On May 1, 1994, the legendary Aryton Senna lost his life whilst doing what he was born to do, pilot a Formula 1 car. One of his former teams, McLaren, pay homage to Senna with ten of his greatest moments. At the top of their list, Monaco. And to illustrate their logic, we've posted some of Senna's Monaco footage above, with an editorial by Sam Posey...
Senna’s qualifying laps around the narrow streets of the Principality have rightly become the stuff of legend. You’ve doubtless seen the onboard footage, too – its sheer intensity burned indelibly into your memory.
Across the line, the Honda V10 engine surges to a peak, screams on the over-run, and is then kicked into touch with a balletic right foot, balancing the throttle with tiny blips to control the lag; each correction to the steering is a frantic tug on the wheel, with deft flicks of opposite lock just to keep the car from spurring into the wall. Ayrton’s right hand ricochets between the wheel and gearstick, a blur of movement.
This isn’t onboard footage as we now know it – it’s more like watching a space rocket being steered between the Armco. It’s breathtaking, dazzling - incomprehensible. How can a human being do this?
Talking with the journalist Gerald Donaldson about those laps, Ayrton’s recollections have also entered F1 lore for being some of the most vivid and honest reflections on the purity of raw speed:
“I suddenly realized that I was no longer driving the car consciously,” he said. “The whole circuit for me was a tunnel. I was way over the limit but still able to find even more. Then, suddenly, something just kicked me – immediately my reaction was to back off, slow down; it frightened me because I realised I was well beyond my conscious understanding.”