As we wait on the paddock to arrive at Circuit Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix, we’re returning to our Best F1 Drivers of All Time series.
Welcome to the Formula One Hall of Fame - full of World Champions, Grand Prix legends, and those known as the ‘Greatest of All Time’. The Best F1 Drivers of All Time is a series that recaps the careers of the sport’s most legendary drivers – from Giuseppe Farina, Graham Hill, and Emerson Fittipaldi to modern legends like Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.
Some legends have left their mark on the very heart of Formula One and its legion of followers. Ayrton Senna sits in a league of his own. You’ll struggle to find a devoted F1 fan who doesn’t have an Ayrton Senna print in their home.
Who was Ayrton Senna? What made him one of the best F1 drivers of all time? Read our profile on Ayrton Senna below.
Who was Ayrton Senna?
You’re still guaranteed to see Ayrton Senna caps in the grandstands of any F1 Grand Prix almost 30 years after his untimely death. Senna was a three-time Formula One World Drivers’ Champion from Brazil winning in 1988, 1990, and 1991. Like most F1 drivers, his career began in karting before he transitioned to open-wheel racing.
He won the 1983 British Formula 3 Championship before making his F1 debut the following year with Toleman. Senna’s immense one-lap speed saw him quickly snapped up by Lotus before joining McLaren and eventually moving to Williams for 1994.
Why Ayrton Senna is One of the Best F1 Drivers
His career saw him win 41 Grand Prix wins and take 65 pole positions – a record that would last for over 20 years after his death – with 80 podium appearances. One thing Senna still holds over contemporary F1 drivers is his ability to perform in wet conditions.
Several of his most famous wins – including the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix – were achieved under wet weather conditions. He maintains the record for the most victories (6) at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Ayrton Senna was famous for his unique throttle technique that allowed him to push himself – and his Formula One cars – to the limit. His natural ability was tested in his wheel-to-wheel battles with other F1 legends, including Nigel Mansell, Michael Schumacher, and Nelson Piquet.
Senna’s rivalry with Alain Prost was even fiercer than that of Hamilton and Verstappen. The pair were teammates at McLaren-Honda in 1988 and won all but one Grand Prix that year. Both the 1989 and 1990 World Championships were decided between the two drivers at the Japanese Grand Prix.
1994 San Marino Grand Prix
The end of Senna’s career would see a young Michael Schumacher become his biggest rival for the 1994 season. Schumacher eventually dedicated his 1994 championship win to Senna after the Williams driver died after injuries sustained during the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola in May 1994.
It was later ruled that a mechanical failure led to his death. Senna’s death led to Niki Lauda reforming the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) and an array of safety improvements.
Ayrton Senna’s Helmet
Ayrton Senna’s helmet remains one of the most iconic images in Formula One. It’s come to represent his maverick driving style and record-breaking career. Lewis Hamilton famously styled his helmet after Ayrton Senna’s. The Mercedes driver famously received a race-worn helmet from the Senna family when he equalised his hero’s record-breaking 65 career poles.
Are you getting ready for the French Grand Prix? Check out the new arrivals to our Formula One merchandise collection, including the Special Edition Lewis Hamilton neon yellow hoodie and the Max Verstappen World Champion Navy Cap. Join us next time when we’ll be recapping the 2022 French Grand Prix.