By Carlo Carluccio
Written in association with Missed Apex Podcast. Listen in the player after you read the article and please don't forget to comment.
Looking back twenty three years, it’s easy to believe that the witnessing of history was life changing. It would be wonderful to explain to people that I was in the presence of greatness at the 1993 European Grand Prix and that it had been evident from the start. Except that would be a falsehood.
What I experienced was Ayrton Senna skating past a rookie Damon Hill into Mcleans corner and pursuing his nemesis Alain Prost as they negotiated Coppice corner. The next time the leaders passed by - Senna was in a comfortable lead and continued in similar fashion until he claimed the victory.
History had shown that ever since Senna had broken through in the wet 1984 Monaco GP - he was the stand out driver in wet conditions, the era’s Rain-Master.
His first victory had been in monsoon conditions in Portugal in 1985 and I had attended the 1988 British Grand Prix and watched Senna take victory in comparable conditions.
So, that morning in April 1993, I found myself driving up the motorway to Donnington. I hadn’t been to this stunning circuit in 4 years when I had attended a round of the Group C sports car championship.
After qualifying the Williams team dominated the grid - with Michael Schumacher’s Benetton between them and the threat of Senna’s Mclaren. The MP4/8 was slightly handicapped by not having the latest iteration of the Ford V8 - as supplied to the Benetton team - but even so the public never discounted the Brazilian when the heavens opened.
So there you have it. Senna made a cracking start, passed Hill and Prost during the first lap then sauntered his way to another victory. Imagine the shock on watching the video recording at home and witnessing what the television viewers had seen from the off.
He exited the first corner in fifth position and then passed a young Schumacher before lining up Karl Wendlinger into the Craner Curves. The jaw dropping move being that he drove around the ‘damn’ outside in pouring rain. Hill was next in line to be embarrassed and before the penultimate corner of the lap, Senna had slid past his old rival – Prost.
To this day, no matter how many times I witness the lap, it leaves me spellbound and I count myself fortunate to have been there. Yet Senna himself never rated the victory particularly highly.
He felt that his first victory in the 1985 Portugese Grand Prix was worthy of greater platitudes as the Lotus had been a far more difficult car to handle. 900-1000hp in race trim, no advanced aerodynamics and no state-of-the-art electronics that controlled active suspension and traction control.
In fact, over the winter of 1993, Senna had sent personal thanks to Max Mosley for banning all the driver aids that had infested F1 prior to the 1994 season. The Brazilian legend believed that all the electronics had actually removed the necessity of many of the skills of the drivers and had levelled the playing field.
“I want to be challenged by my own limits and by someone who is made of the same skin and bone and where the difference is between brain and experience and adaptation to the course. I do not want to be challenged by someone else’s computer. If I give 100% to my driving, which is my hobby as well as my profession, I can compete with anyone, but not computers.”