Motor Racing: 'When a great champion loses his life a void is left': As fans, colleagues and rivals try to come to terms with Ayrton Senna's death, officialdom defends the sport's rule changes

TWENTY-FOUR hours on, the shock seemed deeper. Much as it defied comprehension, the world of motor racing, and the real world beyond, were having to come to terms with Ayrton Senna's death.

It was a distressing ordeal.

Senna was a supremely gifted racing driver whose achievements and stature transcended his sport and all sport. As a contemporary, Martin Brundle, put it: 'When you think about it, he was one of the most famous people in the world.'

He had the wealth as well as fame. Towards the end of his life he was able to match the millions of pounds he made from racing with the millions of pounds his business empire earned. But racing was the obsession, the calling, and it was through racing that he reached every corner of the globe.

The three world championships, 41 Formula One wins, and a record 65 pole positions provide only a partial measure of his appeal. He had a rare presence, an aura, which set him apart.

They remembered Senna yesterday in their own ways: in Brazil, his home country, they began three days of national mourning; scores of fans, many weeping and carrying flowers, stood outside the mortuary in Bologna, Italy, where his body lay; other fans laid flowers at the Tamburello curve of Imola's Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, scene of his fatal crash during Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix; and a small boy took flowers to the headquarters of his team, Williams, at Didcot, Oxfordshire.

Many more admirers, past and present drivers, and administrators, sent their messages of sympathy. Nigel Mansell, one of Senna's fiercest rivals, if not a friend, before switching from Formula One to IndyCars, said: 'I'm in a total state of shock, as I'm sure everyone in motor racing is.

'I was stunned after the Austrian driver, Roland Ratzenberger, was killed on Saturday, and for Ayrton to lose his life the very next day makes this a very black weekend in motor racing history. Ayrton and I shared some of the most exciting races ever staged. When a truly great driver and a great champion loses his life, there is a very big void left behind.'

Ratzenberger's death, in qualifying at Imola, was difficult enough to take. He was the first driver to be killed in a Formula One car for eight years. Senna's fatal accident, the first during a grand prix for 12 years, left the sport in despair and bewilderment. Surely not Senna, they said, just as, in 1968, they said surely not Jim Clark. Back then, death lurked around almost every corner, but not in recent times, and not, we were convinced, for Senna. He was too good. So were his team, Williams.

How good was Senna? Brundle, who grappled with him throughout the 1983 British Formula Three championship (Senna took the title in the last race) and graduated to Formula One with him the following year, long ago came to the conclusion his old adversary was 'a genius'.

Yesterday, Brundle, who also competed at Imola, solemnly said: 'I fear whatever you say is inadequate. Because he was that good. I've always been in awe of him. Having him to drive against in '83 launched my international career. This is a sad household today.

'He had a natural gift. . . I'll give you an example, a race in Formula Three, in the wet, at Silverstone. We were on the front of the grid, I got a good start and led. When we arrived at Stowe Corner I took the normal line but he went on the outside and went by. He had found more grip there, where there were bits of dirt, while inside it was smooth and slippery. The race had to be stopped and before we started again there was more rain. When we set off this time I flashed down to Stowe and decided to try the outside. I went into a puddle and almost lost control. He went inside and was away again. We had a big fight and he won.

'On the podium I asked him why he changed his line. He said he knew it would be too wet this time. How did he know that? It was his sixth sense. He just knew how much grip he could get. He always had that. Even as a young driver.'

Senna had the touch and feel for a car few have ever possessed, but he also worked at his job. Often, deep into the night, he would study and discuss technical information with his engineers. He could relate to them every minisecond of every lap. There are those who felt he was too single-minded, too devoted to his own cause of keeping himself one step ahead. Michael Andretti, who had a brief and troubled spell alongside Senna at McLaren last year,

offers another view.

The American, now back in IndyCars, said: 'I knew him first- hand and 99 per cent of the things you read about Senna weren't true. He was a very good person, supportive of me and all the problems I had. He was one of the guys who really stuck up for me.'

Andretti's father, Mario, said: 'Ayrton's was one of the first congratulatory messages Michael got after he won his IndyCar race in Australia earlier this year.'

Having won three world titles with McLaren, Senna joined Williams for this season, describing the move as 'a dream come true'. The team principal, Frank Williams, said at Didcot yesterday: 'Ayrton and I enjoyed a long-standing relationship. I'm proud to say that the first (F1) car he drove was a Williams (in a test).

'His loss is impossible to quantify. Everyone who has ever met him in whatever capacity feels they have lost someone very special. He became a key member of our team in a very short time, and I hope that what we achieve in the future will be an honour to his memory.'

Senna believed the switch to Williams would bring him a fourth title, perhaps even a fifth. Out in front, that was the only place to be. Certainly for Senna.

On the weekend of his last race, however, Senna was a man under pressure. He had no points from two grands prix. Michael Schumacher, the dashing young German, had 20. Schumacher was hard on his heels when Senna crashed. Whether he could have exposed Schumacher as a pretender we shall never know.

----------------------------------------------------------------- SENNA'S GRAND PRIX VICTORIES ----------------------------------------------------------------- (championship finish in brackets) 1984: (9) None. 1985: (4) Portugal, Belgium. 1986: (4) Spain, Detroit. 1987: (3) Monaco, Detroit. 1988: (1) San Marino, Canada, Detroit, Britain, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Japan. 1989: (2) San Marino, Monaco, Mexico, Germany, Belgium, Spain. 1990: (1) Phoenix, Monaco, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Italy. 1991: (1) Phoenix, Brazil, San Marino, Monaco, Hungary, Belgium, Australia. 1992: (4) Monaco, Hungary, Italy. 1993: (2) Brazil, Britain, Monaco, Japan, Australia. Total: 41 (second behind record holder Alain Prost, 51). POLE POSITIONS 1985: Portugal, San Marino, Monaco, Detroit, Italy, Europe, Australia. 1986: Brazil, Spain, San Marino, Detroit, France, Hungary, Portugal, Mexico. 1987: San Marino. 1988: Brazil, San Marino, Monaco, Mexico, Canada, Detroit, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Japan, Australia. 1989: Brazil, San Marino, Monaco, Mexico, Phoenix, Britain, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Japan, Australia. 1990 Brazil, San Marino, Monaco, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Japan, Australia. 1991: Phoenix, Brazil, San Marino, Monaco, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Australia. 1992: Canada. 1993: Australia 1994: Brazil, Japan, San Marino Total: 65 (Record ahead of Jim Clark, 33). -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Robin van Persie scores the third for Manchester United with a perfectly-guided header
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
i100
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all