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Exclusive: Gerhard Berger on Ayrton Senna

Exclusive: Gerhard Berger on Ayrton Senna
“He had this special charisma what you cannot describe”
01/05/09 08:12


15 years on and Gerhard Berger looks back
Fifteen years ago today Ayrton Senna lost his life after crashing heavily at the San Marino Grand Prix. The triple world champion, in his first season at Williams Renault after a long spell at McLaren, left the circuit at the Tamburello turn and struck the retaining concrete barriers. He died later the same day in hospital.

Much has been written about the life of the Brazilian great, but one man that knew him better than most was Gerhard Berger who speaks exclusively to ESPN Racing-Live.com.

Berger first met Senna when the duo raced in Formula 3. At the time Berger recognised that Senna had talent “but, obviously at this stage you always think you are the best and the others are good but beatable,” the likeable Austrian explained.

“We had a really good relationship because, I mean first, we were the same age,” Berger explained. “We knew each other from Formula 3. We spent time. We went holidaying together. Spent time on my boat together. We spent time in his place in Brazil together. We played around. We went out. We had a really good time. And you know, when I was racing for him. Always when I came into the team with him, until this stage all my team-mates had been very good, but no problem to beat them.

“And I had the same, I came into his team in the same way of thinking. I said, ‘Okay, I know he’s very good. But I’m going to beat him.’ But I realised then how outstanding he was. But I was not that kind of jealous or I wasn’t that kind of mean, and say, ‘Well, how can I weaken him in this way? And his image or whatever.’ I just said, ‘Whatever. It’s up to me to get better, to improve myself to beat him.’ And I think he understood immediately that we would be playing a fair game when we’re competing with each other. And so we had room for friendship. And, I mean a great, great friendship over the years.”

Senna’s burning desire to win was apparent throughout his Formula One career. Success at the highest level requires certain character traits Berger explains, and not all of them are flattering.

“Everybody is extremely competitive and extremely selfish,” he said in reference to elite Formula One drivers. “I remember when I went to school, I’d be known as the most selfish. Once I came into Formula One, I’d be not the most selfish. And when you come to guys like Ayrton, there even another league. So, I think it is part of the sport. You have to look after yourself. You have to have (a) certain killing instinct - selfish instinct. You have to have all of this.”

Berger raced alongside Senna for three years at McLaren Honda after Alain Prost left the team to join Ferrari at the end of the 1989 season. Much has been written about the turbulent relationship between Senna and Prost.

“Well, the relationship between the two drivers was a disaster,” Berger said simply. “Prost the superstar at the time, was the most competitive driver, very fast, very successful, very good. Then coming a young Brazilian and just purely by speed beating him. And it’s very, very difficult… more difficult for a superstar like Alain Prost.

“I can remember well, Ayrton was just [quicker in] qualifying. He was just, just the quicker guy and I saw Alain understanding this very fast say, ‘Our cars are good here anyway, we’re both in the first row. So let him go in pole. I have to use all my experience to beat him in the race.’

“Alain had the same experience years before with Niki Lauda [who] was in the position of Alain, and Alain came as a young guy to Niki and Niki could win by a half point the championship; but by speed, by talent, by peak of his career, Alain was the new man. And here it was the same. Ayrton was the new man, and obviously Alain had to use every trick, every mental game, every fight to destabilise Ayrton. That was the only way to get, a chance to win the championship.”

Prost did win the championship in 1989 following the controversial collision on the Suzuka track with his McLaren team-mate following a race-long duel for supremacy. Heading into the right-left chicane – still in use today at the same circuit – Senna took advantage of Prost’s conservative run through the 130R and jinked to the right to pass into the chicane.

Prost simply turned in on Senna and the duo slithered off together into the escape area with the former popping his seat belt and climbing from the car to retire, while the latter received a push start and following a pitstop for a new front wing, rejoined the race. Senna would catch and pass race leader Alessandro Nannini but was inexplicably disqualified for short-cutting the final chicane.

