The most important awards ceremony in Hollywood takes place this Sunday – in the 91st Academy Awards, best known as the Oscars. As a three-time Formula One World Champion, Ayrton Senna won several races that might as well have been dreamed up by a screenwriter. And the Ayrton Senna official website couldn’t help but select a few silver screen-worthy moments the Brazilian driver starred in on tracks all over the world.
Check out five races that would be just as thrilling as Ayrton Senna movies.
1984 Monaco GP
Under a downpour in Monaco, Aurton Senna had his best race in 1984, starting in 13th place and finishing in 2nd. It was his first year in F1, and driving a humble Toleman, Senna overtook several experienced drivers, such as Michele Alboreto, Niki Lauda, Rene Arnoux and Keke Rosberg.
After climbing to 2nd place, Ayrton was gaining on Alain Prost, who was leading the race with his McLaren. That was when race director Jack Yckx stopped the race and declared it finished. Only half the points were awarded, since the race was in its 31st lap. It was Ayrton’s first race in Monte Carlo – later, he would end up winning there six times, becoming known as “the king of Monaco”.
1991 Brazilian GP
After frustrating Brazilian GPs in 1988, 1989 and 1990, Ayrton Senna won for the first time in his home country, as a Formula One driver, in 1991, when he led from start to finish in São Paulo. It was a happy ending for every Brazilian fan, but the script was anything but kind to our main character.
During the qualifying sessions, Ayrton secured the pole position, but he knew Nigel Mansell and Ricardo Patrese, both driving Williams, were going to make things hard for him. After leading for most of the race without being pressured by his rivals, Senna realized in the last few laps that his gearbox was breaking down. But Ayrton never gave up. Even driving with only the sixth gear in the final laps, he was able to finish three seconds ahead of Patrese. The Brazilian crowd went wild with Senna’s first triumph at Interlagos.
European 1993 GP
Ayrton Senna’s win at Donington park is regarded as the three-time champíon’s masterpiece and one of his most impressive achievements. The race’s script is full of unbelievable stories: from the best first lap ever, in which Senna overtook Michael Schumacher (Benetton), Karl Wendingler (Sauber) and the Williams driven by Damon Hill and Alain Prost, to the way he wrapped up the race by lapping the driver who finished in third, Prost.
In order to win, Senna took a few chances by driving on a wet track with slick tires. As if all that wasn’t enough Senna also posted the race’s quickest lap by going through the pit-lane. Ayrton had studied the circuit and knew that he could take a shorter – and faster -lap by going that way, since there was no speed limit on the pit lane at the time.
1985 Portuguese GP
Senna’s first win in Formula One took place in 1985, at the Portuguese Grand Prix. It was only his second race as a Lotus driver, and he would be facing a wet track once again.
During the qualifying sessions, Senna wrote the script he would be using for years to come in F1: he posted a spectacular time in order to secure the pole position, half a second faster than Alain Prost who was one of the favorites to win with his well-balanced McLaren.
In the race, the Brazilian led from start to finish, crossing the finish line one minute and two seconds ahead of Michele Alboreto, who took the second place.
Even after distancing himself from the rest of the pack, the race was anything but easy for Ayrton. “I lost count of how many times I almost crashed into another car. The track conditions were very dangerous. Ten times worse than last year. Today is a very happy day for me, I was very lucky I was able to keep the car going in a straight line”, said Ayrton after the race.
1988 Japanese GP
This time the drama was off the charts. At the 1988 Japanese GP, Ayrton Senna had to win in order to clinch his first world title. His main rival was, once again, Alain Prost. But right at the start, with Senna on the pole position, something unpredictable happened…
When the green lights went on, the Brazilian was shocked – his car didn’t move. Ayrton raised his arms in order to signal the problem, hoping none of the more than 20 drivers behind him crashed into his car. Luckily, Senna was unharmed. Since the starting grid was on a downward slope, the driver was able to “push start” his car. But, by then, he had already lost 14 places.
Ayrton Senna was so determined to recover that he overtook eight cars before the first lap was over. Three laps later, he had already left Riccardo Patrese, Alessandro Nannini, Thierry Boutsen and Michele Alboreto behind. In the tenth lap, he overtook Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari and reached the third position. There was only Ivan Capelli’s March between him and Prost.
Senna took advantage of a slight drizzle to get closer to Prost, and he overtook Capelli in the 20th lap. Eight laps later, the unbelievable happened. The Brazilian was all over Prost. He prepared his attack before entering the straight and beautifully overtook his rival.
The Frenchman spent the rest of the race trying to catch the Brazilian, but Senna played it safe and was able to distance himself: Prost finished the race 13 seconds behind the new world champion. Even though everything seemed lost at the start, Senna walked away with the title. A happy ending – for Senna – worthy of an Oscar.