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. Saturday 21 October 2017

  2. Hartley encouraged by practice progress 13:12

    Hartley encouraged by practice progress

    Toro Rosso debutant Brendon Hartley believes he made substantial progress through the course of Friday's practice sessions in…

    F1
  3. Márquez remains wary of Dovizioso recovery 12:24

    Márquez remains wary of Dovizioso recovery

    Marc Márquez insists he still has to be wary of title rival Andrea Dovizioso, despite the Ducati rider struggling for pace…

    MotoGP
  4. Video: Formula E's Rome demonstration 11:02

    Video: Formula E's Rome demonstration

    Watch as Lucas di Grassi, Sébastien Buemi, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Luca Filippi demonstrate Formula E machinery around the…

    FE
  5. Power steering biggest challenge - Leclerc 10:18

    Power steering biggest challenge - Leclerc

    Sauber tester Charles Leclerc says getting accustomed to Formula 1's power steering is the major challenge he faces compared to…

    F1
  6. Super Formula cancels finale, Ishiura champion 09:38

    Super Formula cancels finale, Ishiura champion

    Super Formula officials have cancelled Sunday's double-header finale at Suzuka due to the impending arrival of Typhoon Lan…

    SF
  7. Video: Red Bull duo try American Football 09:34

    Video: Red Bull duo try American Football

    Watch as Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen get a taste of American Football as they train with the Del Valle Cardinals ahead…

    F1
  8. Michelin stays as MotoGP supplier to 2023 08:24

    Michelin stays as MotoGP supplier to 2023

    Michelin will remain as MotoGP's sole tyre supplier through to 2023 after agreeing a new deal with series officials. Michelin…

    MotoGP
  9. Alonso: Friday's lost mileage 'quite painful' 07:34

    Alonso: Friday's lost mileage 'quite painful'

    Fernando Alonso described his lost mileage at the Circuit of the Americas on Friday as "quite painful", having planned to test a…

    F1
  10. 06:04

    Latest MotoGP photos: Saturday in Australia

    MotoGP
  11. Márquez storms to pole, Dovizioso 11th 06:03

    Márquez storms to pole, Dovizioso 11th

    Marc Márquez put in a stunning lap to claim pole position for the Australian Grand Prix, with title rival Andrea Dovizioso only…

    MotoGP
  12. Video: Staying focused at a home race 05:32

    Video: Staying focused at a home race

    Mercedes aerodynamicist Kimberly explains how she handles a whole range of external influences at her home race in Austin, with…

    F1
  13. Friday 20 October 2017

  14. 22:50

    Follow us on Instagram for the best photos!

    F1
  15. 22:48

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Friday in Austin

    F1
  16. Vettel struggled for rhythm during practice 22:42

    Vettel struggled for rhythm during practice

    Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel believes more performance can be extracted from the SF70H after enduring a difficult start to the…

    F1
  17. Hamilton builds 'solid platform' on first day 22:36

    Hamilton builds 'solid platform' on first day

    Lewis Hamilton says that he built a "solid platform" on the first day of practice for the United States Grand Prix, as he pushes…

    F1
  18. Ricciardo: No concerns over Red Bull parity 22:21

    Ricciardo: No concerns over Red Bull parity

    Daniel Ricciardo says he has no concerns over driver parity at Red Bull moving forward, in the wake of Max Verstappen's…

    F1
  19. 21:35

    United States GP: Full Practice 2 results

    F1
  20. Hamilton remains on top in second practice 21:33

    Hamilton remains on top in second practice

    Lewis Hamilton remained at the top of the timesheets during Friday afternoon's second practice session for the United States…

    F1
  21. 19:43

    Follow second practice for the US GP!

