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Ayrton Senna
Prime
Special feature

The Dallas F1 crash that demonstrated Senna's total self-belief

Was Ayrton Senna the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time? How do you define greatness? 30 years after Ayrton’s tragic death, PAT SYMONDS, his first race engineer in F1, recalls the Senna he knew and how the genius quickly made itself obvious… 

2 November 1983 was a fairly typical winter’s day at Silverstone. The temperature was around 12 degrees in the morning – not warm enough to dry off a track surface wet with overnight drizzle. The light south-east wind was doing little to help, it merely added to the misery of a winter test. And yet in other ways the day was far from typical for this was the day that Ayrton Senna first drove a Toleman, the car he was to race the following season with me as his race engineer.

This wasn’t Ayrton’s first taste of Formula 1. In July he had driven Keke Rosberg’s Williams FW08C at Donington Park and, in the autumn, McLaren had given him a run in the MP4/1C – but this was his first experience of a turbocharged Formula 1 engine. The enormous throttle lag associated with those early engines did nothing to help him master what was a rather difficult chassis. It was also his first experience of Pirelli tyres – the Williams had been on Goodyears and the McLaren on Michelins. Then, as now, the Pirellis took some mastering.

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