Ayrton Senna's final F1 win: 'I could see the emotion in his eyes' (2024)

The expression on each driver’s face was doleful, yet slightly relieved too.

It was over – not just the stress and strain of the ‘93 F1 season, but an entire era: Prost vs Senna.

Standing together on the podium for the final time in Adelaide, these two greats suddenly looked like old friends – years of bitterness seeping away seemingly in moments.

It wasn’t the newly anointed champion Alain Prost who won out that day though, but Ayrton Senna, having dragged the nimble yet underpowered McLaren MP4/8 to another victory.

This would be the Brazilian’s last win before his death at Imola, 30 years ago today – it’s a race his former McLaren team manager and close friend Jo Ramirez remembers as “fantastic, one of the best grands prix I have even been too,” on the basis of sheer emotion.

Ayrton Senna's final F1 win: 'I could see the emotion in his eyes' (1)

A brilliant win in typically crushing Senna style, that Adelaide race was a resounding crescendo following what had been a discordant season for driver and team.

After being vetoed by Prost as a team-mate at Williams-Renault, Senna found himself suffering the apparent indignity of driving for a McLaren squad that didn’t even have a works engine deal after Honda’s withdrawal at the end of ’92.

“I don’t think Ayrton ever lost the motivation” Jo Ramirez

He would therefore drive the technologically advanced but-down-on-grunt MP4/8 – if he even bothered to show up.

The Brazilian had brooded on whether to campaign ‘93 at all, but was eventually moved by McLaren boss Ron Dennis’s offer of a $1m-a-grand-prix, race-by-race offer.

However once he hauled himself behind the wheel, Ramirez says “I don’t think he ever lost the motivation”. It was just getting him in the car that was the difficult bit.

Right from lights-out at the first round in Kyalami, Senna had shown what he and the MP4/8 could do – and not do.

From the archive

SubscriberArchiveHow Senna overturned the F1 odds in 1993 with underdog McLaren MP4/8It might not have won the 1993 Formula 1 World Championship, but nevertheless the McLaren MP4/8 holds a special place in the history of F1. Ayrton Senna’s last winning car,…May 2024IssueByAdam Cooper

Leaping into the lead ahead of a hesitant Prost and spinning Williams ‘junior’ Damon Hill, Senna clung on until the Renault’s 100bhp advantage brought the inevitable and allowed his nemesis to win.

However, the Brazilian still came home second, and things would get even better at the next round – his home race in Interlagos.

Senna took advantage of hugely changeable conditions to take a sensational win while Prost crashed out, before claiming another famous victory by dominating a rain-soaked Donington to now lead the championship from the Williams man, 26 points to 14.

Still though, the Brazilian would moan and groan his way through these early races, and Ramirez says it was the only time he and the three-time champion came to verbal blows after the team was pushed to the limit.

Yet again dragging his feet over whether to race, this time before Imola and in relation as to whether Ford would permit McLaren to use an engine on parr with the works Benetton team, Senna turned up at almost the very last minute (15 minutes to be precise) before the first practice session after taking a red-eye flight from Sao Paolo to Rome – and then promptly put the car in the wall.

Ayrton Senna's final F1 win: 'I could see the emotion in his eyes' (3)

Ramirez, who had arranged the Brazilian’s flight-plus-private-jet-plus-helicopter to make it in time, had had enough.

“I’d never had a confrontation with Ayrton before that year,” he remembers. “We were all running behind because he arrived so late – I remember shouting at him: ‘It’s all your ****ing fault! We would have been OK, we didn’t have to be like this!'”

Senna would retire from the race with hydraulic issues, but Ramirez admits he found it difficult to remain angry with one of his closest friends in the paddock.

“At the end of it, when he realised he’d buggered up that particular weekend, he smiled when we were having a glass of something – I think that was his way of saying ‘Yes, I’m sorry, I’ve been a son of a bitch’.

From the archive

SubscriberArchiveAlain Prost interview: “It sounds like a joke but I’m completely underrated”He divides opinion. Always has done. And it tends to distil to a single, fundamental question: are you for Senna, or are you for Prost? Even Motor Sport can’t resist.…March 2024IssueByDamien Smith

“But I think if he hadn’t been that way [so demanding of getting what he wanted on-track], Ayrton wouldn’t have been so good in the car.”

Another consumate win in Monaco though would mean Senna led Prost in the championship a third of the way through with a car and engine package which was clearly inferior.

