The Italian F1 Grand Prix takes place next weekend, in Monza. Besides winning races in the turf of the “Tifosi” – as Ferrari’s fans are known – Ayrton Senna holds an impressive record for most pole positions scored in Italian territory.
He got five poles at Monza (1985, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991) and eight at Ímola, in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1994, a total of 13 for the three-time champion.
This ranking has Michael Schumacher in second place, with eight poles, five fewer than the Brazilian. And the German had more opportunities to improve his numbers: overall, he raced 32 times on Italian ground: 17 at Monza and 15 at Ímola. Ayrton had a better average in fewer races: he raced only 10 times in San Marino and 9 in Monza.
Known as Ferrari’s home, Italy has always attracted a lot of F1 fanatics and still is one of the countries where Senna is much admired. Take a look at some of his best stories in the country.
1 – Monza 1989
FIA, the governing body of Formula One, had decided that engines should be randomly assigned, to prevent teams from favoring one driver in detriment of another. Prost was one of the drivers that had been complaining about his engines since he was consistently slower than Senna in the qualifying rounds. But Senna scored the pole position anyway, 1s014 ahead of the runner-up – Berger, driving a Ferrari. The Frenchman was 1s790 slower than the Brazilian and started in fourth place.
2 – San Marino 1985
Senna’s second pole position in F1 was one the closest in history. He did 1min27s327, just 0s027 ahead of Keke Rosberg, who would be starting next to him. During the race, Senna almost won his second race in a row, that season, but he ran out of fuel five laps from the end.
3 – San Marino 1988
It was a very significant pole position for Ayrton and also for McLaren. That was the team’s 300th Formula One Grand Prix. Senna had the best lap during the qualifying rounds, 0s771 quicker than Alain Prost. Even though it was just the year’s second race, the team made it clear that it would dominate the season. Nelson Piquet, who started in third place, with his Lotus, was 3s352 slower than Senna – a huge amount of time, in F1. During the race, the British team kept showing off: Senna not only won but also lapped the third-place driver.
4 –Monza 1990
Senna had a perfect weekend in Monza, in 1990. He started by scoring the pole position, 0s402 ahead of Prost, who was at Ferrari. During the race, he stayed in first place from the green light to the checkered flag. In the process, he also did the best lap and established another “grand-chem” in his career. And to top it off he won a bet against the team’s principal, Ron Dennis, taking the car he had driven to victory back to Brazil. The McLaren is currently displayed at the Ayrton Institute’s headquarters, in São Paulo.
5 – Monza 1988
Ferrari and their Italian fans started celebrating at the Monza raceway even before the counter had reached zero. But Ayrton came out for a decisive lap and took Bergers position, causing a deep silence to fall over the Italian track. On Sunday, however, things went a different way. Senna kept the lead and was about to win from start to finish, when, in the penultimate lap, he crashed with backmarker Jean Schlesser and saw the victory get away from him. Ferrari gladly accepted the win, putting Berger in the first place and Alboreto in second. It ended up being Ferrari’s only triumph that season. McLaren won all the other 15 races, eight of them with Senna.
6 – Monza 1991
Ayrton Senna had the quickest lap in the qualifying rounds for the 1991 Italian Grand Prix. The Brazilian completed his best lap in 1min21s114, with an average speed of 157,15 km/h. On Sunday, Mansell came out on top, but Ayrton climbed on the podium in second place. That meant Senna was still 15 points ahead of his rival in the standings and was able to secure his title three races later.