He convinced himself he could defy logic, that somehow the opposition could be removed from his path, and that he could win the Monaco Grand Prix for the fifth consecutive year, a record sixth time in all. If he applied pressure, maintained consistent pace and total concentration at the wheel of his McLaren-Ford, he reasoned, maybe the opposition would be broken.
Alain Prost got off to a flying start, breaking too early, and was subsequently given a 10-second stop-and-go penalty and then twice stalled, putting him out of the contest. Michael Schumacher took command, only for the active suspension of his Benetton-Ford to break. It was left to Senna, a talent made in heaven, to take his exalted place in the history of this, the most prestigious of all Formula One races.
The landmark of five victories here had stood for 24 years, established by Britain's Graham Hill. It was fitting that his son, Damon, should follow Senna home in second place and sit alongside him to share their emotions.
Hill Jnr was gracious, dignified and eloquent. Asked what he felt about his father's record falling, he replied: 'It is a tribute to my father as well as to Ayrton that it has taken a driver of his calibre to beat it. If my father had been here he would have been the first to congratulate Ayrton. Monaco is a real test of a driver's ability.' The pair shook hands. It was a poignant moment. Later, privately, Senna expressed his appreciation to Hill.
By Hill's own admission, he drove a conservative race, and was not decisive enough in the traffic to optimise the potential of the Williams-Renault, yet he did demonstrate sufficient aggression to close the door on Gerhard Berger's Ferrari at Loews Hairpin. Hill survived the skirmish, Berger did not, and it was Jean Alesi, in the other Ferrari, who delivered the beleaguered Italian team third place, their best result of the season.
Prost's Williams had the pace to carry him through to fourth place and Christian Fittipaldi, in the Minardi-Ford, had just enough to deny a charging Martin Brundle in the Ligier-Renault.
Though incidents are plentiful in this much maligned race and the spectacle has served to fortify the standing of Formula One, Senna's elevation to the summit of the world championship, five points ahead of Prost, seemed secondary in the context of an extraordinary occasion.
Senna's task had assumed still greater proportions after his heavy crash on Thursday and another on Saturday. He feared he might have damaged his legs in the first incident and the hand injury he did sustain was such that he felt he would not have been able to race without semi-automatic transmission.
'I don't have words for this win,' he said. He did, of course. 'Monte Carlo has always been special to me and it continues to be special. I always expect and hope, and I knew after my accident on Thursday I had lost the edge. The difference here between flat out and 99 per cent is big and I lost it with that shunt. Again on Saturday, I lost the chance to be on the front row and I was sure that it would be my hardest victory here.
'I really thought on Saturday night and again in the morning that I had got to be positive, consistent. I told myself I would try to push hard and maybe they will have problems. I got what I asked for and it is tremendous. The race should definitely go on in Monaco. It is historically the most important and one of the toughest circuits. It will be difficult to compete with Williams for the championship because they are superior but the theory does not always work in practice and we have won three out of six races this season. Still, it is going to be extremely difficult.'
Senna stopped for fresh tyres to give himself additional security in the final stages and that tactic also worked perfectly. Hill's safety-first strategy might have come unstuck when Berger attacked him. The Englishman said: 'It was rather farcical and I was fuming. I was parked across the road but selected reverse and managed to get away again.'
There was to be no reprieve for Prost, whose anxiety to defend his position at the front through the crucial first corner proved his undoing. He said: 'It is difficult to judge. I didn't think I jumped the start. But perhaps I slightly anticipated the green light,' he added.
Schumacher, who had an outstanding weekend, making good use of his newly acquired traction control, was savouring the prospect of his second grand prix win when he suddenly slowed at the end of the 32nd lap and eventually came to a smoking halt at Loews. He sat in the motorhome, distraught, yet managing to find consolation: 'We now know we are going to become competitive for the next races.'
Britain's other drivers, Johnny Herbert (Lotus-Ford), Derek Warwick (Footwork-Mugen) and Mark Blundell (Ligier-Renault) also failed to go the distance.
MONACO GRAND PRIX (Monte Carlo, 78 laps, 259.584km, 161.298 miles): 1 A Senna (Bra) McLaren-Ford 1hr 52min 10.947sec (ave speed 138.837kph, 136.837mph); 2 D Hill (GB) Williams-Renault +52.118sec; 3 J Alesi (Fr) Ferrari +1min 03.362sec; 4 A Prost (Fr) Williams-Renault +1 lap; 5 C Fittipaldi (Bra) Minardi-Ford +2; 6 M Brundle (GB) Ligier-Renault +2; 7 A Zanardi (It) Lotus-Ford +2; 8 M Andretti (US) McLaren-Ford +2; 9 R Barrichello (Bra) Jordan-Hart +2; 10 A de Cesaris (It) Tyrrell-Yamaha +2; 11 F Barbazza (It) Minardi-Ford +3; 12 P Alliot (Fr) Larrousse- Lamborghini +3; 13 K Wendlinger (Aut) Sauber +4; 14 G Berger (Aut) Ferrari +8. Did not finish (not classified): 15 J Herbert (GB) Lotus-Ford 61 laps covered; 16 R Patrese (It) Benetton-Ford 53; 17 E Comas (Fr) Larrousse- Lamborghini 51; 18 A Suzuki (Japan) Footwork-Mugen Honda 46; 19 D Warwick (GB) Footwork-Mugen Honda 43; 20 M Schumacher (Ger) Benetton-Ford 32; 21 U Katayama (Japan) Tyrrell-Yamaha 31; 22 M Alboreto (It) BMS Lola-Ferrari 28; 23 J J Lehto (Fin) Sauber 23; 24 T Boutsen (Bel) Jordan-Hart 12; 25 M Blundell (GB) Ligier-Renault 3. Fastest lap: Prost 1min 23.604sec (143.304kph, 89.047mph).
World Drivers' Championship: 1 Senna 42pts; 2 Prost 37; 3 Hill 18; 4 Schumacher 14; 5= Blundell, Herbert 6; 7= Lehto, Patrese, Brundle, Fittipaldi 5; 11 Alesi 4; 12= Alliot, Barbazza, Andretti, Berger 2; 16 Zanardi 1.
Constructors' championship: 1 Williams 55pts; 2 McLaren 44; 3 Benetton 19; 4 Ligier 11; 5= Lotus, Minardi 7; 7 Ferrari 6; 8 Sauber 5; 9 Larrousse 2.
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