It’s difficult to define speed. I think it’s pretty relative. Perhaps for some, it’s about power. For some, it’s a passion. For some, it’s a way of life. And for a few, a minority, it’s about all three. Maybe that’s where it all began, my love for speed that is. I think it began with Ayrton Senna. Perhaps that’s why it just makes more sense for me to start this blog with Senna. He is my hero and he is the bar by which I measure the passion for one’s passion. On May 1, 1994, in San Marino, Italy, Senna died. He entered the Tamburello corner, went off the track and hit a concrete wall at around 130mph. Just before the race, he’d discussed and pushed for more safety measures. Ten years after his death, in 2004, I wrote an editorial for newspaper I was working at. It was a time when Michael Schumacher ruled the podium. But this, this is for Senna, for the man who drove through rain:
The tiny box overshadowed my large computer screen. My finger on the mouse kept hitting rewind. The enormity of what had happened 10 years back hadn’t yet sunk in.
I watched as the legend, my hero, Ayrton Senna struggled to control his car on Sunday, May 1, 1994. At a speed of more than 130mph he took the corner, the Tamburello S-bend in Imola. I could almost feel his muscles straining as he tried to rein in the car.
But the man who drove with his heart was betrayed by his machine. It went off the track and rammed into a cement wall before bouncing back.
Michael Schumacher sped past as the yellow flag came out. Pieces of Senna’s car flew on to the track. Everything was quiet except for the roaring of the cars as they sped by.
The trademark yellow-green helmet was still. There was no movement. I was watching the clip of an accident that had happened 10 years back.
But it felt like yesterday.
An F-1 fan, my biggest regret is that I got hooked too late. Too late to watch Senna drive through the rain in Donnington, or battle Nigel Mansell to the closest win in Formula 1 history. I missed the Senna-Prost battles. And I would have done anything to watch Senna drive through the streets of Monaco.
Now all I get are grainy clips off the Net or borrowed videos from reluctant friends. Ten years ago, Senna died. But his death sent ripples across the world. A friend stopped seeing Formula 1. Another doesn’t talk about that day. His eyes still reflect that unhealed pain. It’s surprising how a man connected with so many around the world.
Even now, alive in death, he gives birth to emotions that few can understand. Only few nod in agreement when you say that the closest anyone came to that rain-swept lap in Donnington-1991 was Schumacher.
Now, Formula 1 has one man. He stands on the podium each time, most of the time. And few think back to the battles on the track – made famous by Senna.
The passion has given way to cold calculation. The perfect merger between man and machine is now redundant. It’s all about the fastest machine.
A reporter for Guardian once said that Senna was most remembered for the races he never won. For the sheer style and panache with which he maneuvered the curves and took the lead. It is now just a numbers game.
Ten years ago Senna died. He took with him the zing of an F1 race. You see shades of him, sometimes, rarely, in some of the younger racers. And then you see the Brazilian flag at the podium and you sigh. What if? What if?
He would have been 44 now. A man who lived his dream and died living it. But for me, he’ll never be dead. He’ll always be Senna, the man who drove through rain.