Our writers celebrate their favourite and most memorable Ayrton Senna moments

Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna smiles as he answers newsmen questions during a press

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the tragic loss at Imola of Ayrton Senna, a three-time world champion who held iconic status within Formula 1.

With the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, held at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, approaching, it's another opportunity to remember just what a pivotal figure the Brazilian was within the sport.

Our writers have shared their favourite moments and memories of the triple champion, who remains an F1 superstar to this day...

READ MORE: Who was Ayrton Senna and why is he regarded as one of F1’s greatest drivers?

Will Buxton, F1 Digital Presenter

Ayrton Senna was every reason I fell in love with Formula 1. My earliest memories of watching races were the flash of that yellow helmet in that red and white McLaren, through the trees at goodness knows where. His death was the reason I wanted to write about the sport.

My favourite memory is a very personal one. Through my time working in GP2, I’d got to know Ayrton's nephew and niece Bruno and Bianca Senna, and when Bruno was due to make his F1 debut in 2010 I was invited to go out to Brazil to write an article with him.

Ayrton Senna, McLaren-Honda MP4/6, Grand Prix of Belgium, Spa-Francorchamps, 25 August 1991. (Photo

Ayrton Senna was an undoubted icon of Formula 1

That day will live with me forever, as we got in a car and drove for hours out to Tatui and Ayrton’s house. I knew it from photos, but there we were by the pool, in the kitchen eating Ayrton’s favourite meal and, later on, walking the kart track Ayrton had built and on which he’d driven and given the young Bruno his earliest driving lessons.

As the day flew by, Bruno and I ended up exploring parts of the compound he’d rarely if ever visited – including an old barn. And it was there, upstairs, that we found all of Ayrton’s old karts, covered in a thick decade and a half layer of dust.

READ MORE: From his first win to that magical Monaco pole lap – 10 moments of Ayrton Senna brilliance

Bags left unopened since Ayrton had last closed them, which we looked inside and marvelled at their contents. Real life history there to touch. Memories of my hero. Bruno’s hero, too.

I’ll forever be grateful for that experience, for that time, for the opportunity to see and to know the place Ayrton Senna called home. To feel, even for the smallest moment, a connection to the racer I idolised and the man who inspired everything I’ve ever hoped to do.

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Lawrence Barretto, F1 Correspondent and Presenter

I love a proper elbows out defensive drive and there are few better than Ayrton Senna’s absolute masterclass against Nigel Mansell in Monaco 1992.

Mansell’s Williams was the class of the field that year and the Briton arrived in Monaco unbeaten in five races. Mansell controlled the race with aplomb but on Lap 71, he pitted with a suspected puncture.

He rejoined behind Senna with seven laps to go, and despite having the significantly faster car and fresh rubber, Senna’s car placement on very worn tyres was millimetre precision – and Mansell could find no way through. A gem of a drive from the Brazilian.

READ MORE: ‘An incredible legend of the sport’ – F1 drivers pay tribute to Ayrton Senna 30 years after his tragic death

David Tremayne, Hall of Fame F1 Journalist

The moments I will never forget with Ayrton – I’d hesitate to call them favourites – came two weeks after he famously and cynically took out Alain Prost at Suzuka in 1990.

A group of us gathered in his hotel room in Adelaide, and naturally Suzuka was discussed. At length. I remember him vehemently denying the facts captured impeccably in several photos, and claiming that Prost’s rear wing had fallen off by itself.

How he simply could not, or chose not, to accept culpability. And how, a year later, angered in a post-race press conference in Suzuka, he cheerfully admitted what we had known all along, that he did it deliberately.

It was a fascinating insight into the mind of a man so hellbent on winning.

Ayrton Senna's most iconic moments

But what fascinated me was when I asked him about going to the scene of Martin Donnelly’s brutal accident in Jerez, at the end of September, and the laps he did when the session resumed after the terrible evidence had been swept away, along with Martin’s promising career but not, thankfully, his life.

I’ve always believed Ayrton went to the scene because he needed to learn all he could about F1, even the bad stuff, and that he then went out to smash Jerez, to prove it could not destroy the human spirit. Had he been proving something to himself?

He took 37 seconds to answer; I later timed the tape. You had to strain to hear his voice, and his eyes were moist. The atmosphere in that room was electric.

“For myself,” he said eventually. “I did it because anything like that can happen to any of us. I knew it was something bad, but I wanted to see for myself. Afterwards, I didn’t know how fast I could go.” He paused, then added, “Or how slow.” Somehow the fact it was Ayrton Senna saying them added so much gravitas to those extra words.

READ MORE: Vettel to drive Senna's McLaren MP4/8 in tribute to icon at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix weekend

Did he have to be brave to do that? Now his eyes were swimming.

“As a racing driver there are some things you have to go through, to cope with. Sometimes they are not human, yet you go through it and do them just because of the feelings that you get by driving, that you don’t get in another profession. Some of the things are not pleasant, but in order to have some of the nice things, you have to face them.”

Well, he sure faced them that day. And whatever harsh test of courage and honour he had put himself through, he passed. I never admired him more than I did in those moments. No interview I have ever done, before or since, was as moving or insightful as that one.

Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna reacts after having seen British driver Martin Donnelly's crash

The ugly, but thankfully non-fatal, crash of Martin Donnelly at Jerez shook Senna deeply

Jolyon Palmer, former Renault F1 driver

Senna's stunning opening lap at Donington Park is the moment for me.

Starting fourth, dropping momentarily to fifth, before blitzing past the field with a corner to spare, on a narrow, challenging and sodden circuit. This 80 seconds really epitomises Senna – his amazing feel for grip, his ability to have the car consistently on the limit and his clinical and uncompromising passes.

And this wasn't against any old field, this was laying down an astonishing marker against some of Formula 1's greatest names.

SENNA vs BRUNDLE: The story of Senna’s first great championship battle, before he even reached F1

Senna's incredible opening lap at Europe 1993

Chris Medland, Special Contributor

I have a bit of an odd perspective on this as someone who never saw Senna race in the flesh, but who has then worked in F1 and been around his legacy since.

As a result, many of the moments are seen in isolation rather than as part of full races at the time, but it's the race that truly announced his arrival in F1 – Monaco in the wet for Toleman in 1984 – that stands out for me.

READ MORE: Road trips, fierce battles and poignant memories – Ayrton Senna’s karting team mate, Terry Fullerton, on his time with the Brazilian racer

The immense skill needed on that track in the wet is one thing, but even watching it back now, it’s thrilling to see him carving his way through the field. The excitement that it must have generated at the time to know that such a remarkable talent had joined the ranks comes through from that race, even if it was red flagged and he didn't get the win.

Ayrton Senna of Brazil drives the #19 Toleman-Hart TG184 in the rain to second place during the

Senna and his little Toleman were mesmeric in the wet at Monaco in 1984


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