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Ayrton Senna: 1960-1994: Race Car Driver

Charged Into Formula One

Senna took his next step, into the British Formula Three (F3) series, which is a recruiting ground for F1. Senna and British driver Martin Brundle were favorites heading into the season, and the two drivers battled it out to the end. The championship remained contested until the final race at Thruxton. Senna had his engine rebuilt for the race, qualified in pole position (as the fastest pre-race qualifier), and took the F3 Championship. He followed the title with a win at the Macau Grand Prix in Portugal, which pitted him against drivers of all the national series. Senna's outstanding kart career made him a prime pick for F1 negotiations that year, but a twist of internal politics at the prestigious Brabham team left Senna signing a three-year contract with the second-tier Toleman team.

Senna's "self-belief was so extraordinary that it caught people off balance," Alan Henry wrote in Grand Prix Champions. He was a sensitive man whose aloof nature off the track and aggressive habits behind the wheel often gave people the impression that he was cold and relentless in pursuit of victory. He was a remarkably instinctive driver who drove as if the car was an extension of his own body. Senna was also intensely religious and was reported to have something akin to an out-of-body experience while driving. He was shrewd in his business dealings, and always demanded—and received—the astronomical fees he thought his talents were worth. At the time of his death, he had been earning $10 million per year for racing for several years, and that amount was likely doubled by his commercial endorsements and business concerns. He had homes in Brazil, Portugal, and Monte Carlo, and flew between races in his private jet.

Senna made his F1 debut at the 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. The home crowd was wild for their native son, who was seen as the most promising driver in a generation of F1 competition. Unfortunately, even the best driver cannot be a serious F1 contender while driving an non-competitive car. He managed only to qualify in eighth position on the starting grid at Inter-lagos, and failed to qualify in the next race at San Marino, Italy. Turbo problems with the car forced him to retire before the end of the French Grand Prix, and he qualified in 13th for the Monaco Grand Prix.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Paul Anthony Samuelson (1915– ) Biography to Bessie Smith (1895–1937) BiographyAyrton Senna: 1960-1994: Race Car Driver Biography - Outstanding Kart Career, Charged Into Formula One, Proved His Mettle In The Rain, Carved History With Mclaren