Formula 1 Legend and Brazilian Icon Ayrton Senna Would’ve Turned 59 Years Old Today
Even 25 years after his tragic death at Tamburello corner in Imola, the three-time world champion is still considered one of F1’s greatest.
Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna da Silva would've turned 59 years old today, had he not endured a fatal racing crash while at the wheel of his Williams FW16 during the 1994 San Marino F1 Grand Prix. Senna was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 21, 1960, and despite May 1 marking 25 years of his death, the famous Brazilian is still considered one of the most charming, talented, and also controversial drivers to ever excel in the ruthless world of Formula 1 racing.
Senna, like many racing drivers throughout history, came from an affluent family that was able to sponsor his endeavors as he climbed up the racing ladder on his way from karting to the pinnacle of motorsport. However, unlike many racers with deep pockets of the era and today, it was Senna's raw talent and skill that earned him rides at Lotus, McLaren, and eventually Williams after graduating from the entry-level Toleman F1 team.
His 10-year-long career in Formula 1 was characterized by many impressive performances, most of them courtesy of Senna's incredible car control and ability to drive an average race car way beyond its limits. From breaking track records around the globe to winning more than 40 F1 races and earning the title of "rain master" due to his uncanny bravery in the wet, Senna accomplished it all. That being said, one of his greatest accomplishments was earning a staggering 65 pole positions, a record that stood for 12 years until Ferrari's Michael Schumacher ironically earned his 66th career pole at Imola—the same track where Senna died.
A wide variety of books, documentaries, and even blockbuster movies have been made about Senna, perhaps more than any other driver in Formula 1's 69-year history, successfully elevating the Brazilian's status to God-like level among racing enthusiasts. Throughout the '90s in his home country of Brazil, it wasn't uncommon to hear of people "praying" to Senna about their needs and wants as if he were a holy being. To this day, Senna's favorite soccer team still honors him at jam-packed Brazilian stadiums by chanting his last name before matches, schools teach about Senna's life and racing career to pupils, and even local airlines have painted fleets of jets in the famous yellow and green colors of Senna's iconic racing helmet.
Senna, by Asif Kapadia debuted in 2010 and brought the life of the racing legend to big screens across the globe. Film, photographs, and documents curated by members of the Senna family along with other friends and colleagues made for an excellent behind-the-scenes look of the icon's short life (he was only 34 when he died). The film is currently available on Netflix, although its availability on the streaming platform can vary from time to time.
Regardless of the jaw-dropping feats of performance put on by the likes of Mercedes-AMG's Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, the Brazilian will always be remembered as one of the very best, and the one who helped transform Formula 1 into a safety-obsessed organization. Since Senna's death, only one F1 driver has passed away from a racing collision: Jules Bianchi in 2015.
May 1, 2019 will mark 25 years of Senna's death.