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 25 August 2016

  2. 18:16

    F1 photos: Thursday at Spa-Francorchamps

    F1
  3. Rosberg: Hamilton drop means Spa 'less difficult' 18:14

    Rosberg: Hamilton drop means Spa 'less difficult'

    Nico Rosberg admits that Lewis Hamilton's grid penalty will make his Belgian Grand Prix weekend "less difficult" but nonetheless…

    F1
  4. Vettel confident over Belgian GP tyre selection 16:10

    Vettel confident over Belgian GP tyre selection

    Sebastian Vettel says that he has faith in Ferrari's aggressive tyre selection for the Belgian Grand Prix, despite anticipated…

    F1
  5. Sainz Jr. another to trial halo in practice 16:02

    Sainz Jr. another to trial halo in practice

    Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz Jr. has confirmed that he will also trial the 'halo' device during free practice for the Belgian Grand…

    F1
  6. Watkins Glen gets two-year IndyCar extension 15:53

    Watkins Glen gets two-year IndyCar extension

    Watkins Glen will remain on the IndyCar calendar for at least the next two seasons after concluding a new deal with series…

    Indy
  7. Pirelli to run prototypes during Spa practice 15:44

    Pirelli to run prototypes during Spa practice

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli has announced that it will run prototype rubber during Friday's practice sessions for the…

    F1
  8. Mercedes confirms Hamilton grid penalty 14:19

    Mercedes confirms Hamilton grid penalty

    Mercedes has confirmed that Lewis Hamilton will take a grid penalty at this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, for exceeding his…

    F1
  9. Gutiérrez adamant he has 2017 race seat 12:54

    Gutiérrez adamant he has 2017 race seat

    Esteban Gutiérrez remains adamant that he will be on the Formula 1 grid in 2017, but is unwilling to state the team with which…

    F1
  10. Pérez: Still no clarity over Formula 1 future 12:42

    Pérez: Still no clarity over Formula 1 future

    Sergio Pérez has admitted that it remains unclear which team he will be racing for next season, despite previously hoping his…

    F1
  11. Honda spends seven tokens on Spa update 12:10

    Honda spends seven tokens on Spa update

    Honda used up seven engine tokens ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, for an update that will be applied to Fernando Alonso and…

    F1
  12. Ocon: Spa the best place to start F1 career 10:36

    Ocon: Spa the best place to start F1 career

    Manor newcomer Esteban Ocon says that there is no better place to start his Formula 1 career than Spa-Francorchamps, the venue…

    F1
  13. Hülkenberg to also run halo during practice 10:12

    Hülkenberg to also run halo during practice

    Force India's Nico Hülkenberg will also run with the 'halo' device during Friday's first practice session for the Belgian Grand…

    F1
  14. Canamasas returns to Carlin for Belgium 07:55

    Canamasas returns to Carlin for Belgium

    Sergio Canamasas will return to the GP2 Series this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, linking up once more with the Carlin…

    GP2
  15. Video of the Day: Vandoorne on F1 aspirations 05:36

    Video of the Day: Vandoorne on F1 aspirations

    McLaren reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne discusses his hopes of stepping up to Formula 1 in 2017.

    F1
  16. Wednesday 24 August 2016

  17. 17:22

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  18. Hamilton engine penalty 'likely' in Belgium 16:52

    Hamilton engine penalty 'likely' in Belgium

    Mercedes has stated that Lewis Hamilton is "likely" to suffer a grid drop at this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, for taking on…

    F1
  19. Mercedes set to run halo in Spa practice 16:31

    Mercedes set to run halo in Spa practice

    Mercedes is planning to run the 'halo' on Nico Rosberg's car during Friday practice at this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, a…

    F1
  20. Wolff: Mercedes taking nothing for granted 15:02

    Wolff: Mercedes taking nothing for granted

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has insisted that the team is taking nothing for granted as the second half of the 2016 season gets…

    F1
  21. Enstone 'refreshed' after Renault return 13:48

    Enstone 'refreshed' after Renault return

    Renault technical chief Bob Bell says the manufacturer's long-term plan is in progress, commenting that facilities at its…

    F1
  22. Video: Conor Daly quizzed on career so far 11:31

    Video: Conor Daly quizzed on career so far

    IndyCar quizzes Dale Coyne Racing's Conor Daly in the latest instalment of its 'test drive' series.

