He actually believed that he had a God-given right to win.
Senna was not just another Formula 1 driver. Senna was a Force of Nature. No one in the history of Formula 1 dedicated more to this sport. He had something in him which set him apart from everyone else in the sport. There was something different in him; he had the looks of a hero, a rock solid determination, charisma that could smite anyone, expressiveness of a poet, spirituality of a healer and above all the love for humanity
I’ve been an admirer of Senna for quite a lot time and I’ve seen lot of documentaries, races and read numerous article on him. And I’ve always wondered how someone could have such determination?
He was born in a rich Brazilian family. Since childhood he was passionate about racing and this passion for most of his life kept him away from his family. Since his go kart days he saw himself as someone who could be the fastest person in the world. He trained his brain in such a way that racing became everything to him. He was so determined
to win that he would go on to say “When you are fitted in a racing car and you race to win, second or third place is not enough”
Because of this determination and his own knowledge about how proficient he was; there came another side of him which would lead him to take actions that would put his and his opponents’ life at risk. He was ruthless on the circuit; he would come up from behind and put the other driver in a situation which would either lead to a crash or him overtaking. He took racing from mere mechanical prowess to psychological warfare. Senna’s arch rival and teammate Alain Prost once said “Ayrton has a small problem. He thinks he can’t kill himself, because he believes in god, and I think that’s very dangerous”
It’s not that he was a lunatic who would put his and others life at risk. He had transcended to such a level in racing that he could make decisions in split seconds which others couldn’t. He had overcome his fear of unknown, he went on to push all the limits that existed in the sports of racing. He would become one with the car and outperform his own teammate who was driving the same car. And a lot of time he described his driving in a metaphysical manner, a kind of out-of-body experience. Others perceived driving to be sort of mechanical but Senna perceived driving as spiritual and extension of his determination.
He never left the cars up to the mechanics. He would work with them and was in fact one of the few drivers who knew the cars so well. He constantly updated himself about what the cars were capable of doing and then he would go on to drive in a manner which was never witnessed before. In terms of neuroscience he was constantly bombarding his brain and body with new information and experiences. Our perception is the most adaptable cognitive function. Ayrton in a way was altering his perception about racing with every single experience and by pushing his body and brain to the limit he was able to break free of the entire perception and fear cycle. Maybe his neural pathways for perception and motor skills were so highly developed that they sort of fired a lot stronger than it happens in an average racing driver.
Because of his sheer determination to win people thought he was cold at heart. But this was not true. He was one of the biggest believers in humanity. People often saw Senna pushing people to the edge while racing; but there was another side to him. Once in a race Senna ran from his car in front of upcoming traffic to save fellow driver Erik Comas who had a dreadful crash and was knocked unconscious in his car. He felt devastated by the death of fellow driver Roland Ratzenberger and wanted to start an association of drivers to push for more safety norms. But he died on the same racetrack the following day.
He always felt sad at the condition of his fellow countrymen especially kids. He felt that cause of his nice upbringing he could pursue his passion for racing but at the same time felt that a lot of kids in Brazil don’t have access to proper education and facilities. While he was alive he donated an estimated $400 million of his personal fortune to children welfare charity, without anyone knowing about it. He brought pride and joy to the people of Brazil. He was a demi-god in his country because of his humility and his love for others. And people loved him in return and it was evident when a three day official mourning was declared across Brazil and a record three million people lined the streets for his funeral procession. Senna have affected the life of so many people.
Senna took racing to a new level of commitment and dedication and he operated on physiological and psychological limits which were beyond the reach of any of his counterparts at the time when Formula 1 was the strongest since its inception.
I read somewhere “Ayrton Senna was the ultimate drivers’ driver”
I’ll end this section with a quote from Senna
“Once you are in it you are in it, you have to go all the way to the end because you commit yourself to such a level where there is no compromise. You give everything you have absolutely everything. Sometimes you find even more because you require more if you want to stay ahead and you want to win.”
A small montage of what Senna was