“Well, I mean in the end of the day there was the decision for the championship and in those days we didn’t have that clear rules as today,” Berger said. “What was your responsibility (was) to avoid the crash. It was all a little bit more free understanding to each other and obviously when you didn’t want to win, it was to your advantage if the other one or if you don’t finish the race post… you sometimes also put the car into the other car and that’s it. You won the championship.

“So in the end of the day it was a big political discussion. It was a little bit sad because both drivers - and I won’t repeat myself again. Alain was a fantastic, unbelievable champion. Then to see them both have this discussion on the table - who’s winning the championship - was a bit sad. But it doesn’t matter, it was part of racing. It’s part of history. It was a great championship. It was two giants meeting each other for the championship. It was great.”

The rivalry continued in the 1990 season with Prost now racing for Ferrari and Senna enjoying a more constructive relationship with his new McLaren team-mate; Gerhard Berger.

It was another very close championship battle and the result of the Japanese Grand Prix would again decide the title. As Senna got himself embroiled with the FIA over which side of the grid his pole position should be, it soon became apparent that it was payback time for the Brazilian.

“I remember that we were changing our clothes before the race and we were joking a bit about each other. He said, ‘Gerhard, have a good look at the first corner. You’re going have some fun.’ I knew already before what’s going to happen because he said it was payback time.

We know the story now as Prost got the jump on Senna at the start, just as the McLaren star had feared. Heading to the first turn Senna simply rammed into Prost and as both cars came to rest in the gravel trap, Senna knew he was champion for the second time.

Senna added a third title to his resume in 1991 as Ferrari struggled to be competitive. Berger left McLaren to rejoin Ferrari in 1993 while Senna was joined initially by Michael Andretti and then rising star Mika Hakkinen at the McLaren Ford team. Williams Renault was the team to beat at the time as Prost cruised to a fourth championship in the dominant FW15C. With McLaren running a customer Ford engine and then penning a deal for Peugeot power in 1994, Senna cast his eye enviously over at the Williams team.

“I had left McLaren to (go to) Ferrari,” Berger began. “And Ayrton says to me, ‘I don’t believe in McLaren anymore. I have to leave. I will go to Williams. Williams is building the best car. Williams has the best engineer. I’m going to try to get into Williams.’ And he started to negotiate with Frank. And he comes [to me] a couple of times to me and says, ‘Gerhard, I’m never going to drive for Williams. Frank is such a pain and I ‘m never going to drive this car.’

“And then when I met him a few weeks later, he said, ‘I have to try again because it’s the best car and I want the best car and I need the best car.’ And again, back again, ‘I had a conversation with Frank. Everything looks very good.’ A couple of days later I met him and he said, ‘It’s impossible to deal with him. I’m never going to drive for Williams.’ So it was going on for half a year I think, until he then told me he was going go to Williams.

“And then at this time, Williams was technically the best car. Especially this was the big era of Williams with Adrian Newey, with Patrick Head putting really super cars (on the grid). And that means, Ayrton was the quickest guy in the quickest car. Very boring Formula One seasons were coming.”

The Williams Renault FW 16 was a very competitive package as Senna claimed the pole position in the first race of the year in Brazil but later spun out of the race chasing down Michael Schumacher in the Benetton Ford. On to TI Aida in Japan and Senna again claimed the pole but was eliminated at the start of the race, allowing Schumacher to cruise to a second straight win.

The 1994 San Marino Grand Prix saw Senna claim his third straight pole – the 65th of his career - ahead of the tragic death of Roland Ratzenberger. Following a start line accident and subsequent clean up, the race resumed with Senna leading Schumacher before the Williams speared off at the Tamburello turn. Poignantly, Senna had an Austrian flag in the Williams and had hoped to pay tribute to Ratzenberger by flying the flag in victory.

