The day Senna grabbed F1's attention

Thu Apr 24, 2014 8:58pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - While Formula One remembers Ayrton Senna on the 20th anniversary of his death at Imola, happier memories of another race 10 years earlier highlight just why the great Brazilian is still so sorely missed.

The 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, held in pouring rain, was when even the sleepiest followers of the sport woke up to just what a talent they had in their midst.

Senna, starting in 13th place in the first street race of his rookie season and in a car that he had failed to qualify two races earlier at Imola, finished second to McLaren's Alain Prost - his future team mate and rival - for his first F1 podium.

The harder the rain came down, the quicker he went. The Brazilian set the fastest lap and was poised to take the lead when the race was stopped controversially and half points awarded.

Pat Symonds, now technical head at Williams after working with Michael Schumacher at Benetton and Fernando Alonso at Renault, was Senna's race engineer that day at the unheralded Toleman team and looks back on it as an almost surreal experience.

"It wasn't exactly on the radar," the Briton told Reuters. "It wasn't like 'Yeah this is coming, we're going to win one soon'. It was like ‘Wow'. Everything aligned and we very nearly won the race.

"It was very surreal and very mixed emotions afterwards, having achieved something more than either of us had achieved before and yet not got that ultimate prize.

"There was the initial euphoria of getting that second place and then two hours later thinking 'Well, actually it should have been first place'. That was quite hard to deal with."   Continued...

Children play next to the memorial statue of Formula One Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna in the park inside the race track at Imola April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo