Dennis: Senna was just so unbelievably competitive

Dennis: Senna was just so unbelievably competitive

1 May 2014 – Ron Dennis finds it hard to talk about Ayrton Senna. The last time he spoke extensively about the Brazilian was ten years ago when it was the tenth anniversary of his passing. But now another ten years have passed since that dark weekend at Imola and another special commemorative event is being held at McLaren's Woking base. It took place earlier this year and Dennis was again on hand to talk about Senna. GPUpdate.net was of course there...


A stage has been constructed at the McLaren Technology Centre and Dennis, just back from the Geneva Motor Show, sits perched on a stool. Positioned around it are three Formula 1 cars. These are not just any F1 cars. There is the McLaren-Honda MP4-4, which took Senna to his first of three F1 titles in 1988. There is the MP4-8, the car Senna used in his last season with McLaren and which took him to what would be his final F1 victory at the 1993 Australian Grand Prix. There is also the MP4-5, which Senna raced in 1989 - and in B-spec form in 1990 - yes the one that was involved in those two famous title deciding clashes with Alain Prost at Suzuka in Japan.

Dennis begins and doesn't stop for over two hours.

Everyone listens.



Dennis talks extensively about Senna's time at McLaren, from the first time the São Paulo man drew his attention through to his emotional break with the team at the end of 1993. He also recalls some amusing tales, now well known, like the time in Mexico, when Senna challenged him to eat a container of chilli.

"He gave me an envelope once, I still have it at home – he had his own personalised stationary, it had his crash helmet on it. The envelope's been opened, but when he gave it to me it had $10,000 in it – the result of a bet we made that I could not eat a container of chilli in Mexico. Before he could pull the bet back, I wolfed it down," Dennis recalled.

"That was about the fourth time that he had lost a bet, a big one. And I can remember him giving the envelope of money to me, and saying he was never going to bet ever again, that I'd got him into betting and that it was not a good thing to do!

"That's a fond memory because getting a smile across Ayrton's face was not easy, but getting him to part with money was even more difficult!"



He also reflects on the time a coin was tossed during negotiations with McLaren in 1988: "As the contractual negotiations neared their conclusion, we started to headbutt on the numbers," Dennis explained. "There was no way he wasn't going to drive the car and there was no way we weren't going to contract him to us – but we could not agree about the money.

"We were arguing over half a million dollars, and I came up with the idea of us flicking a coin to decide. But Ayrton's English wasn't so good at the time – so there was a five-minute conversation about the details. I had to draw pictures on a piece of paper. I just wanted to find a way forward.  So the coin was thrown into the air, spinning. It landed and it went off like a rocket! You could hear it rattling under the curtains, I pulled them back and I won the bet!

"At the time, neither of us twigged that we'd tossed a coin over a three-year contract – so the net result was for $1.5m. That's often been depicted as a total disrespect for money – it was nothing of the sort, it was the only way to break the log-jam."



So what does he miss most about Senna? "The fun we used to have," Dennis replied. "Most of the time it was only Gerhard [Berger], Ayrton and myself joking about, but occasionally a trainer would get roped in as well. Most people would think I'd remember all the winning. But no - that was just doing our job. It wasn't the thing it was all about. It wasn't just that we were having fun either, it was the sophistication of the fun. What do I mean? Well these practical jokes used to get to such a fever pitch.

"I remember after dinner during one race weekend, when one of our group got back to his hotel room, there was nothing in it. Literally nothing - no furniture, no clothes. Nothing. These kind of things are the things I remember the most - the laughter and the fun."



It is the way Dennis talks about Senna, though, that is most striking, most upsetting. You can see the emotion, the pain, the pleasure. It is like he lost a son on that Sunday twenty years ago today...

Senna is often regarded as one of the greatest, just why is that? "I think it's because he was so good for the whole time he was on the planet. I can see no positives from the fact that he had an accident and lost his life, but it means that you didn't see his decline. There are lots of drivers that stay in the sport too long and tarnish their greatness," Dennis stated.

"I also think he's remembered because he was just so unbelievably competitive. He was great, but he had good, human values. He had a few lapses in his life, but he was incredibly principled.

"And he was a good human being."

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Thursday 23 October 2014

  2. Massa on Austin Fans' Forum line-up 09:43

    Massa on Austin Fans' Forum line-up

    Felipe Massa, Sergio Pérez and Esteban Gutiérrez have been confirmed on the line-up for the upcoming Austin Fans' F...