“I remember Ayrton telling me just the morning - we’ve been in the driver’s briefing - and he says, ‘Gerhard, the car is impossible to drive.’ They had some aerodynamic difficultness on the car. Where he says, ‘We had a hell of a performance in the car, we cannot handle it yet. We had to modify a couple of things to get it drivable.’ But he still puts the car in pole, like usual. All the usual things. But he was very happy on his way with Williams. He said, ‘I’m on the right team. I’m going to win a lot.’

“I was just behind him when the accident happened,” Berger continued. “Just saw him going into the wall. I was just parallel with him driving and I looked at him and he… the impact didn’t look too bad because the angle was not too bad. I thought it was nothing. I’ve seen worse accidents in this corner, not much worse. I hit myself, head on. He had not a bad angle. So, for me, it was all fine. I just came back and I put my car in the starting grid and they stopped the race.

“They cleaned the track. And even back on the starting grid the atmosphere was still okay. Everyone said, ‘Well, he’s out of the car.’ We did not think that something can be very bad. For me, he was out of the car and everything was fine. Just clean the track and let’s go again. So at this stage I had no clue how bad it was.

“Well, we start again the race and very short before the race came a little bit some strange feeling, but nothing special. It was in the garage sitting [after retiring] and people came to me and said, ‘Well, you know Ayrton is in the hospital fighting for his life?’ And then, that’s when I start to understand the serious problems.

“We, we… then I put my stuff together and said, ‘Well, let me go to the hospital and see exactly what’s happened.’ I took a helicopter and went to the hospital to Bologna.”

Senna passed away shortly afterwards and Berger joined Damon Hill, Emerson Fittipaldi and Alain Prost amongst the pallbearers at his funeral in Sao Paolo. Millions lined the streets to pay their respects to the Brazilian great.

“There’s not much more to tell because… just have a look at the film,” Berger said. “Just have a look to the people turning to the funeral. Have a look at the way he was treated. It’s special. But he was a special guy. It was always all right in his lifetime. We came to a new country, obviously of course we’ve been sportspeople winning races, we’ve been famous. People like to have dinner with us, like to see us. But with Ayrton it was usually the President asking to see him. He had this special, he had this special charisma what you cannot describe what it is. You have it or you're born with it. And that’s what he had.

“We know he… his standing as one of the greatest, maybe the greatest driver ever been in Formula One. For me he was the greatest driver ever been in Formula One. I know emotionally as a friend, I’d be closer to him. I was racing with many of the guys, but not with all. We had Jim Clark, we had people before. What’s sure (he)would have been at a similar level.

“But for me personally, and emotionally, he’d been the greatest driver ever in Formula One.”

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Great article, great read, great driver, great tragedy.

Thanks for the post and the memories I'm now entertaining.

One thing that struck me ... can you imagine a Nascar driver talking/speaking in that manner? While there is always a level of competitiveness, the (dare I say) intelligence that comes through seems devoid when you hear one of the good old boys being interviewed.

Thanks again.
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Ayrton Senna Film Gets Green Light

Ayrton Senna Film Gets Green Light
Ayrton Senna Film Gets Green Light - Wheels Blog - NYTimes.com
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Originally Posted by gregs210 View Post
Great article, great read, great driver, great tragedy.

Thanks for the post and the memories I'm now entertaining.

One thing that struck me ... can you imagine a Nascar driver talking/speaking in that manner? While there is always a level of competitiveness, the (dare I say) intelligence that comes through seems devoid when you hear one of the good old boys being interviewed.

Thanks again.
Well said.

