WATCH: A ‘bombshell’ announcement and an unforgettable first win – The inside story of Senna’s early days in F1
Ayrton Senna achieved many accolades in his Formula 1 career. The three-time world champion is still a hero and inspiration to many. But the story of his early days in the sport, before he became a global superstar, remains a fascinating one – as a new documentary on F1 TV explains.
In F1 Icons: Making Ayrton Senna, the tale of Senna’s arrival in 1984 with Toleman Motorsport is shared by those who worked with him at the time. Former team members Chris Witty and Pat Symonds explain how the up-and-coming Senna was recruited into the small but confident outfit, and why the Brazilian was keen to partner with the squad despite their lack of funds.
Symonds reflects on Senna’s “intense” persona before Witty tells the story of the then-rookie’s first races in F1, including how the Brazilian required treatment at the medical centre after battling for his first championship points in only his second Grand Prix.
More points were to come but, as Symonds explains, the outcome of a particularly memorable result in the wet in Monaco, when Senna achieved his first F1 podium with a P2 finish – in a race won by his future rival Alain Prost – sparked “mixed” feelings.
While Senna impressed on track in his debut season, there was drama off it when his move to Lotus for the following year was announced – much to the surprise of Toleman. Andrew Marriott – who wrote the press release confirming the “bombshell” news – recalls the secretive way in which the contract was signed, while the Toleman crew remember team boss Alex Hawkridge’s strong reaction to the news.
Senna’s early days with Lotus in 1985 are relived by his former mechanic Chris Dinnage, who looks back on how – after a disappointing first race – the future world champion went on to clinch his debut F1 victory with a masterful wet weather drive at the Portuguese Grand Prix, a race Dinnage says Senna deemed to be the most difficult of his stellar career.
Finally, Senna’s former colleagues reflect on the privilege of working with a legend of the sport, considered one of the all-time greats in Formula 1.