were different. Here, the 99T was on the pace and Ayrton was left to get on with the driving and tactical planning - two attributes which the Brazilian has in bountiful supply. Detroit was a classic combination of speed, discipline and cautious control of brakes and tyres; it was, perhaps, one of the season's best all round drives by a race winner. Spain was equally brilliant for the ability to soak up intense pressure, but in 1988 he will have pressure of a different kind. It will be fascinating to see how such a natural driver will react to the inevitable and public comparison with Alain Prost...
The 1988 season was Mission Accomplished for Ayrton Senna. There was never any doubt about the over-earnest Brazilians World Championship quality, merely over how long it would take him to manoeuvre his way into a suitably competitive situation. His relationship with McLaren and Honda gelled immediately and the expected results flowed. His driving style a ruthlessly succesful combination of sheer artistry and blinding speed, he produced a record number of wins and pole positions in a single season. Yet his season was not without fault. The failure to add Monaco and Monza to an otherwise impressive victory tally could be laid squarely at his door, the latter event demonstrating the disadvantages of a forceful style in traffic that his team mate could no longer will himself to emulate. Moreover, his ability is of such an order as to render totally unnecessary the sort of move he pulled on Prost at the end of the first lap at Estoril, a piece of driving which seems even less acceptable on reflection than it appeared at first glance.
An extraordinary, intuitive talent, the reigning World Champion had a stormy season in 1989, battered by a series of heart- rending mechanical failures and a handful of driving errors which sometimes seemed inexplicable for a man of his obvious class. Unquestionably, Senna deserved the championship in as much as he suffered four crushing mechanical breakdowns in races he should have won - at Phoenix, Montreal, Paul Ricard, and Monza. His wet weather flair was displayed magnificently once again at Montreal, Spa and Adelaide. Yet he threw away potential triumph in front of his home crowd at Rio through nothing more than an upwelling of ego, not willing to be beaten to the first corner, fumbled a possible victory at Silverstone; and then squandered a strategically crucial finish in the points at Estoril with a macho manoeuvre against Mansell that saw both of them end up off the circuit. The fact that Ayrton has now been involved iN six highly publicised collisions in the past four seasons leaves one inclined to defer judgement as to whether the kick in this thoroughbred's gallop is indicative of a talent which has yet fully to peak, or simply of a flawed genius.
Until a few seconds after the green light went on at the start of the Japanes Grand Prix, there had never been a shred of doubt in my mind that Ayrton should be the number one choice in the Autocourse driver ratings. What happened next was so utterly out of character with the man's avowed philosophy throughout the 1990 season that it took the paddock's collective breath away. It is with some regret that I have decided to place him second despite his considerable achievements prior to that aberration. The collision at Suzuka was a grossly unsatisfactory way for the title struggle to be resolved, particularly as it took place three weeks after Senna had been lecturing the international press corps on the need for drivers to defuse out-bursts of temperament on the circuit, to confine disputes with other drivers to the pit lane and paddock. Prior to that, Ayrton's season had balanced speed and strategy to brilliant effect with a McLaren-Honda that was certainly not always the best handling machine on the circuit. His overwhelming talent seemed finally to have been honed to flawless perfection. Then came Suzuka. Anybody can make a mistake, but the manner in which Senna denied any responsibility for the incident was seen as quite extraordinary by many dispassionate observers.
World champion for the third time in his eight year career, the enigmatic Brazillian softened his few remaining asperities to emerge a more complete and rounded performer than ever before. There were certainly fewer signs of the impulsiveness which had occasionally got him into hot water in the past, and his tactical abilities took on a fresh dimension as he squared up to a title contest in which he did not always have the advantage of superior technical equipment.
Senna's pre-season criticism of Honda's lack of development progress for the new V12 engine may have been seen at the time as an outburst of pique from one who had been luxuriating on a Brazillian beach while his underlings flogged through a winter test program on his behalf, yet his remarks proved extraordinarily prescient. While sections of the media were lauding his achievment in winning the first four races of the season with the new Mclaren MP4/6, Senna and his team colleagues fully realised that they would have to raise the technical standards of their game if they were to meet the challenge of the Williams FW14-Renault.
The outside world came to believe that 1991 would be a McLaren-Honda cakewalk, but Senna knew otherwise and put every ounce of determination into notching up apparently straightforward victories which were, in fact, highly demanding. His triumph at Interlagos, where he physically and emotionally exhausted himself wrestling with a failing gearbox, having to do without the benefit of engine braking as he headed for the finish on a rain-slicked track surface was a truly outstanding performance by any standards. Equally, his victory over the ostensibly superior Williams-Renault on the acrobatic Hungaroring and his disciplined run to third place at Mexico city helped banish images of a technically deficient McLaren-Honda struggling against the odds at Magny-Cours, Silverstone and Hockenheim.
