It was mentioned in the bar at the Brewers Arms by the unofficial rank of experts who know everything about motor racing from a foundation of a small amount of knowledge and a huge amount of enthusiasm, that it was coming up to the 40th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s death.
I hasten to add that that I’m one of the members of the Brewers Experts. Did I know him and what sort of guy was he? I said I didn’t reckon much on him as a bloke but I had a huge appreciation of his skill and dedication.
And then I remembered that in the days when I started getting involved with F1 in the early 1960s all the drivers were mates and I was mates of mates but by the time a driver with such total dedication as Ayrton had arrived on the scene, the scene had changed hugely from the ‘mates days’. There was now huge money and it was all very serious. It had been so dangerous before but the danger was almost ignored, regarded as part of the sport/game.
Senna was very much his own man. He didn’t need mates unless he wanted them. His total brilliance was unchallenged, just his cold approach that seemed to bother me. Then as the 40th anniversary of his death at Imola approached I heard the story of his mechanics finding a furled Austrian flag in the wreckage of his car. If he made the rostrum in the Grand Prix he was planning to present the flag of Roland Ratzenberger, killed in a crash two days before, as a tribute he never got to make. Somehow it was a double tribute to the Senna I always assumed had little room for heart.