    F1
  3. Video of the Day: Racing without a driver 05:08

    Video of the Day: Racing without a driver

    A driverless Audi RS 7 was recently sent out to tackle the Hockenheim circuit. Find out how it fared.

    Misc
  4. Félix da Costa to make FE debut in Malaysia 04:47

    Félix da Costa to make FE debut in Malaysia

    Amlin Aguri has confirmed that António Félix da Costa will partner Katherine Legge for the second round of the Formula E s...

    Formula E
  5. Wednesday 22 October 2014

  6. Caterham F1 buyers threaten to quit 19:37

    Caterham F1 buyers threaten to quit

    Caterham's buyers have warned they could be forced to step away from the Formula 1 team, claiming that Tony Fernandes still...

    F1
  7. Haas: First five years revolve around survival 17:06

    Haas: First five years revolve around survival

    Gene Haas is under no illusions about the task his Formula 1 team faces when it joins the grid, stating that he will be...

    F1
  8. Background: The Toro Rosso candidates 15:57

    Background: The Toro Rosso candidates

    New Toro Rosso recruit Max Verstappen will become the youngest driver in F1 history when he takes to the grid aged 17 next...

    F1
  9. Video: Hamilton's Stars & Cars invitation 15:12

    Video: Hamilton's Stars & Cars invitation

    Mercedes-Benz will stage the once annual 'Stars & Cars' event at its Stuttgart museum on November 29. Lewis Hamilton, who...

    F1
  10. Sam Michael set to leave McLaren 13:15

    Sam Michael set to leave McLaren

    McLaren Sporting Director Sam Michael is to leave the team at the end of the season. A McLaren spokesperson has confirmed...

    F1
  11. Lotus expects to keep Grosjean for 2015 11:12

    Lotus expects to keep Grosjean for 2015

    Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez says he expects to retain Romain Grosjean for the 2015 season, despite admitting that the...

    F1
  12. 09:43

    Photos: Márquez, Pedrosa visit Indonesia

    MotoGP
  13. Pérez on brink of new Force India deal 09:34

    Pérez on brink of new Force India deal

    Sergio Pérez says he is likely to sign a fresh Force India deal "in the next week", a move that would complete the outfit's...

    F1
  14. Video of the Day: Wolff on F1 title success 05:15

    Video of the Day: Wolff on F1 title success

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff discusses the brand's maiden Formula 1 Constructors' success.

    F1
  15. Tuesday 21 October 2014

  16. 16:03

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  17. Silverstone senior executives suspended 13:55

    Silverstone senior executives suspended

    The British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) has taken "a closer role" in the day-to-day running of Silverstone following the...

    F1
  18. Caterham insists team not threatened 12:25

    Caterham insists team not threatened

    Caterham has dismissed media reports suggesting that Caterham Sports Limited (CSL) being placed into administration will...

    F1
  19. Lotus mourns death of Total chief 11:08

    Lotus mourns death of Total chief

    Lotus says it has been left "shocked" and "deeply saddened" by the death of Christophe de Margerie, Chairman and CEO of team...

    F1
  20. Spa to fight Nissan's use of Eau Rouge name 09:50

    Spa to fight Nissan's use of Eau Rouge name

    The Spa-Francorchamps circuit says it will contest an application from car manufacturer Nissan to trademark "Eau...

    F1
  21. Video: Miami welcomes Formula E 09:30

    Video: Miami welcomes Formula E

    Watch as the track layout for the Miami ePrix, scheduled to take place on March 14 next year, is revealed.

    Formula E
  22. Miami reveals Formula E circuit layout 09:22

    Miami reveals Formula E circuit layout

    Miami has become the latest Formula E host to reveal its track layout for the electric championship. Produced by track...

    Formula E
  23. Pons retains Tunjo for 2015 FR3.5 season 09:07

    Pons retains Tunjo for 2015 FR3.5 season

    Pons Racing has confirmed that Óscar Tunjo will remain with the team in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series next year. The...

    FR 3.5
  24. Video of the Day: Nasr samples FW08C 05:11

    Video of the Day: Nasr samples FW08C

    Williams reserve Felipe Nasr sampled Keke Rosberg's 1983 FW08C at the team's Partner Day at Silverstone.

