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. Wednesday 30 July 2014

  2. Formula E postpones Malaysian round 17:33

    Formula E postpones Malaysian round

    The Malaysian round of the inaugural Formula E campaign has been postponed by five weeks. The event, to be staged in the...

    Formula E
  3. Ex-Caterham staff hit back at team 14:02

    Ex-Caterham staff hit back at team

    The ex-Caterham staff seeking compensation for unfair dismissal have hit back at a team statement. On Monday, around 40...

    F1
  4. Mallya: Force India can catch Williams 13:22

    Mallya: Force India can catch Williams

    Vijay Mallya is hopeful that Force India will be able to reclaim fourth in the Constructors' Championship from Williams...

    F1
  5. Red Bull increases Repsol Honda backing 12:55

    Red Bull increases Repsol Honda backing

    Energy drink company Red Bull has increased its partnership with Honda's factory MotoGP team. After nine years of...

    MotoGP
  6. Video: No 2014 highlights for Räikkönen 12:19

    Video: No 2014 highlights for Räikkönen

    Kimi Räikkönen delivers a typically dry response when asked for his highlights of the 2014 season so far.

    F1
  7. Ecclestone vows to scrap standing restarts 11:06

    Ecclestone vows to scrap standing restarts

    Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has vowed to remove standing restarts from the 2015 regulations, just over a month after...

    F1
  8. Gutiérrez set to begin Sauber contract talks 10:32

    Gutiérrez set to begin Sauber contract talks

    Esteban Gutiérrez says he plans to open contract extension talks with Sauber in the coming weeks. Gutiérrez, a former GP3...

    F1
  9. Mark Sutton: Story behind the shot - Hungary 09:20

    Mark Sutton: Story behind the shot - Hungary

    Especially for lovers of motorsport photography, GPUpdate.net is this season running a feature series entitled Story behind...

    F1
  10. Video of the Day: Chilton looks to Singapore 05:00

    Video of the Day: Chilton looks to Singapore

    Marussia's Max Chilton put in an appearance at the recent 'Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix Experience' in London's...

    F1
  11. Tuesday 29 July 2014

  12. Caterham takes legal action against ex-staff 17:24

    Caterham takes legal action against ex-staff

    The Caterham F1 team is to take legal action against a number of its former employees laid off earlier this month, it has...

    F1
  13. Tost: Too many deficiencies on reliability front 17:11

    Tost: Too many deficiencies on reliability front

    Franz Tost says Toro Rosso must improve its reliability during the second half of the Formula 1 season. Jean-Éric Vergne...

    F1
  14. We have raised our game, says Renault 16:09

    We have raised our game, says Renault

    Renault believes it has "raised its game" in recent races, but admits there is still a need for improvement. Daniel...

    F1
  15. Ecclestone moves to end German lawsuit early 15:01

    Ecclestone moves to end German lawsuit early

    Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has offered to pay BayernLB £20 million if it drops the bribery case against him, his...

    F1
  16. Red Bull has 'overachieved in many aspects' 14:12

    Red Bull has 'overachieved in many aspects'

    Christian Horner reckons Red Bull has "overachieved in many respects" this season, despite the massive 174-point difference...

    F1
  17. Kubica ready for 'Finnish Grand Prix' outing 12:51

    Kubica ready for 'Finnish Grand Prix' outing

    Former BMW and Renault F1 driver Robert Kubica will tackle Rally Finland this week buoyed by his maiden victory at the wheel...

    WRC
  18. Ferrari dismiss reports Fry has been sacked 11:31

    Ferrari dismiss reports Fry has been sacked

    Ferrari has refuted claims that it has parted company with Engineering Director, Pat Fry. According to Sky Sports, Fry...

    F1
  19. 11:00

    Photos: Hungarian GP in black and white

    F1
  20. Jones: Ricciardo grows horns when it counts 10:41

    Jones: Ricciardo grows horns when it counts

    Former Formula 1 World Champion Alan Jones reckons fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo has proved that he is capable of...

    F1
  21. Hamilton: I will come back stronger after break 09:49

    Hamilton: I will come back stronger after break

    Lewis Hamilton says he will use Formula 1's summer break to "re-energise" himself and get even "fitter" in a bid to become a...

    F1
  22. Winners and Losers at the Hungarian Grand Prix 08:00

    Winners and Losers at the Hungarian Grand Prix

    The Hungaroring produced a thrilling encounter ahead of the Formula 1 summer break, with Red Bull sensation Daniel Ricciardo...

