30 Interesting Facts to Celebrate the Legacy of Ayrton Senna

May 13, 2024 9:30 PM

By: MPH Team

On May 1, 1994, the world of motorsport changed forever with the tragic loss of Ayrton Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy. A three-time Formula 1 world champion, Senna is remembered as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport. His untimely death, occurring the same weekend as fellow driver Roland Ratzenberger's, led to major safety advancements in Formula 1. Decades later, Senna's profound impact and his extraordinary career continue to be honored by fans and racers alike, underscoring his enduring status as a legendary figure in motorsports.


To honor the 30th anniversary of his passing, this blog will explore 30 remarkable facts highlighting the extraordinary life and career of Ayrton Senna.




Because in a split second, it's gone.” - Ayrton Senna



1. Born in Brazil in 1960, Ayrton Senna emerged as one of Formula 1's most luminous talents, particularly during his time with McLaren. He started racing go-karts at the tender age of 13, and by the time he was 21, he had clinched five single-seater championships in Britain. This success paved the way for his start into Formula 1 racing.


2. Ayrton Senna is celebrated for his remarkable Formula 1 achievements, yet few are aware that his first passion was to excel in football (soccer). As a young boy in Brazil, he even joined a local youth football team. Nonetheless, his father encouraged him to give racing a shot –  which set the stage for his iconic career in motorsport.


3. Ayrton Senna partnered with four different engine manufacturers throughout his Formula One career: Hart, Ford Cosworth, Honda, and Renault, and even experimented with a McLaren that was powered by a Lamborghini engine during tests.


4. Over his F1 tenure, Senna amassed a total of 614 points.


5. Senna clinched his first World Championship title in 1988 at the age of 28 while racing for McLaren. By 1991, at just 31 years old, he had secured his third title, making him the youngest three-time champion in F1 history at that time—a record later surpassed by Sebastian Vettel in 2012, who won his third title at 25. His illustrious career spanned 161 Grand Prix races and he achieved a total of 41 wins. 


6. Ayrton Senna was not only a fierce competitor on the race track but also a deeply spiritual person. He regularly expressed his faith by carrying a small crucifix in his race car and often visited local churches prior to races to seek divine protection and success.


7. Ayrton Senna had a profound connection with Monaco, winning six times at the renowned Monaco Grand Prix. As a gesture of gratitude, he donated generously to the construction of an orphanage in the city.



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8. A little-known fact about Senna's life is that he was a highly-skilled pilot who owned multiple private planes. He frequently flew himself to races and found comfort in flying, which offered him a break from the intense pressures of the racing scene.


9. Following Ayrton Senna's tragic accident during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, his legacy led to significant safety enhancements in racing. This included the banning of "driver aids" like active suspension and anti-lock brakes, as well as improvements in crash barriers and track designs to enhance driver safety.


10. During the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix weekend, which saw the tragic deaths of both Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna, FIA President Max Mosley chose to attend Ratzenberger's funeral rather than Senna's. Mosley expressed concern that the global grief for Senna overshadowed Ratzenberger's death. Notably, Senna was deeply affected by Ratzenberger's fatal crash, and had planned to honor him by waving an Austrian flag during his victory lap—a flag that was found in Senna’s car after his own fatal accident. Senna's funeral in Brazil was marked by national mourning, with millions lined up for his closed coffin and funeral procession.  At a press conference a decade later, Mosley said: “Roland had been forgotten. So I went to his funeral because everyone went to Senna’s. I thought it was important that somebody went to his.



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11. Ayrton Senna played a crucial role in saving the life of fellow Formula 1 driver Erik Comas during the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix. Comas, who competed in Formula 1 from 1991 to 1994, experienced a severe crash at Blanchimont, losing consciousness with his car's engine at risk of exploding. Senna, arriving first at the scene, bravely rushed to Comas' aid, shutting off the engine to prevent a fire and stabilizing Comas' head to protect his neck until medical help arrived.



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“Courage” by Daniel Vesterbaek - Inspired by Comas’ Accident in 1992 



12. Ayrton Senna claimed his inaugural victory on home-turf at the 1991  Grand Prix in Brazil under challenging conditions. As the race progressed, his transmission faltered, leaving him with only the sixth gear operational. Despite this, Senna persevered and maintained his lead, even as Riccardo Patrese, struggling with gearbox troubles himself, rapidly closed in. Demonstrating sheer determination, Senna secured the win. However, the physical toll of controlling his McLaren under such strain was so intense that he needed to be lifted from his car and transported to the medical podium.


13. Ayrton Senna foresaw the dangers of Imola's Tamburello corner, where serious accidents had occurred in the past, including one involving his teammate, Gerhard Berger. Senna suggested moving the retaining wall back to improve safety, but the nearby Santerno River made this impossible. Tragically, five years later, Senna himself died in a crash at the very spot he had expressed concerns about, eerily predicting his own death. At the start of the 1994 F1 season, Senna revealed, “If I ever happen to have an accident that eventually costs my life, I hope it happens in one instant."


