1988. Senna interfaces with le portier
In 1988 Ayrton Senna joined McLaren-Honda and immediately there was a huge fight with his team mate Alain Prost for the world title. The Anglo-Japanese combination proved to be practically unbeatable: by the end of the year they had won every race apart from Monza. Prost was the established champion, having clinched the title in 1985 and the following year too. But Senna was the King of Monaco, claiming victory on the streets of the Principality in 1986 and 1987 with Lotus. When it came to the Monaco Grand Prix, the Brazilian was uncatchable. His advantage over Prost, in equal cars, soon assumed embarrassing proportions. Senna reigned supreme over the street circuit, kissing the barriers – an essential art to pushing the limits of the track – and barrelling into the blind corners like a man possessed. In qualifying he had beaten his team mate by nearly a second and a half; an eternity that was nearly an insult. It was a similar story in the race, where he was untouchable. From the McLaren pit wall, first they asked and then they begged him to slow down. But nothing was going to come between Senna and another Monaco win. He only backed off right towards the end of the race – perhaps by a bit too much. It happened at Portier, shortly before the cars head into the tunnel. With his McLaren carrying less speed, it slid a bit less towards the outside. And so the front-right wheel hit the wall on the inside of the corner, breaking the suspension and bringing the dream to an abrupt halt. The rest has entered grand prix legend.
Without even taking off his helmet, he jumped over the barriers and headed to his home at the California apartments, which happened to be located just metres from the accident. He remained holed up there until the following morning, oblivious to the phone calls and rings on the bell from the McLaren team. It was a massive disappointment for the young Senna, who nonetheless would become world champion at the end of the season. Not to mention the other five wins he would claim on the streets of the Principality in an uninterrupted sequence between 1989 and 1993.