    F1
  23. Video of the Day: Arsenal vs Force India – Part 1 05:00

    Video of the Day: Arsenal vs Force India – Part 1

    See what happened when Gatorade brought Arsenal and Force India together.

    F1
  24. Monday 28 July 2014

  25. Porsche SA buys Kyalami circuit at auction 15:00

    Porsche SA buys Kyalami circuit at auction

    South Africa's Kyalami circuit, which hosted F1 for almost two decades, has been bought by Porsche. The 72-hectare...

    F1
  26. Post-race penalties hand Marciello point 14:32

    Post-race penalties hand Marciello point

    Racing Engineering driver and Ferrari youngster Raffaele Marciello has moved into the points for the second Hungaroring GP2...

    GP2
  27. Horner lauds 'truly sensational' Ricciardo 13:31

    Horner lauds 'truly sensational' Ricciardo

    Christian Horner has heaped praise on Hungarian Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo for delivering a "truly sensational"...

    F1
  28. Mattiacci: We must not delude ourselves 12:39

    Mattiacci: We must not delude ourselves

    Marco Mattiacci says Ferrari must keep its feet firmly on the ground after claiming a sizeable points haul at the Hungarian...

    F1
  29. Video: Rosberg reflects on Hungarian GP 11:07

    Video: Rosberg reflects on Hungarian GP

    Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg reflects on an eventful Hungarian Grand Prix, which included a costly Safety Car period, a team...

    F1
  30. Villeneuve: Rosberg tried to ruin Hamilton's race 10:47

    Villeneuve: Rosberg tried to ruin Hamilton's race

    Jacques Villeneuve believes that Nico Rosberg tried to "destroy" Lewis Hamilton's Hungarian Grand Prix. Rosberg was...

    F1
  31. Caterham team facing legal action from ex-staff 10:10

    Caterham team facing legal action from ex-staff

    The Caterham F1 team is facing legal action from around 40 former employees, laid off earlier this month. Since Tony...

    F1
  32. Sutil positive despite narrowly missing point 09:32

    Sutil positive despite narrowly missing point

    Adrian Sutil extracted the positives after narrowly missing out on his and Sauber's first point of the season at the...

    F1
  33. Lauda backs Hamilton over team orders 09:02

    Lauda backs Hamilton over team orders

    Mercedes Non-Executive Chairman Niki Lauda says Lewis Hamilton was completely within his rights to ignore instructions to...

    F1
  34. Räikkönen says sixth was maximum result 07:23

    Räikkönen says sixth was maximum result

    Kimi Räikkönen says finishing sixth in the Hungarian Grand Prix was the most he could have hoped for after a disastrous q...

    F1
  35. Video of the Day: Stories from Senna's mechanic 05:14

    Video of the Day: Stories from Senna's mechanic

    Neil Trundle, former Chief Mechanic to Ayrton Senna, discusses his time working with a legend of the sport.

    F1
  36. 03:06

    Championship standings after Hungary

    F1
  37. Sunday 27 July 2014

  38. Bottas feels tyre strategy cost podium shot 19:54

    Bottas feels tyre strategy cost podium shot

    Williams driver Valtteri Bottas reckons he could have been in the podium fight in Hungary if he had chosen a better tyre...

    F1
  39. Mercedes to discuss Hungary team orders 18:18

    Mercedes to discuss Hungary team orders

    Mercedes says it will hold internal discussions with its drivers after the outfit issued team orders during the Hungarian...

    F1
  40. Force India drivers apologetic after incidents 17:56

    Force India drivers apologetic after incidents

    Force India drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez have both apologised to their team after retiring from the Hungarian G...

    F1
  41. Button laments misleading weather forecast 17:14

    Button laments misleading weather forecast

    Jenson Button was left to lament a missed opportunity after getting caught out by false rain predictions in the Hungarian...

    F1
  42. Rosberg: First Safety Car wrecked race 16:57

    Rosberg: First Safety Car wrecked race

    Nico Rosberg says the timing of the first Safety Car period ruined his chances of winning Sunday afternoon's Hungarian Grand...

    F1
  43. 16:40

    Latest F1 photos: Sunday at Hungaroring

    F1
  44. 'Nice surprise' for Alonso and Ferrari 16:39

    'Nice surprise' for Alonso and Ferrari

    Fernando Alonso says finishing on the Hungarian Grand Prix podium came as a "nice surprise" to himself and his Ferrari...

    F1
more news