    F1
  22. Williams reprimanded, fined over tyre breach 18:45

    Williams reprimanded, fined over tyre breach

    Williams has been handed a reprimand and a suspended fine for breaching tyre regulations during the opening practice session for…

    F1
  23. Video: Spanish lessons - the bloopers 18:42

    Video: Spanish lessons - the bloopers

    Check out the Blooper Reel from McLaren's 'Spanish Lessons' video, as the team prepares to spend another year with Fernando…

    F1
  24. 17:35

    United States GP: Full Practice 1 results

    F1
  25. Hamilton quickest in wet/dry FP1 at Austin 17:34

    Hamilton quickest in wet/dry FP1 at Austin

    Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton set the quickest time during the opening 90-minute session at a drizzly Circuit of the Americas, ahead…

    F1
  26. Verstappen can 'build a team around him' 17:13

    Verstappen can 'build a team around him'

    Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says Max Verstappen is in the "best place" to realise his title ambitions in Formula 1…

    F1
  27. Penalties for Hülkenberg, Vandoorne, Hartley 16:53

    Penalties for Hülkenberg, Vandoorne, Hartley

    Renault's Nico Hülkenberg, McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne and Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley will all take power unit-related grid…

    F1
  28. 15:45

    Follow opening practice for the US GP!

    F1
  29. Verstappen to stay with Red Bull to 2020 15:35

    Verstappen to stay with Red Bull to 2020

    Max Verstappen has agreed an extended contract which will see him continue to race for Red Bull for three more years, through…

    F1
  30. Video: Prema's whisper challenge - F3 13:06

    Video: Prema's whisper challenge - F3

    Prema's quartet of Formula 3 racers, Maximilian Günther, Guan Yu Zhou, Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott, try their guessing…

    F3
  31. Ricciardo feels RBR can win anywhere 12:32

    Ricciardo feels RBR can win anywhere

    Daniel Ricciardo reckons Red Bull can now fight for victory at each Grand Prix, after making gains with its RB13 across the…

    F1
  32. Insight: Kvyat desires 'clarification' after drop 11:24

    Insight: Kvyat desires 'clarification' after drop

    Daniil Kvyat returned to the Formula 1 paddock in Austin for the first time since he trudged away from his wrecked Toro Rosso…

    F1
  33. In photos: Red Bull pair try American football 10:41

    In photos: Red Bull pair try American football

    As part of the promotional build-up to the United States Grand Prix, Red Bull pair Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen visited…

    F1
  34. McLaren-backed de Vries gets DTM test 10:26

    McLaren-backed de Vries gets DTM test

    McLaren-backed Nyck de Vries is among a handful of drivers who will feature in the DTM young driver test for Audi next…

    F1
  35. 09:32

    Latest MotoGP photos: Friday in Australia

    MotoGP
  36. Surprised Espargaró confident of gains 09:26

    Surprised Espargaró confident of gains

    Aprilia's Aleix Espargaró believes the operation can still improve its pace, after he led the way during Friday practice for…

    MotoGP
  37. Kvyat to step aside for Gelael in first practice 08:53

    Kvyat to step aside for Gelael in first practice

    Toro Rosso has confirmed that Daniil Kvyat will make way for Sean Gelael for the opening practice session at the United States…

    F1
  38. Mortara joins Engel at Venturi for 2017/18 08:27

    Mortara joins Engel at Venturi for 2017/18

    Venturi has confirmed that it will field Mercedes DTM drivers Edoardo Mortara and Maro Engel in the 2017/18 Formula E…

    FE
  39. Espargaró leads Friday running in Australia 06:34

    Espargaró leads Friday running in Australia

    Aprilia's Aleix Espargaró set the pace during Friday practice for the Australian Grand Prix, narrowly edging reigning World…

    MotoGP
  40. Video: Rosberg's 'top secret' filming day 05:04

    Video: Rosberg's 'top secret' filming day

    In his latest vlog, reigning F1 champion Nico Rosberg jets back home to Monaco for some "top secret filming" in the…

    F1
  41. Thursday 19 October 2017

  42. Insight: How a phone call led to an F1 seat 23:04

    Insight: How a phone call led to an F1 seat

    Brendon Hartley will make a surprise Formula 1 debut at the United States Grand Prix, stepping in for Super Formula title…

    F1
  43. 23:02

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Thursday in Austin

    F1
more news