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Fifteen years on - remembering Senna

Formula1.com May 1
Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna
World Championships 3
Grand Prix Starts 162
Grand Prix Wins 41
Pole Positions 65
Nationality Brazilian
Ayrton Senna
Monte Carlo, June 1984: In his debut season Ayrton Senna scored his maiden Formula One podium with second place for Toleman in a rain-shortened Monaco Grand Prix. He was rapidly catching leader Alain Prost when the red flags came out. © Schlegelmilch Monza, September 1987: Ayrton Senna in the cockpit of the Lotus 99T ahead of the Italian Grand Prix. He would finish the race second behind the Williams of fellow Brazilian Nelson Piquet. © Schlegelmilch Imola, April 1993: Ayrton Senna at the wheel of the McLaren MP4-8 in his final season with team. He retired from the San Marino Grand Prix on lap 43 with hydraulic problems. © Schlegelmilch

He streaked through the sport like a comet, an other-worldly superstar whose brilliance as a driver was matched by a dazzling intellect and coruscating charisma that illuminated Formula One racing as never before. No one tried harder or pushed himself further, nor did anyone shed so much light on the extremes to which only the greatest drivers go. Intensely introspective and passionate in the extreme, Ayrton Senna endlessly sought to extend his limits, to go faster than himself, a quest that ultimately made him a martyr but did not diminish his mystique.

Ayrton Senna da Silva was born on March 21, 1960, into a wealthy Brazilian family where, with his brother and sister, he enjoyed a privileged upbringing. He never needed to race for money but his deep need for racing began with an infatuation for a miniature go-kart his father gave him when he was four years old. As a boy the highlights of Ayrton's life were Grand Prix mornings when he awoke trembling with anticipation at the prospect of watching his Formula One heroes in action on television. At 13 he raced a kart for the first time and immediately won. Eight years later he went single-seater racing in Britain, where in three years he won five championships, by which time he had divorced his young wife and forsaken a future in his father's businesses in favour of pursuing success in Formula One racing, where he made his debut with Toleman in 1984. At Monaco (a race he would win six times), his sensational second to Alain Prost's McLaren - in torrential rain - was confirmation of the phenomenal talent that would take the sport by storm.

Deciding Toleman's limited resources were inadequate for his towering ambition, Senna bought out his contract and in 1985 moved to Lotus, where in three seasons he started from pole 16 times (he eventually won a record 65) and won six races. Having reached the limits of Lotus he decided the fastest way forward would be with McLaren, where he went in 1988 and stayed for six seasons, winning 35 races and three world championships.

In 1988, when McLaren-Honda won 15 of the 16 races, Senna beat his team mate Alain Prost eight wins to seven to take his first driving title. Thereafter two of the greatest drivers became protagonists in one of the most infamous feuds. In 1989 Prost took the title by taking Senna out at the Suzuka chicane. In 1990 Senna extracted revenge at Suzuka's first corner, winning his second championship by taking out Prost's Ferrari at Suzuka's first corner. Senna's third title, in 1991, was straightforward as his domination as a driver became even more pronounced, as did his obsession with becoming better still. Some of his greatest performances came in his final year with McLaren, following which he moved to Williams for the ill-fated 1994 season.

Beyond his driving genius Senna was one of the sport's most compelling personalities. Though slight in stature he possessed a powerful physical presence, and when he spoke, with his warm brown eyes sparkling and his voice quavering with intensity, his eloquence was spellbinding. Even the most jaded members of the Formula One fraternity were mesmerised by his passionate soliloquies and in his press conferences you could hear a pin drop as he spoke with such hypnotic effect. His command performances were captured by the media and the world at large became aware of Senna's magnetic appeal.

Everyone marvelled at how he put so much of himself, his very soul, into everything he did, not just his driving but into life itself. Behind the wheel the depth of his commitment was there for all to see and the thrilling spectacle of Senna on an all-out qualifying lap or a relentless charge through the field evoked an uneasy combination of both admiration for his superlative skill and fear for his future.

He drove like a man possessed - some thought by demons. His ruthless ambition provoked condemnation from critics, among them Prost who accused him of caring more about winning than living. When Senna revealed he had discovered religion Prost and others suggested he was a dangerous madman who thought God was his co-pilot. "Senna is a genius," Martin Brundle said. "I define genius as just the right side of imbalance. He is so highly developed to the point that he's almost over the edge. It's a close call."

