Letter: Safety measures after motor racing's black weekend, and how Senna might have survived

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The Independent Online
Sir: Amid much properly respectful tribute to Ayrton Senna, it is clear that one serious misunderstanding remains widely prevalent - that he deliberately drove Alain Prost off the track in Japan in 1990 and so secured the world championship. I shall not pit my eyes and ears against those of your obituarist, but those of James Hunt, writing in the Independent (7 November 1991), whose combined competence as a driver and commentator few would question:

Senna is being pilloried for saying that he deliberately took Prost off - which he did not say, nor did he do. Endless replays of the incident clearly show that Prost opened a hole for Senna, down which Senna went. Prost then drove into him, just as he had done the previous year at the chicane in Japan. On that occasion Prost, too, said there was no way he was going to give way, yet there was nothing like the furore over this similar admission by Senna.

Your obituarist also refers to the recent frost in relations between Senna and the British press, stemming from the incident where he ended up punching Eddy Irvine. No one defends the punch (not even Senna, when he had cooled down), but the British press hardly mentioned its cause - that a UK driver one lap behind was throwing the race leader and the race into jeopardy. Irvine's subsequent punishment, to say nothing of his driving record, confirmed that Senna was more sinned against then sinning.

The only really charismatic drivers in motor sport are the ones who are fast, not those who win championships by accumulating points. By this standard, Nigel Mansell is a greater driver than Prost, and Senna, as you rightly say, one of the greatest, along with Jim Clark. Alas that their driving careers should have acquired the last of many parallels in death.

Yours etc,

PETER GHOSH

Oxford

2 May

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