Twenty five years have passed since Ayrton Senna was killed in an accident during the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, but he remains revered by those who knew him, raced against him and were inspired by him.
In a series of interviews conducted in 2014 and reproduced here, Autocar was shown just how profound an impact the Brazilian prodigy had on the worlds of motorsport, technology and popular culture.
Damon Hill - World champion, 1996; Senna’s team-mate at Williams in 1994
I only had such a brief time working with Ayrton, but through all of it, I would say that he was a pretty serious guy.
I had read about him and studied his performances before I had got to Formula One and then when he joined the team, I spent a while trying to marry up the public image that had built up in my mind to the guy that was now sitting alongside me in the team truck. I have to say they were pretty similar. I don’t think the guy had a mask, as such, but he was genuine to himself and that is the man that he was.
In terms of learning from him, I was at such a different level that it was hard for me to get too much out of a working relationship. I didn’t expect him to invite me around his house for tea – he wasn’t that kind of guy – but I did get an insight into how it was to be such an established name in the sport and the expectation that comes with that when you are a world champion. But, from whatever the public have seen of him, I think he was pretty true to being that man and that is a very valuable – and possibly unusual – quality.
Ron Dennis - Chairman and CEO, McLaren Group; signed Senna to McLaren for 1988 season
When he first tested for McLaren [in 1983] he was very keen to get an advantage, making sure the car wasn’t damaged by other young drivers that were testing [and] asking about fresh tyres.
He was quick but [for the 1984 season] we had Alain Prost and Niki Lauda, so we let him go and cut his teeth somewhere else.
One of the differentiators between great racing drivers and good ones is the great realise the importance of the team, and implement actions that get them right drive. Ayrton made it apparent he wanted to join and the Honda engine [McLaren would join forces with Honda for 1988] was becoming more and more attractive.
Ayrton was living in a rented house in Esher and nearly all the meetings took place at his home. There was the discussion about money and we started to head-butt on the numbers. I suggested the idea of flicking a coin. There was some debate about who would throw it. He had a dark brown shag pile carpet, which was trendy at the time. The coin went off like a rocket and we could hear it rattling underneath the curtains on a piece of hardwood.
We were arguing over half a million dollars in his first season. Neither of us had tweaked that it was a three-year contract so it was over 1.5 million dollars…
Murray Walker - Formula 1 commentator; one of last media to interview Senna
I probably conducted one of the last interviews with him on the Sunday morning at Imola. Everyone thinks that the media is great chums with the drivers – and that is true in some exceptional cases – but Senna was a very private man. Professionally, he was fantastic, but I would hesitate to say he was cheerfully friendly.