    Indy
  23. Boullier: 2016 gains will aid 2017 package 10:40

    Boullier: 2016 gains will aid 2017 package

    McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier says there will be "no let-up" from the team in terms of its development as anything it…

    F1
  24. Symonds expects Belgian GP to suit Williams 09:24

    Symonds expects Belgian GP to suit Williams

    Williams Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds says he expects the upcoming Belgian Grand Prix to suit the team, as it bids to…

    F1
  25. Vettel set to defend RoC crown in Miami 08:42

    Vettel set to defend RoC crown in Miami

    The Race of Champions will head to the United States for the first time in its history in early 2017, with Sebastian Vettel set…

    Misc
  26. Laverty to leave MotoGP for World Superbikes 08:16

    Laverty to leave MotoGP for World Superbikes

    Eugene Laverty has confirmed that he will leave MotoGP at the end of the season after signing a deal to race for Aprilia in the…

    MotoGP
  27. Preview: Belgian Grand Prix - Round 13 07:32

    Preview: Belgian Grand Prix - Round 13

    Formula 1 returns to action with the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend, following its now traditional summer break. GPUpdate.net…

    F1
  28. Video of the Day: ABC Supply 500 highlights 05:26

    Video of the Day: ABC Supply 500 highlights

    Watch highlights of IndyCar's ABC Supply 500, won by Will Power after a scary crash for Hélio Castroneves.

    Indy
  29. Tuesday 23 August 2016

  30. Rosberg: Belgian GP marks 'clean slate' 17:02

    Rosberg: Belgian GP marks 'clean slate'

    Nico Rosberg has described the second half of the campaign as a "clean slate", as he looks to overhaul Mercedes team-mate Lewis…

    F1
  31. Sauber signs Verstappen's former engineer 15:17

    Sauber signs Verstappen's former engineer

    Sauber has confirmed the appointment of Xevi Pujolar as its new Head of Track Engineering. Pujolar has worked for several…

    F1
  32. Hamilton expecting more 'ups and downs' 14:51

    Hamilton expecting more 'ups and downs'

    Lewis Hamilton says he expects more "ups and downs" over the second half of the season, though is entering this weekend's…

    F1
  33. Pirelli reveals Italian GP tyre selections 12:15

    Pirelli reveals Italian GP tyre selections

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli has revealed the driver-by-driver compound selections for the Italian Grand Prix, with the…

    F1
  34. Vasseur: Renault must focus on 'small details' 10:08

    Vasseur: Renault must focus on 'small details'

    Renault can deliver more performance over the second half of the 2016 season by focusing on the "smaller details", according to…

    F1
  35. NextEV retains Piquet Jr., Turvey for 2016/17 09:10

    NextEV retains Piquet Jr., Turvey for 2016/17

    NextEV has retained Nelson Piquet Jr. and Oliver Turvey for the 2016/17 Formula E season. Piquet Jr. and Turvey first teamed…

    FE
  36. In photos: Spa-Francorchamps' iconic moments 08:22

    In photos: Spa-Francorchamps' iconic moments

    As Formula 1 gears up for the second half of the 2016 season, GPUpdate.net looks back at some of the most memorable moments at…

    F1
  37. Video of the Day: Racing a Formula E car 05:22

    Video of the Day: Racing a Formula E car

    Nelson Piquet, Lucas di Grassi, Bruno Senna and more discuss the skills required to race a Formula E car.

    FE
  38. Monday 22 August 2016

  39. Power wins, Pagenaud crashes at Pocono 20:22

    Power wins, Pagenaud crashes at Pocono

    Will Power and Team Penske denied Mikhail Aleshin his first IndyCar win at Pocono on Monday, craftily taking the lead through…

    Indy
  40. Video: Hülkenberg's Belgian GP preview 15:02

    Video: Hülkenberg's Belgian GP preview

    Force India's Nico Hülkenberg looks ahead to this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

    F1
  41. Alonso: McLaren can surprise in Belgium 14:18

    Alonso: McLaren can surprise in Belgium

    Fernando Alonso hopes that McLaren will be able to score some more points at the Belgian Grand Prix, despite admitting the…

    F1
  42. Lorenzo left to rue tyre 'mishap' at Brno 12:44

    Lorenzo left to rue tyre 'mishap' at Brno

    MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo was left to rue further "bad luck" as his chances of defending his crown took a hit at the Czech…

    MotoGP
  43. Mallya: Force India 'in the fight' for fourth 10:38

    Mallya: Force India 'in the fight' for fourth

    Force India team boss Vijay Mallya feels that the outfit is "in the fight" with Williams for fourth in the standings, as Formula…

    F1
  44. Márquez pleased with points after wrong call 10:32

    Márquez pleased with points after wrong call

    Marc Márquez labelled third position a "good result" at the Czech Republic Grand Prix, though accepted responsibility for the…

    MotoGP
more news