Nevertheless, an over-view of his season calls to mind a brilliantly flawed canvas from a great artist. At both Estoril and Barcelona team members were worried by his untypical indecision when it came to chassis set-up and tyre choice, the latter event producing his worst performance of the year when an incorrect type choice, made against Goodyear's advice, saw him floundering home fifth after a spin.
Offtrack, Ayrton's behaviour could sometimes be downright bewildering. For a man who had made the intimidatory tactics his own personal trademark, complaints about Mansell's over-agressive driving seemed a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. What also remains a mystery is why he chose to concede publicly that he had contributed to the first-corner incident at Suzuka last year, thereby devaluing a championship, which he won fairly and squarely, with confessions about last year's, which quite clearly was not.
In objective terms, Ayrton Senna certainly drove better in 1992 than at any time during his F1 career and consolidated his reputation as probably the greatest Grand Prix driver of the past decade. For the first time in 5 seasons, he did not have a car capable of setting the pace, but that in no way blunted the cutting edge of his genius.
Despite being temperamentally unsuited to a supporting role, Senna never relented for a second as he strove to keep the Williams FW 14B's in sight. Sometimes he drove too hard. During practice at Mexico City he crashed heavily while trying to make the elderly MP4/6 do the impossible, being fortunate to emerge with no worse than heavily bruised legs. At Imola he so exhausted himself with upper body cramps as he struggled vainly to improve on third place that he was left slumped in the cockpit for almost 20 minutes after the end of the race, arguable a shrewder course of action than Mansell's public display of exhaustion on the rostrum at Monaco.
Senna's first lap passing manouevres could be awesome: at Monaco, an incrediblly audacious move on Patrese going into the first corner ensured he was ideally placed to sieze the lead when Mansell stopped. At Hockenheim, Budapest and Monza, he also ran quicly enough to keep the Williams drivers on their toes from the start, while at Estoril Ayrton demonstrated a stoicism through 4 tyre stops which perhaps hadn't been evident when he flounced away from his misfiring McLaren in the pits at Interlagos.
If Senna has anything that can be interpreted as a weakness, it is his inability to accept second best and a monumentally egotistical belief that he should have access to the fastest car at all times, almost by right. It infuriated the Brazillian that Prost had outfumbled him in the task of securing the bestdrive for 1993. Ultimately, however, if Frank Williams chose to volunteer such beneficial terms to the Frenchman then it was really up to the Didcot team owner and, no matter how unfair it may have seemed from the touchlines, was something Ayrton was going to have to live with.
Moreover, his continual criticism of the team, and of other drivers, while out of the cockpit was irksome in the extreme. In particular, his post-race criticism of Alain Prost at Estoril was every bit as unbecoming as Mansell's complaints about the stewards at Adelaide. Surprisingly, both went unpunished by the powers that be.
The brilliant Brazilian may justifiably claim to be the best driver of his era, yet Senna's level of achievement varied more dramatically in 1993 than ever before. His wins at Interlagos, Donnington Park and Suzuka served to confirm his matchless genius in the wet, and his victory at Adelaide was surely the most decisive success achieved by anybody all year. Yet there was a mid-season trough during which his frustration at not having the best car produced a string of uncharacteristically indifferent performances.
His over-agressive and defensive tactics against Prost in the opening stages of the British Grand Prix drew criticism from even his greatest fans and his straightforward errors at Hockenheim, where he spun at the first chicane of the opening lap, and Monza, where he rammed Brundle's Ligier off the road, seemed symptomatic of his unsettled mood.
His early season performances can scarcely have been helped by the fact that, initially unconvinced of the merits of the new Ford-engined McLaren MP4/8, he originally agreed to drive only on a race-by-race basis. There were those among McLaren's sponsors who balked when the cap was passed round for a top-up to meet Senna's unyielding demands for an exorbitant million dolalr a race fee, yet even the most cynical must have agreed that it was money pretty well spent by the end of the year.
Once he had decided to turn his back on McLaren for 1994 and finalise a new deal with Williams, Aryton's motivation - spurred by Mika Hakkinen's arrival in the second car - seemed to rebound over the last three races and he squeezed every ounce of potential from McLaren's revised aerodynamic and active suspension package, signing off with that utterley flawless performnace in Australia.
Even so, the controversial manner in which he struck Eddie Irvine following their post-race confrontation at Suzuka, combined with the defiant arrogance he aimed specifically at the British media for what he saw as their overly-critical view of his part in the affair, provided yet another disturbing insight into Senna's extraordinarily intense egocentricity and uniquely flawed genius.
-- ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Anupam Razdan Ayrton Senna da Silva - Simply, The Best email@example.com Formula One World Champion - 1988, 1990, 1991