The 2021 F1 season will be this weekend at the Red Bull Ring, a circuit located in Spielberg, Austria. And it was at the very same place, then known as the Österreichring, that Senna had one of his hardest-fought races in the main category of motor sports.
A three-time F1 champion, the Brazilian driver became known all over the world by his showings of resilience, perseverance and determination on the track. Ever since his first year in Formula One, 1984, Ayrton had spectacular and masterful races. With that in mind, the driver’s official website made a list with the Brazilian idol’s most difficult races.
Check out the full list:
1984 Monaco GP
In his debut F1 season, Senna was already commanding attention from the biggest teams in the category, with great performances on the track. After scoring his first points ever, at the South African and Belgian GPs, the Brazilian really made an impact at the Monaco GP.
Under a heavy rain in the Principality, Senna started in 13th place, made a series of spectacular overtakes and climbed ten positions in just 16 laps. After overtaking Niki Lauda’s McLaren, the Brazilian started hunting down Alain Prost, who was in the lead.
Ayrton was closing the gap lap after lap, when, all of a sudden, the contest was suspended by race director Jacky Ickx, due to the wet track conditions, with Prost in first and Senna in second – he actually crossed the finish line in first place, but the rules stated that the valid result was the one from the previous lap. It was Senna first time on the podium – he would get there 80 times throughout his career.
1985 Austrian GP
At the 10th Grand Prix of the 1985 season, Ayrton Senna and his team, Lotus, were having trouble adjusting the car for the qualifying sessions, and Ayrton Senna started in a humble 14th place. The race had two starts, due to a crash right at the beginning. On the second start, Senna put on a spectacle. By the time the first lap was over, the Brazilian was already in 10th place. Ten laps later, he was in the points-scoring zone, among the first six drivers.
In this race, Ayrton overtook some that season’s biggest stars, such as Nelson Piquet (Brabham), Elio de Angelis (Lotus) and Michele Alboreto (Ferrari), besides taking advantage of the engine problems faced by Nigel Mansell and Niki Lauda. Prost won with McLaren and Senna finished in second place, with Alboreto rounding out the podium.
1988 Japanese GP
Senna had a masterful race at Suzuka, in 1988, the year of his first title, which he secured in that race. McLaren’s dominance, that year, was so complete that only one race was won by a driver other than Senna or Prost. The teammates, by the way, were engaged on a spectacular duel throughout the season.
In Japan, the season’s penultimate race, the Frenchman was trying to force a showdown in the final race, while Senna wanted to clinch his title at Suzuka. After a scare in the first lap, when the Brazilian’s car stalled and the driver was forced to start from the middle of the pack, Ayrton overtook half of the field and took the lead after 28 out of 51 laps, leaving Prost behind on the main straight and heading towards his first world title.
1989 German GP
In 1989, in Germany, Senna had just had four difficult races in a row, none of which he completed. That meant that a win in Hockenheim was crucial, if the Brazilian wanted to remain in the fight for the year’s title. Senna was fast from the first free practice sessions in Germany, taking the pole with a time of 1min45s884, 0s995 ahead of Prost.
Dodging several crashes between backmarkers, the McLaren teammates were dominating the race, with Senna in the lead. However, after a lengthy pit-stop in which the Brazilian stayed in the boxes for 23 seconds, Prost moved ahead of the pack. As usual, Senna didn’t give up.
The Frenchman was four seconds ahead of the Brazilian, who kept getting closer and closer up until the final laps. Two laps away from the end, when Prost was less than one second ahead, Ayrton stepped on the gas and overtook him. The Frenchman slowed down, because he was having gearbox problems, and crossed the finish line 18 seconds after Senna. Mansell rounded out the podium with Ferrari.
1991 Brazilian GP
In 1991, at the Interlagos Raceway, Ayrton Senna broke the “curse” and won in his homeland for the first time in F1. After taking the pole position, the Brazilian led the race until the final laps without major issues. However, in the final stretch of the race, his McLaren’s gearbox started to break down.
With his 36-second lead over Riccardo Patrese getting smaller with each passing lap, Ayrton struggled to complete the final laps with just the sixth gear. In the final two laps, a light rain started to fall over Interlagos, putting a stop to Patrese’s advances and benefiting Senna, the “King of the Rain”, who was able to get his McLaren across the finish line, after leading from start to finish.
Completely exhausted after finally winning in Brazil, Senna climbed on the podium at Interlagos with a Brazilian flag, to the delight of the crowd, and was barely able to hold up the trophy, due to the muscle spasms he was suffering. However, the driver insisted on being on the podium in order to celebrate with all Brazilians.