Today marks the 20th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s most famous win, on Easter Sunday 1993. Back in those days we still had Murray Walker and James Hunt doing the commentary and the TV pictures were in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Sega were still such a successful company in those days that they were able to sponsor both the Williams team and the race itself.
This was easily Senna’s most famous win, but was it his best?
In 1999, Autosport ran a campaign to find the race of the century. Donington won.
If this was the best race of the century, then the conclusion is that F1 fans enjoy watching a man who has already won 37 Grands Prix (including the race before in Brazil) romping off into the distance to notch up another one and making everyone else look silly, That it was a brilliant display cannot be disputed. But the greatest race of the century? What about the 1969 Italian Grand Prix or its more famous brother of two years later, where the proximity of the cars to each other was the same on the last lap as it was on the first?
Donington wasn’t really a race at all. It may be heresy to say it, but I reckon if you’d asked a lot of people what they thought of the race before the tragic events of Imola the following year elevated its status, they’d have told you they found it a bit boring. If you watch the race ‘as live’ it is no thriller, let me tell you, apart from the first five corners.
But of course it is no surprise that a Senna victory took the accolade – the automotive equivalent of Bohemian Rhapsody going to number 1 after Freddie Mercury died – but I still found the actual choice of race curious.
Senna himself always maintained that his first win in Portugal in 1985 was infinitely more satisfying. I can’t understand for the life of me why it is not the most famous of his wins. After all, his level of dominance was very similar to Donington eight years later, but this was in only his second season, and his second race in a half-decent car. Brazil 1991, where he had a McLaren stuck in sixth gear and he thought he was going to pass out every time he turned the steering wheel is to my mind infinitely more impressive as well.
Compare Senna’s screaming passion on his slowing down lap in that race compared to the cool defiance in the drizzle of Donington.
Feel free to correct me – comments welcome….