Even Senna confessed he occasionally went too far, as was the case in qualifying for the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, where he became a passenger on a surreal ride into the unknown. Already on pole, he went faster and faster and was eventually over two seconds quicker than Prost in an identical McLaren. "Suddenly, it frightened me," Ayrton said, "because I realised I was well beyond my conscious understanding. I drove back slowly to the pits and did not go out anymore that day."

He said he was acutely aware of his own mortality and used fear to control the extent of the boundaries he felt compelled to explore. Indeed, he regarded racing as a metaphor for life and he used driving as a means of self-discovery. "For me, this research is fascinating. Every time I push, I find something more, again and again. But there is a contradiction. The same moment that you become the fastest, you are enormously fragile. Because in a split-second, it can be gone. All of it. These two extremes contribute to knowing yourself, deeper and deeper."

His self-absorption did not preclude deep feelings for humanity and he despaired over the world's ills. He loved children and gave millions of his personal fortune (estimated at $400 million when he died) to help provide a better future for the underprivileged in Brazil. Early in 1994 he spoke about his own future. "I want to live fully, very intensely. I would never want to live partially, suffering from illness or injury. If I ever happen to have an accident that eventually costs my life, I hope it happens in one instant."

And so it did, on May 1, 1994, in the San Marino Grand Prix, where his race-leading Williams inexplicably speared off the Imola track and hit the concrete wall at Tamburello corner. Millions saw it happen on television, the world mourned his passing and his state funeral in Sao Paulo was attended by many members of the shocked Formula One community. Among the several drivers escorting the coffin was Alain Prost. Among the sad mourners was Frank Williams, who said: "Ayrton was no ordinary person. He was actually a greater man out of the car than in it."

Text - Gerald Donaldson

Related item: Senna feature film to start shooting in May
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Exclusive: Julian Jakobi on Ayrton Senna – Pt.I

Exclusive: Julian Jakobi on Ayrton Senna – Pt.I
''He had a different view. He was there to win''
03/05/09 14:11

Only one could win
Over the last three decades, Julian Jakobi's presence in Formula One circles as a manager and business advisor saw him involved with the careers of some of the sport's most illustrious drivers, including Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve, Jacky Stewart, and of course, Ayrton Senna.

Jakobi had a close relationship with Senna, who provided him with many stories to tell. Following the triple World Champion's death during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, Jakobi participated in the set-up and management of the Ayrton Senna Foundation, conducted merchandising activities for drivers and teams, and eventually played a part in the start-up of the BAR operation before diversifying into several other markets.

In an exclusive interview with ESPN Racing-Live.com, Jakobi shares his thoughts on Senna's character, discusses his balancing act of advising both Senna and Prost during the rivalry years, and recounts how the great Brazilian's approach to racing made him unique.

Jakobi's first meeting with Senna was in Portugal, when they gathered for a late evening dinner in 1985 to talk business.

"It was the Thursday before the Portuguese Grand Prix and we met in this restaurant at nine o'clock at night, which I thought was quite late considering he was driving the next morning. And we were still in the restaurant at half past one in the morning," Jakobi begins.

"I remember then how intense he was, how long-winded he was, but how he wanted to know every detail of every possible scenario that could happen. What was the plan and the strategy going forward. He was a highly intelligent man and I remember specifically then as being… I never met somebody before who would still be sitting in a restaurant at half past one in the morning talking business when he had to be in the car the next morning. But that was the way he was. And he was tremendously concentrated on detail."

Jakobi was also impressed by the way Senna took his physical preparation very seriously, always striving to be in top form to race.

"He raised the bar in terms of fitness for all the drivers," he insists. "He would train during the winter back in Brazil in the heat, the tropical heat in Brazilian summers. He would always run in Portugal in his house or in Monaco at midday. He would never run early in the morning or late in the evening, he would always run in the heat of the day because that was the time of races."

Jakobi is certain that Senna was by far the fittest driver on the grid, at a time where most drivers did not push their exercise routines to such a point: "I don't think they regarded him as a freak, but he was just different from them because he had a different view. He was there to win."

