Column: Ayrton Senna's 54th birthday
21 March 2014 – If Ayrton Senna was still alive, he would have turned 54 today. The Brazilian driver lost his life in an accident almost 20 years ago but Formula 1, and the world in general, hasn't forgotten him.
54 years ago, nobody knew the legendary proportions your name would take on. And how could they? You were just one of the many babies that were born in São Paulo every day. It's a crazy city, that hasn't changed. Just as Interlagos hasn't changed. It's all a bit more modern, but two steps out of the main gate and you're in a different, much less fortunate place. It's still the same, no matter how much you wanted it to change.
Today we're driving with turbo engines again. Not the nuclear bombs you guys drove in the eighties, though. Not the 1,500 bhp, magnesium dripping, fire spitting, insane things you had bolted to the back of your car. You see, we're kind of keen on efficiency these days. And these engines are space age. This is the stuff of engineering dreams. They're just a bit too quiet, really. But that's going to change. Bernie said so, so it's going to happen. You know damn well that if Bernie sets his mind to something, it will be done. It will be like that until he's gone.
You're still very much in people's minds, Ayrton. Frank Williams still has your logo on his cars. I don't think he's ever gotten over your accident. But you're being remembered in different ways. People still talk about you. Your brilliant race in Monaco '84 and how it was red flagged. And how angry you were. But also your amazing first lap at Donington. People still get nostalgic about that, you know. Also, your battle with Alain Prost. It's often talked about, when a top team puts two big names in the same car. The comparison never really works but they just love talking about you.
Formula 1 has changed a lot since you've been gone. Your accident was terrible but also the last one in its form. The cars are unbelievably safe now. In the past 20 years, we've seen massive crashes, where drivers had nothing more than a DNF behind their name. Like the one with a Polish guy, who crashed into the wall at Montreal, travelling on the bad side of 150 mph. We all thought about your Imola crash for a second but Robert Kubica only had to miss one race. And there are many more stories like this. Drivers forget how dangerous Formula 1 can be. Once in a while though, there's a reminder. But thankfully never as horrific as the one on that awful weekend in 1994.
We miss you Ayrton. I wonder what you'd be doing if you had just gotten out of the car at Imola. Would there have been more World Championships? Would you have become a Team Principal, like Prost did? Would you have concentrated on your work for the Senna Foundation? Would you have left the sport, or carried on way past your forties, like Michael Schumacher did? He broke all the records, Ayrton. You knew him as a cocky young German but he went on to win seven titles. And now he's in a coma, after a skiing accident. We're all hoping that he'll wake up. I'm sure you would have visited him, no matter how your relationship would have been.
This should have been your 54th birthday but instead we're remembering your accident, almost 20 years ago. You're still part of Formula 1 and life in Brazil in general. If it's true that a person dies twice, once when his heart stops and a second time when he's forgotten, you'll live forever.