The extraordinary new film ‘Senna’ – already hailed as one of the best sports films ever made
For those of us old enough to remember, 1st May 1994 was one of the saddest moments in world sport . . . it was the horrendous day when AYRON SENNA, the greatest motor racing driver the world has ever seen, died at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola.
Senna, a three-time Formula 1 world champion, and the most popular Brazilian sporting icon alongside football legend Pele, was just 34 when he tragically died in a shocking climax to one of the worst weekends in the history of sport.
It began on Friday when Senna’s compatriot and relative newcomer to the grid, Rubens Barrichello suffered a horrendous head-on crash with a tyre-wall during practice. He was lucky to survive. Two days later Senna was not.
Before the weekend was over both Senna and Roland Ratzenberger were taken from us. Ratzenberger died during qualifying. The unknown Austrian, competing in only his third Formula One weekend, smashed into a concrete wall at 200mph and died instantly. Ratzenberger’s death marked the first fatality during a Formula One weekend in 12 years. It shook the San Marino paddock to it’s core.
But nothing could prepare the world for the loss of Senna, who had secured his 65th and final pole-position that day. The Brazilian confided in his close friend, the head of Formula One’s medical team Professor Sid Watkins, that he was agonising with the idea of throwing in the towel.
Sadly, Senna deemed quitting a failure and he could not walk away. Armed with an Austrian flag to wave in Ratzenberger’s honour, we were just six laps into the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix when Senna hit the wall – and a little more than five hours later the news filtered through that he was dead.
Today – 17 years later – the much-heralded, award-winning movie – Senna – is released in UK cinemas and has already earned rave reviews. By focusing on Ayrton Senna’s thrilling rivalry with his arch-rival Alain Prost, Asif Kapadia’s movie-length documentary brilliantly captures the enigmatic spirit of a genuine sporting legend . . . and immortalises the Brazilian’s reputation as the greatest racing driver the world has ever seen.