“Senna”, Remarkable Man, Thrilling Film.

The biggest sport’s star ever to come out of Brazil is, by a considerable distance, Ayrton Senna.



When he died at 34, twenty years ago this month, over three million people flocked to his funeral in his native Sao Paolo. The government declared three days of national mourning.

At the time, as a Ferrari fan, I remained cooly unimpressed by all the fuss that was made over him. After watching this film, I feel decidedly foolish.

The two things that stand out most clearly from this film are, on the one hand what a remarkably appealing and genuinely iconic figure he struck. And on the other, somewhat surprisingly, even back then they filmed everything.

You’re there with him and all of the other drivers, as they are debriefed by the teams backstage before and after, as the organizers haggle with them before each of the races over the safety regulations, on holiday with his family, at home with friends, and of course as he careers around the track.

And then there was the genuine drama of those four of five seasons that saw him duel with Alain Prost, as they exchanged world championships and jostled for the seat with the strongest team. Before the arrival of computers and Michael Schumacher in 1994 threatened to render both of them redundant.

Over 3 millions attended the funeral in Sao Polo.

Over 3 millions attended the funeral in Sao Polo.

Inevitably, as Prost himself remarked, in a film called “Senna” his arch rival was bound to end up being portrayed as the bad guy. Still, it’s a shame that a little more wasn’t devoted to how much closer Prost and Senna became in that last turbulent season of his.

And then of course there’s the 1994 San Marino grand prix itself. On the Friday, new kid on the block and fellow Brazilian Rubens Barichello had an horrendous crash that somehow he managed to walk away from. On the Saturday, Roland Ratzenberger was killed. And on the day itself, and just after the race had had to be re-stared after yet another crash, Senna came to grief.

Amazingly, he too should have walked away, and was completely un-bruised. But a stray piece of the car came off on impact, and hit his head at precisely the wrong angle and in exactly the wrong spot.

This is a wonderfully documentary that justly celebrates a remarkable man. It’s exhilarating, constantly thrilling and quietly moving. The film came out a couple of years ago but it’s out on DVD. You can see the trailer for Senna here.

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