“For sure we were getting more and more excited that we could be in the running for the title,” says Ramirez. “But we enjoyed [showing what the team could do] with a less powerful car.”

Amid a run of poor results and retirements Senna would ultimately cede to the tide, as Prost pulled clear due to a series of wins in the mid season, with the Frenchman clinching the title with two races to spare.

Meanwhile the Brazilian was moving closer to the switch he had his heart set on – the Williams-Renault, F1’s best car. Prior to ’93’s penultimate race, Senna would be announced as the retiring Prost’s replacement at Grove for the following season.

Ayrton Senna's final F1 win: 'I could see the emotion in his eyes' (5)

Ramirez had been tasked by Dennis to persuade Senna not to sign for Williams, but knew he was on a fool’s errand.

“I gave all the arguments I could give to Ayrton, the plans, the new car etc. But the one thing I had no answer to was when he said ‘Look, I want to win races not just with McLaren,’ Ramirez told Motor Sport.

“’I want to win races and championships with other teams. I want to have a more complete career. Fangio won five world championships with four different cars. I want to be like him.”

The announcement almost appeared to act as some kind of release in the Brazilian. He delivered his fourth win of the year in Japan at the championship’s penultimate race, before serving up a vintage Senna weekend in Adelaide to sign off at McLaren.

Ayrton Senna's final F1 win: 'I could see the emotion in his eyes' (6)

Before that ’93 Australian GP, he hadn’t been on pole since Montreal the previous year, 18 months before.

However, Senna dug deep Down Under to break Williams’ 24-race pole streak with a 1min 13.371sec round the street circuit, almost half a second faster than Prost.

The lap was something to behold, and ahead of the race Ramirez says the event had a heady and surreal feeling to it.

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Ayrton Senna's final F1 win: 'I could see the emotion in his eyes' (7)


Senna, Pele and Fangio: Ayrton's 'electric' final Brazilian GP win

30 years ago, Ayrton Senna won his home grand prix for the final time, an F1 victory that provoked a storm of emotion at Interlagos

ByJames Elson

“For me it was one of the best grands prix of my life, very emotional,” he says.

“When we were just about to start the race Ayrton was sitting in the car and called me over. He actually just wanted to talk to me, but he didn’t want it to get picked up by the team intercom.

“Ayrton grabbed my arm very hard and pulled me into the co*ckpit. He said he found it very strange doing this for the last time in the McLaren.

“I said ‘I don’t have to tell you how important this race weekend is for us.'”

The pole was the first for a Ford-Cosworth in ten years, the first since Keke Rosberg’s Brazilian GP pole for Williams in 1983. Senna’s Suzuka win had hauled McLaren up to 103 race wins in total, equal to Ferrari. If Senna clinched victory in Australia, it would make McLaren F1’s most successful team in terms of GP wins.

“I said to Ayrton ‘If you win this, I’ll love you forever!’ I could see his eyes were wet. I was worried during the race I might have made him too emotional!”

Ramirez needn’t have fretted. Over a second ahead by the end of the first lap, Senna would pull away tour by tour. Apart from ceding the lead on lap 24 to Prost for a tyre change, the soon-to-be ex-McLaren man would lead the entire race and take a famous win.

Ayrton Senna's final F1 win: 'I could see the emotion in his eyes' (8)

“As he stepped from the co*ckpit, he embraced Ron Dennis and the ever-loyal Jo Ramirez, and Ron said something to him,” wrote David Tremayne in his race report for Motor Sport.

“‘He told me it’s never too late to change your mind!’ said Ayrton. ‘But anyway he said he was happy for me. And so was I, and I said that we must keep the good times, the good moments, and let’s finish that way, with the good things…”

“It was fantastic,” says Ramirez. “We celebrated afterwards in a local restaurant, an Italian trattoria, nothing expensive but with the whole team.

Ayrton Senna's final F1 win: 'I could see the emotion in his eyes' (9)

“I gave him one of his steering wheels from that year and made a little speech saying ‘Six years with McLaren: three world championships, 35 race wins – see if you can beat that with another team! But if you can’t, come back, we’ll always be open for you.’

“Either way, with Ron we thought ‘He’s not going to like Williams, he’ll come back, he’ll be back…'”

Ayrton Senna's final F1 win: 'I could see the emotion in his eyes' (2024)


How fast was Ayrton Senna going when he died? ›

Senna braked hard and was able to shift down two gears but had no control of the car – hitting the wall at 211km/h. The car hit the wall on a slight angle, front right wheel first with the car spinning back out onto the track before rolling back onto the verge outside the track pointing in the direction of the race.

