The French F1 GP takes place this weekend, at Paul Ricard. Despite being Alain Prost’s rival, Ayrton Senna was always treated with affection and is very admired by the French. A good example of that is Simon Pagenaud, who won the Indy 500 last month and even wore a #NoPulsoDoBRasil bracelet during the race, with the iconic colors of our champion’s helmet.
Five years ago, in the 2014 Indy 500, the French driver had already sported a helmet in honor of Senna, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Senna’s legacy. In 2019, the driver went even further: besides wearing the bracelet with Senna’s colors, he was gifted a Banco Nacional cap by a Brazilian journalist who had promised to give it to him if he won the race in Indianapolis.
“When I was four years old, Ayrton sparked my love of racing. He was racing against Alain Prost. It was ’88. That was when he won his first championship. He started my desire for racing. Everything he said spoke to me so well. And everything he said made sense to me. Then, I started racing go-karts at eight years old”, recalls
Inspired by Senna’s driving style, Pagenaud won in the rain at the start of May, when he dominated the Indianapolis GP at the road course of the legendary American raceway.
“I’ve always dreamt of being like Ayrton – he’s my hero and you always want to be like your hero. I listened and watched his races in Donington, when he won there, in the rain”, said Pagenaud.
“I try to emulate his driving style, to understand what he was doing differently to be so good. Maybe that helped me to win the last Grand Prix – we were untouchable in the rain, just like he was”, tells Pagenaud.
“To this day, when I have a moment of doubt, I go back to my Senna movies, to his book, and videos of him, because the energy in everything he was talking about was exactly what I felt. He was a mythical driver, that, to me, was the God of Racing. So, thanks, Ayrton. I wouldn’t be here without you”, concluded the French driver.
Off the track, when he was still racing, Senna was also warmly welcomed, in France. Raí, a former soccer player and also an idol in France, fondly remembers a friendly match in 1994, pitting the Brazilian squad against PSG, in the ramp-up to the FIFA World Cup that would take place later that year.
Senna kicked off the match and received a standing ovation from the French fans at the stadium. “The crowd’s reaction – a football crowd – made it clear that he was much more than just a motor sports idol. It went way beyond any single sport thanks to his charisma and his achievements”, Raí told Senna TV.