The partnership between Ayrton Senna, McLaren and Honda is known as one of the greatest in F1 history. Their last triumph took place at the 1992 Italian GP, 25 years ago, when the Brazilian won at Monza for the second time in his career.
The successful partnership started with a pole position at the 1988 Brazilian GP, and the first victory came in the very next race, in San Marino, also in Italy. The statistics surrounding the marriage between the Brazilian driver, the British team and the Japanese engine manufacturer are really impressive: 80 GPs, 30 wins, 45 pole positions, 48 podium finishes and three world titles in 5 seasons total.
Senna’s relationship with Honda had already started in 1987, when the driver was at Lotus, and the team replaced their Renault engines with Honda ones before the start of the season. The Japanese admired the hard-work, technique and dedication displayed by the driver, and he was seen as a sort of samurai – a revered warrior in Japanese culture.
The way Senna is worshipped in Japan was explained by journalist Luciano Tsuda, who lives in Japan and was one of our guests on Senna TV, in 2016.
Another important – and curious – factor that allowed the partnership to flourish in three different continents was the fact that Senna’s three world titles were secured in Japan, (1988, 1990 and 1991), at Suzuka.
Even after Honda left McLaren, at the end of 1992, Senna was still able to win the 1993 Japanese GP with a Ford motor, and received a standing ovation at the speedway for the 40th win in his career.
In England, a country obsessed with motor sports, Senna became famous a lot earlier. By 1981, the Brazilian had moved to the UK to start his career in open-wheel racing – in Formula Ford, to be more precise.
After winning the Formula Ford 1600, FF 2000 and Formula 3 titles, besides breaking long-standing records in all of those categories, Senna arrived in F1 as a Toleman driver. The British team had offered the Brazilian a spot in the 1984 season. From then on, Senna only competed in British teams in F1, and his success excited Brazilians, the British, the Japanese, and fans from all over the world.