Then came a time when the advisor took on the job of managing both Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. In fact, Senna came under Jakobi's guidance following a good word from Prost.

"They must've had some type of conversation and I got a call from Senna saying could we discuss him being a client based on Alain's recommendations," Jakobi mentions. "So at that time, they obviously got along pretty well."

In 1988, Senna joined reigning World Champion Prost at McLaren Honda, and the beginnings o f a historic and eventually bitter duel were laid.

"They were never the best of friends, but they weren't really enemies until such time as they both realized that there could only be one winner," Jakobi explains. "And the McLaren car with the Honda engine was so superior that they were battling each other for the championship and there could only be one winner. They were both driven to succeed. They both wanted to win and would do anything to do so. So, there was always going to be a fight because neither wanted to be second."

Senna took the title in 1988, but with the rivalry continuing into 1989, it was Prost's turn to re-take the laurels. At the Japanese GP at Suzuka, he turned into the sister McLaren to prevent being overtaken, but Senna not only recovered from the collision but went on to win the race – only to be disqualified for cutting a chicane as he returned to the track after the incident. The title went to Prost and Senna was infuriated.

Jakobi was caught between both drivers: "I had phone calls at some unearthly hour of the morning from both of them actually because there were issues about what to do with the FIA and the team and, you know... They were both upset for different reasons. But it was inevitable."

At that point the hostility between the World Champions was blatantly obvious, yet Jakobi maintains that it seemed worse than it was.

"I don't think the animosity was quite as great as the people made out," he says. "They were both very professional. I always told them that I would never discuss their affairs with the other and vice versa. So it was… they came to me for advice and they relied on it."

In addition, Jakobi's role as their advisor also practically guaranteed equal footing from Ron Dennis while they were McLaren teammates: "From a business standpoint, they both did very well at it because there was an advantage and they were both smart enough to realize that Ron Dennis couldn't play one against the other if I was managing them both. So they knew that they got the best deal from Ron.
Because he couldn't mess around with the contracts. So I think they were smart enough to realize that, and I made sure that I am strictly at arm's length. I didn't get involved in the fight or the technical discussions or anything else within the team."

The following year Prost had moved to Ferrari but the rivalry remained and again the Japanese Grand Prix would be the scene of controversy during its 1990 edition. Senna was outraged that his pole position was situated on the dirty side of the track, and his attempts to have the grid corrected accordingly were refused. At the first corner, Senna refused to let Prost take the advantage and they collided again – this time with Senna taking the crown.

"I don't think anybody expected that to happen on the first corner. But, I mean, I do know there was a debate which was quite so heated on Saturday about the fact that Senna was in pole, but was on the wrong side of the grid and, therefore, felt that Alain had an advantage, which he shouldn't have had because Ayrton had beaten him to pole. And he tried to get the FIA to change the grid setup," Jakobi relates.

"I think he was pretty vexed by that anyway. I think he was more vexed by that than he was by anything else and was determined that, you know, if he couldn't get away cleanly into the lead, that Alain shouldn't lead. I guess that's what happened. It was more of an accident than the previous year, which was a coming together. This was a bit more serious."

Senna believed in equal opportunities in all aspects of Formula One, be it on track or within a team.

"The only thing he ever worried about was making sure that he had the best equipment. He was always looking to see where he should go if he couldn't compete on an equal footing. When he fancied his chances with anybody and in an equal situation. And in fairness, I mean he always insisted in all the contract negotiations that we did together that he had equal status with the other driver," Jakobi says.

"Once you got into a top team like McLaren or Williams he always felt that he should have only equal status," he continues. "And in fact the wording that went into contracts was the wording that he worked and I worked out at the time which was that he would not have less than equal status to the other driver at all times. Not that he would have more than equal, but not less than. He was happy with that. Because he fancied his chances with anybody on an equal basis, but he was really, really determined to make sure that he had equal status in terms of the number of tests he did. With the technical side, the engineers, and everything. And on that basis he felt he could win."