14. Ayrton Senna's philanthropic efforts, although not widely publicized during his lifetime, have created a lasting effect. With an estimated net worth of $400 million, Senna quietly contributed to multiple charitable causes. Today, his generosity continues to impact young lives through the Instituto Ayrton Senna, an organization devoted to advancing children's education and preparing them for the future.


15. Ayrton Senna's legacy was immortalized when he was posthumously inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. Despite his career being tragically cut short, he inspired numerous racing legends such as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.


16. Ayrton Senna did not have any children, but he shared a close relationship with his nephew, Bruno Senna. Following Ayrton's tragic death, Bruno was initially banned from karting by his mother but later returned to the racing world, progressing to compete in Formula 1 for three seasons. Bruno Senna now serves as a test driver for McLaren Automotive and has contributed to the development of the company's Senna model, a tribute to his illustrious uncle.


17. There are several theories behind Senna's rapid driving capabilities on the track. Ayrton Senna's exceptional speed in Formula 1 was attributed to a combination of his aggressive driving style and intense determination. After significantly outperforming his rival teammate Alain Prost by over a second at the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, Senna described his driving as instinctual, as if he were in "a different dimension." Technically, he was known for an innovative throttle technique that mimicked the effects of traction control, allowing him to accelerate out of corners more effectively. This unique combination of skill and mental focus established him as one of the most formidable drivers in the sport.


18. Ayrton Senna da Silva was his full name, but he preferred to be known just as 'Ayrton Senna'. This is because 'da Silva' is a common surname in Brazil.


19. Senna was renowned for his extraordinary prowess in challenging wet weather conditions, a skill he demonstrated during events like the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix. Despite this, it's noteworthy to mention that the Brazilian race car driver wasn't always adept at handling the rain. In his early career, rainy days proved to be a significant hurdle. Yet with time, dedication, and effort, Senna honed his craft and became a master of rain-soaked racing.


20. Senna's favorite musicians included: Phil Collins, Milton Nascimento, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, and Madonna.


21. Senna completed over 8,200 laps as an F1 Grand Prix driver. That's nearly 24,800 miles (40,000 kilometers) in total—equivalent to a lap around the Earth’s equator.


22. Throughout his Formula 1 career, Senna drove a total of 13 distinct racing vehicles: Toleman TG183B, Toleman TG184, Lotus 97T, Lotus 98T, Lotus 99T, McLaren MP4/4, McLaren MP4/5, McLaren MP4/5B, McLaren MP4/ 6, McLaren MP4/6B, McLaren MP4/7A, McLaren MP4/8, and Williams FW16.


23. Ayrton Senna was proficient in multiple languages - Portuguese, his mother tongue, as well as English, Italian, and Spanish. This linguistic ability played a significant role in enhancing his global interactions with fans, the press, and fellow racers.


24.  Senna had a strong desire to race for Ferrari, although that dream was never realized. However, Luca di Montezemolo, who was the president of the Italian team at that time, disclosed that intense negotiations were already underway in 1994 to make this a reality.


25. Some of Senna's preferred pastimes included jet skiing, water skiing, tennis, and running.


26.  Senna's signature yellow helmet, worn throughout his career, was inspired by the design worn by the Brazilian delegation at the 1979 Karting World Championship.



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27.  The McLaren Senna, introduced in 2018, pays tribute to Ayrton Senna's legacy with the McLaren Formula One Team from 1988 to 1993. It's part of McLaren's Ultimate Series, following the iconic F1 and P1 models, honoring the brand’s racing heritage. While not a direct successor, the Senna embodies the pinnacle of McLaren's engineering prowess and performance capabilities.



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2019 McLaren Senna available for sale at mph.com



28. Senna's relentless dedication to maintaining peak physical condition established a new fitness benchmark for the drivers of his time. His intense daily workout routine started at 8:30 am with a 3-mile run and gradually increased to 9 miles over the course of a month. The ultimate goal of these strenuous aerobic exercises was to optimize his body's oxygenation.


29. Shortly before his passing, Senna traveled to Ingolstadt and finalized a deal with Audi to bring the A3 to Brazil. Whether his motivation was purely business-oriented or stemmed from a personal fascination with the A3 remains a mystery.





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30. Senna was highly skilled at chess. He notably engaged in games of chess with rival team owner and mastermind Sir Frank Williams.  According to Sir Frank, Senna would strategically "plan three moves and four counter moves ahead"



Bonus Fact:  Beyond his championship status, many people were not aware that Ayrton Senna was known for wearing his heart on his sleeve. His press conferences, his fixation on perfecting his performance on the track and everything else he did reflected this. Those in his inner circle experienced first-hand the intensity he brought to even the most routine tasks, causing some to speculate that he was driven by a force greater than himself.












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