What caused Ayrton Senna's fatal crash? ›

Senna applied opposite lock, but as the airflow reconnected, the rear tyres gripped. Senna's opposite lock became positive lock, and the car steered to the right. It's a similar phenomenon sometimes seen in NASCAR. Even for a driver of Senna's calibre, once that car flicked to the right, he was going to crash.

What was special about Ayrton Senna? ›

HALL OF FAME: Three-time F1 world champion Ayrton Senna

Across 10 years in the sport, Senna claimed 65 pole positions, made 161 starts, scored more than 600 points, collected 80 podiums and 41 wins, and wound up with those three world titles from 1988, 1990 and 1991 respectively.

Did Ayrton Senna have a child? ›

No, he did not have a son or daughter. However, he was close with his nephew, Bruno; Viviane's son. Bruno was briefly banned from karting after Ayrton's death but returned to racing and eventually made it to F1, where he drove for three seasons.

Was Ayrton Senna bleeding? ›

In her interview after 20 years, she confirmed that the blood loss suffered by Senna was due to a damaged superficial temporal artery and that, apart from his head injuries, Senna appeared serene and the rest of the body was intact.

Was Ayrton Senna a billionaire? ›

Ayrton Senna Net Worth: $400 Million

At age 4, he began driving a small go-kart, and at 13 he won his first race. Senna died as the result of a car crash during a race in 1994. He was 34 years old.

Why did Ayrton Senna's head move? ›

The front-right wheel had shot up on impact and entered the co*ckpit, thereby striking the front-right area of Senna's helmet. The impact itself shoved the Brazilian's head back against the headrest while causing skull fractures.

Who was Senna racing for when he died? ›

He died as a result of an accident while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, driving for the Williams team.

Why did Ayrton Senna change his name? ›

In 1981 he raced in the British Formula Ford 1600 championship, and won it as well. He also changed his name to Senna, since da Silva is used a lot in Brazil. In 1982 Senna won two European championships; the European and the British Formula Ford 2000.

Is the Senna named after Ayrton? ›

The car is named after the Brazilian Formula One race driver Ayrton Senna (1960–1994), honouring and giving tribute to his success with the McLaren Formula One Team between 1988 and 1993 Formula 1 seasons.

Who is the goat of Formula One? ›

To determine the true F1 "GOAT" we delve into an extensive analysis of historical race data. The data spans 1973 to 2023 and weighs drivers by how much they dominated their contemporaries. Based on the data, Lewis Hamilton comes out on top.

Did Ayrton Senna ever marry? ›

In February 1981, Senna was married to Liliane Vasconcelos, then a 19-year-old who was a childhood friend of Ayrton's. But the marriage lasted just two years, with Liliane finding that life in England as the wife of an aspiring Formula 1 driver wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Did Schumacher go to Senna's funeral? ›

He and Senna shared an intense rivalry in 1994, but the Brazilian legend was tragically killed in an accident at the Tamburello corner at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, sending the racing world into shock. A host of active F1 drivers acted as pallbearers at the funeral, but Schumacher did not attend.

Which F1 driver has a kid? ›

There are only three drivers with children in the current Formula 1 field. Sergio Perez has four children, Niko Hulkenberg has one and Kevin Magnussen has two. Williams team principal James Vowles recently welcomed his first child at the age of 44.

What is the top speed of the Senna? ›

Performance statistics

0–300 km/h (0–186 mph): 17.5 seconds. Standing 1⁄4 mile (402 m): 9.9 seconds. Power-to-weight ratio: 668 hp/tonne. Top speed: 340 km/h (211 mph)

What is the fastest speed in F1 history? ›

The 397.360km/h (246.908mph) stands as the official F1 top speed record, just shy of Honda's 400km/h goal with the project. Though during testing, van der Merwe measured at 413.205km/h (256.753mph) on one run. Unfortunately, it couldn't replicate it on the return run, missing out on an even faster record.

Who has gone the fastest in F1? ›

The highest recorded speed trap in an F1 qualifying session in 2023 was 353.8km/h (219.8mph) by Daniel Ricciardo in Mexico, while Valtteri Bottas currently holds the record for the highest speed in an F1 race, hitting 372.5km/h (231.4mph) in the 2016 Mexican Grand Prix.


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