I was privileged enough to have a ticket for the James Allen on F1 screening of the Senna Movie at the Curzon in Mayfair on the 3rd of May & therefore have my first chance to see this highly acclaimed film about my all time sporting hero.
There have been many tributes written about Aytron Senna, and there has also been much relating to the accident which took his life, but this movie has much more to it than the tragic event that occurred at Imola in 1994.
A uniqueness about this documentary is that the entire film has been made using solely footage from the era & mostly in Senna’s own words. That gives this movie a special kind of character, in that we are hearing about the events we are seeing on screen from the man himself with all the emotion of the moment, rather than hearing present day accounts of what we are watching from the people that were involved. Of course there are elements of this at points through the film & we hear from the likes of Ron Dennis & Viviane Senna, but the bulk of the narration comes from Senna in interviews & in the footage from that time.
This is something that made me connect with the movie more emotionally; hearing about events from the man himself gives the whole movie more of a sense of realism & a total true account of how Ayrton was feeling at any given moment being shown.
It is a tribute to Asif Kapadia & Manish Pandey that they took this route with this movie, as anyone could have easily decided to speak to drivers, team bosses, commentators or journalists & made a movie where they sit in front of a camera talking about Ayrton to recall his life and career.
One thing that stood out for me about this movie was the unseen footage, scenes from inside drivers briefings for example, which is something us fans would never get to see, as well as home movies with his family, gave us more insight to the man rather than just what we would see on the racetrack. That is what this movie is about more than the races and championships that Ayrton Senna won. If you see this movie, do not expect to see a detailed account of all his race wins, this is more about the story of what drove Ayrton Senna to become World Champion, through his dedication, faith and an absolute will to win and to be the best.
On a personal note, my first memories of Formula 1 are the name Ayrton Senna. I was only 4 years old in 1988 when Senna won his first World Championship, so I do not remember much about the races in that period, or indeed, through his career. The two things that always stick in my mind from seeing races at that time are hearing Murray Walker saying the name during his commentary and seeing the famous yellow helmet in the white and red Marlboro sponsored McLaren.
I have always heard and read about the events that took place between the Senna v Prost rivalry in the late 80s, but seeing this movie gave me a huge insight into the intensity of this rivalry. Seeing on screen the championship battles towards the end of the 1989 and 1990 seasons really opened my eyes to be able to understand what happened in the championship and the breakdown in relationship between Senna and Prost in a way that no book or any other documentary on the subject could really project, all because it could be seen in the body language of the two drivers at the time.
As a movie about Ayrton Senna, this would of course feature the fateful day on May 1st 1994 and the accident that cost Senna his life. This is one of those days and moments in history where everyone can remember where they were and remember seeing the incident. Personally, I had just turned 10 years old and I have to admit that I do not remember a single moment from that race. Whether it was a case of being too young to remember, or that it is something I don’t want to recall because it meant the loss of a hero and an idol, Imola 1994 is one race that I have no recollection of.
This movie takes us through each day of that race weekend, from Rubens Barrichello’s accident in qualifying and the crash that cost Roland Ratzenberger his life, we see Ayrton’s reactions to each of these incidents, as well as footage with the Williams engineers as his struggles to find the right set up and balance in the car. The footage from race day takes us through the start and leads up to the accident and subsequent recovery operation.
Even now, 17 years later, I find it hard to watch that Williams FW16 as it heads down to Tamburello. Even whilst watching this movie, I almost found myself turning away at the moment of the crash, and it did lead to few tears in my eyes. I am sure that for everyone who sees this movie, I will not be alone in this reaction.
Such is the power of this movie, describing Senna as an emotional rollercoaster would be quite clichéd, but this is a movie that takes us through the highs of Senna’s championship and the intensity of competing at the highest level in motorsport, to the tragic sadness of seeing the accident which cost Senna his life.
This is a movie that no Hollywood script writer could ever conceive, the tale of a young racer driven by his ambition to be the best in the world, with nothing but a determination to win & his belief in God guiding him, someone who became superstar in his country and throughout the world, coming up against the calculating and methodical nature of his fiercest rival. A man that in many people’s opinion (mine included) is the greatest racing driver the world has ever seen and one that was tragically killed while doing what he always aimed to do, race to win.
Anyone who will be seeing this movie after its release, I urge you to see this with someone who is not a Formula 1 fan. This is more than just a movie about motor racing. For Formula 1 and motor racing fans it takes us all back to the time when we saw one of the greats, if not the greatest, driver in the history of the sport on the edges of perfection. For those too young to know about Senna, or for non-Formula 1 fan, it tells the tale of the makings of a superstar, one that would become a legend, who followed his dreams and achieved what he set out to do before his tragic death on May 1st 1994.
For those in the UK, this movie is out on June 3rd. I for one will make sure I see this movie again.
The last words go to Ayrton Senna:
“Racing, competing, it’s in my blood. It’s part of me, it’s part of my life; I have been doing it all my life and it stands out above everything else.”
“When you are fitted in a racing car and you race to win, second or third place is not enough.”
Ayrton Senna da Silva
21st March 1960 – 1st May 1994
May he forever rest in peace.