In 1991 the raging competitiveness between Senna and Prost toned down a bit as the Ferrari lost its edge and Senna claimed his third world title with McLaren. But the Brazilian felt that his team was taking a downturn and therefore did everything he could to work out a switch to the Renault-powered Wiliams team - even offering to drive for free.

"We were in Spa at the Belgian Grand Prix and Ayrton had two contracts on Sunday morning in his motorhome, ready to sign: one with McLaren to stay for the '92 season and one to go to Williams to replace Mansell," Jakobi details. "And he was determined and knew he should have gone to Williams, but he had a phone call overnight from the President of Honda persuading him to stay and basically twisting his arm not to leave and he succumbed to that, and he stayed which in my opinion was the only mistake he ever made. Because he would have been a Williams driver in '92, he would have won the championship in '92, but he picked the wrong horse."

"The contract, the financial terms were exactly the same, A or B; and he said, 'I should have gone to Williams. My mistake.' And he was persuaded by Honda to stay, and then Honda pulled out at the end of '92. And of course he was left, he couldn't get into Williams in '93 because Prost was there. So, he was stuck with McLaren and thought about taking a year off, and then decided to come back and drive on a race-by-race basis, and then ended up with Williams in '94."

"But if you think about it had he gone there in '92, he would have gone there and won more championships."

Click here for Part II of Jakobi on Senna.

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Exclusive: Julian Jakobi on Ayrton Senna – Pt.II

Exclusive: Julian Jakobi on Ayrton Senna – Pt.II
''He was the embodiment of a nation''
03/05/09 14:35

"Senna was Brazil"
In an exclusive interview with ESPN Racing-Live.com, Ayrton Senna's manager and business advisor Julian Jakobi shares his memories of the great Brazilian, who died as a triple World Champion 15 years ago.

During the first part of the discussion Jakobi spoke of the intense rivalry which came to exist at McLaren between Senna and fellow champion Alain Prost, whom he also represented. Prost moved to Ferrari in 1990 while Senna continued four more seasons with McLaren before signing a deal with the Williams team, which by that time had the best car on the grid.

Senna had high hopes as the 1994 championship began, but failed to score points on the first two rounds. Then came the fateful San Marino Grand Prix week-end at Imola for the third race of the season, where Senna had decided that his championship bid was finally about to start.

On Friday, Rubens Barrichello suffered a serious accident which sent him to hospital; on Saturday Roland Ratzenberger died in a crash during qualifying. Shaken, the drivers met to discuss safety matters on Sunday morning, with Senna promising an active role; and then they prepared to race.

"I know that he was very upset by what happened," Jakobi says. "He went to see Frank (Williams) after dinner on Saturday night in Frank's room and Frank asked him 'Are you sure you want to race?' If he was not feeling comfortable..."

"And he came up to my room and on his way back from Frank's room, and he spoke to Frank and said everything is fine. That was it. That was the last I saw him on Saturday night. And I didn't really notice anything particularly odd."

The San Marino Grand Prix was re-started following an accident at launch, and Senna rapidly set good laps. Coming into the Tamburello corner, his car left the track and crashed into the wall at over 200kph. He sustained at least three major head injuries.

"I remember the accident because I was in the motorhome," Jakobi recalls. "And you never quite think, you know, you never think it's going to happen to a driver and it's going to be fatal. But it obviously looked pretty serious. And, you know, he was airlifted to the hospital from the track. I mean nobody pronounced him dead at the scene because they don't to avoid all sorts of slaughter charges and everything else. I mean that's kind of like a convention in Formula 1 that if there is a fatal accident, it seems that you aren't pronounced dead until you get to the hospital, when you're away from the track. I can't prove that, but I mean, nobody said that he was dead at the track and he was airlifted to the hospital."

"I went by car with a Brazilian journalist who knew the way because he had been there on Friday when Barrichello was shifted off there. So, we ended up at the hospital and saw the surgeon who said he was on a life support machine, which was the first we knew that it was fatal."

