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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