Currently reading: Autocar's top five Ayrton Senna moments
On the anniversary of the Brazilian's tragic death, we round up five classic and controversial Senna highlights

Three-time world champion Ayrton Senna, who died in an accident during the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola on 1 May 1994, is one of the most compelling and complex characters in Formula 1 history. He had phenomenal talent, but his ruthless determination also led to several controversial incidents. Here are five standout moments, both good and bad, from the Brazilian’s career.

5 - 1991 Brazilian GP

2 Ayrton senna on wheels

Senna won his home race only twice, and his first win at Interlagos was far from simple. Having dominated the race, he suffered gearbox issues with two laps to go and ended up stuck in sixth gear, yet he somehow clung on. He was so drained that he had to be lifted from his McLaren-Honda.

4 - 1984 Monaco GP

Senna’s talent was showcased in just his sixth grand prix. At a sodden Monaco, he charged up to second in his unfancied Toleman-Hart and was catching leader Alain Prost’s McLaren-Porsche at an incredible rate when the race was red-flagged after 32 laps.

3 - 1993 European GP

In an underpowered McLaren-Ford, Senna humbled great rival Prost, who was driving a dominant Williams-Renault, in the wet in the sole F1 event hosted by Donington Park. Senna’s first-lap charge from fifth to the lead is arguably his signature performance.

2 - 1990 Japanese GP

1 Senna in 1988 japanese gp

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A controversial clash between Senna and Prost in the 1989 Japanese GP sealed the title for the Frenchman, and Senna was determined to make amends a year later. Unhappy that F1’s bosses had placed pole position off the racing line, Senna simply refused to yield heading into turn one, crashing into Prost and taking them both out. He was widely condemned for his actions, which secured him the championship.

1 - 1988 Japanese GP

With his first world title in sight, Senna stalled at the start and fell to 14th as a result. It seemed to inspire him: in mixed conditions, he battled through the pack, catching and passing leader Prost – his McLaren-Honda team-mate and season-long title rival – by mid-distance. His eventual win secured the championship.


Ayrton Senna remembered by those who knew him 

Racing lines: the truth about Ayrton Senna 

Ayrton Senna - 24 hours in the life of a legend

James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport,, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

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Peter Cavellini 3 May 2020

One of the best.

 Yes, a genius in an F1 Car, they said that about Clark and Moss and Surtees, but, he wasn't the best ever, best in his time maybe, how would he have faired if he'd Schumacher or Hakkinen?