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
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
lifeAiming to show breasts in a non-sexual way for cancer awareness
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
tvBut something’s not quite right
Life and Style
The designer Veronica Etro (right) and her models enjoy the closing moments of her show during the 2015 spring/summer collections at Milan Fashion Week
fashionVersace at Milan Fashion Week
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week