    F1
  25. Monday 20 October 2014

  26. Brawn, Domenicali on new Accident Panel 17:54

    Brawn, Domenicali on new Accident Panel

    Former Formula 1 team bosses Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali have joined the FIA's new Accident Panel, which has been put...

    F1
  27. Moscow Raceway earns licence for F1 races 17:14

    Moscow Raceway earns licence for F1 races

    Moscow Raceway has been granted an FIA Grade 1 licence, allowing it to stage Formula 1 races. The track, located some...

    Misc
  28. Wolff confirmed for Race Of Champions 15:04

    Wolff confirmed for Race Of Champions

    Susie Wolff will become the first female driver to compete at the Race Of Champions after signing up for this year's event...

    F1
  29. De Vries gets FR3.5 seat with DAMS 14:43

    De Vries gets FR3.5 seat with DAMS

    McLaren junior Nyck de Vries will compete in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series with reigning champion team DAMS next...

    FR 3.5
  30. Lotus to trial new nose design at Austin 13:58

    Lotus to trial new nose design at Austin

    Lotus will test a new nose during practice for the United States Grand Prix, as the team looks to finalise its design for...

    F1
  31. Rossi says tyre choice crucial to victory 13:23

    Rossi says tyre choice crucial to victory

    Valentino Rossi says choosing the extra-soft Bridgestone front tyre was crucial to his second victory of the season at...

    MotoGP
  32. Force India retains Hülkenberg for 2015 10:08

    Force India retains Hülkenberg for 2015

    Force India has confirmed that Nico Hülkenberg will continue to race for the team next season. Hülkenberg, 27, returned t...

    F1
  33. Silverstone, Le Mans back on FR3.5 calendar 09:19

    Silverstone, Le Mans back on FR3.5 calendar

    The World Series by Renault package, which includes Formula Renault 3.5, will return to Silverstone and Le Mans next...

    FR 3.5
  34. Sainz Jr. elated by championship success 07:22

    Sainz Jr. elated by championship success

    Red Bull youngster Carlos Sainz Jr. hailed his "incredible" season after he succeeded Kevin Magnussen as Formula Renault 3.5...

    FR 3.5
  35. Video of the Day: Mercedes celebrates title 05:04

    Video of the Day: Mercedes celebrates title

    Mercedes celebrates its first Formula 1 Constructors' success at its bases in Brackley and Brixworth.

    F1
  36. Sunday 19 October 2014

  37. DTM champion Wittmann gets Toro Rosso test 20:39

    DTM champion Wittmann gets Toro Rosso test

    Marco Wittmann will receive a Formula 1 test with Toro Rosso as his reward from BMW for winning this year's DTM...

    DTM
  38. Verstappen ends F3 season in third place 17:11

    Verstappen ends F3 season in third place

    Future Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen has finished his sole FIA Formula 3 European campaign in third place after losing...

    F1
  39. Kubica: Formula 1 return would be a dream 14:30

    Kubica: Formula 1 return would be a dream

    Robert Kubica says he has not yet given up on the prospect of returning to Formula 1 at some point in the future and will...

    F1
  40. 13:38

    Latest FR3.5 photos: Sunday at Jerez

    FR 3.5
  41. Dominant Rowland wins FR3.5 finale at Jerez 13:37

    Dominant Rowland wins FR3.5 finale at Jerez

    Oliver Rowland claimed victory in the final race of the Formula Renault 3.5 season as he controlled proceedings throughout...

    FR 3.5
  42. 09:20

    Latest MotoGP photos: Sunday at Phillip Island

    MotoGP
  43. Márquez 'not on the limit' before crash 09:19

    Márquez 'not on the limit' before crash

    World Champion Marc Márquez says he was not riding on the limit when he crashed out of the lead in the Australian Grand Prix...

    MotoGP
  44. Rossi wins incident-packed race in Australia 06:50

    Rossi wins incident-packed race in Australia

    Valentino Rossi claimed his second win of the year in an incident-packed Australian Grand Prix after World Champion Marc...

    MotoGP
  45. Video of the Day: Pedrosa on Phillip Island 03:00

    Video of the Day: Pedrosa on Phillip Island

    Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa chose his fondest Phillip Island memory ahead of Sunday's race at the track.

    MotoGP
more news