Of Ayrton Senna, what remains etched in the memory is that almost beatific smile. A faraway look as if he were in direct intercession with something or someone beyond us and unreachable. But behind those serene eyes there was also that unquenchable fire: the flames that took hold whenever the man became the driver, slipped into the cockpit, took hold of the wheel and ventured out onto the track.
These were powerful emotions, able to capture to hearts even of people who weren’t motorsport fans. And it’s all the more incredible to think that on March 21, 2020, Ayrton would have been 60 years old. That’s somehow irreconcilable with his image of eternal youth that endures, 26 years after the accident on May 1, 1994, which took him from us.
Ayrton’s life was a destiny foretold. Born in Brazil to a good – almost noble – family, with a classical education and religious upbringing, this was to shape his outlook throughout the rest of his days. He only had one real outside interest, which was racing. Or rather, speed. He started off in karting, where he soon found success. Then he went to England: the epicentre of motorsport for up-and-coming drivers. His rise through the ranks was inexorable: Formula Ford, then British Formula 3 – which at the time was a crucible of champions.