The news came as a shock around the globe as Formula One tragically and suddenly lost one of its greatest. The terrible Imola week-end of 1994 contrasted with the relatively few major accidents that had occurred in F1 over the previous decade.

However, racing is a dangerous sport and will always be so.

"All drivers know the risks," Jakobi acknowledges. "It's a dangerous passion, actually. Yeah, because they're all passionate about racing. They do it because they all love racing. They're also very good at it, but they never think it's going to happen to them. Because if you do think it's going to happen to you, it would take out the edge off of your, you know, the margin. The difference between drivers is so small, it's just who's got that little bit extra. And if you have any doubt, you wouldn't have that extra."

Having been in such close and friendly contact with Ayrton Senna over the years, Julian Jakobi felt great sadness at the champion's death.

"For me, personally, it was… was a huge loss for me because he was not only a client, he was also a good friend and he was a person I like enormously. I liked him for his intelligence and his sense of humor, which I know Gerhard's spoken to you about. And I just thought he was just a great… he was one of the most intelligent people I've met in business in the last 30 years. And as a human being, he was a wonderful human being. Very kind, very caring person."

Senna was an intense racer who never gave an inch but his heart was in the right place, Jakobi remembers.

"Ruthless to pursue his own goals, but also very caring on the other side. He gave huge amounts to charity, but people never knew about it," he shares. "And I remember him ringing me up one night, very late at night…because he had seen some television documentary about the war in, I don't know if it was in Bosnia or Serbia, one of the Balkans at the time; and the children who had been maimed by the bombings and everything else. So he just rang me up and he said, 'I've taken down this number. I want you to transfer some money, but make sure it's anonymous. Just give the money.' And he did that several times."

"Then I found out, sort of quite a few years later from his cousin, that he would do the same with him from Brazil, but he never told me. And he never told his cousin that he'd done it in Europe. So he gave huge amounts to charity, but never wanted it to be public. It was all anonymous."

Senna's funeral brought together a whole nation in mourning its national pride.
Jakobi flew to Brazil to attend and was awed by what he saw: "Well, I mean I never experienced anything like it. You know, two million people or whatever it was on the streets. It was phenomenal."

"There was a sort of a loss, but there was also a silence, you know. It was just extraordinary to see so many people silent," he continues. "I think he was the embodiment of a nation. The spirit of a nation because Brazil was at the time, you've got to go back what… 15 years. He was the single greatest sportsman Brazil had ever had other then Pelé. And yet what he represented was effectively trying to make Brazil compete with the industrialized nations on equal footing."

"So, for Brazil at the time… going back 15 years, he was the spirit of Brazil because he was Brazil taking on the rest of the world at their own game. And if you look now, how Brazil's become a manufacturer of cars and manufacturer of planes, you know Embrea planes, you see all over the place. Well, they weren't there 15 years ago. It was fledgling industries being built up. So what he was… he was what… he was Brazil, really, at the time. To the outside world, once Pelé retired from soccer, Senna was Brazil."

When asked why Senna's legacy still seems so strong today, Jakobi puts it down to talent of course, but adds another dimension: the human factor.

"Whether it was because he was Latin, whether it was because he was single or he was good-looking, I don't know what it was. But he had something that others didn't have."

And Jakobi adds another important part to the Senna mix – life experience.

"You mustn't forget also that he was in his 30's when he died and you know today's champions are getting younger and younger," he points out. "Whether it's in swimming or in gymnastics or motor racing. I don't believe that an athlete or sportsman at 21 can have the same charisma of someone who is 31. Because they've lived ten more years. And he lived life. So he had something to say for himself."

"I think his legacy was probably the most competitive, most naturally talented driver than probably anyone since Jim Clark," Jakobi adds.

Senna's former advisor mentions that there is one part of the Brazilian's peculiar character which he misses more than anything else: "Late night phone calls."

"We always used to say we had summertime, wintertime, and Senna time. it was always late. He never got up until midday. You could never call him before lunch time. He'd get up, if he wasn't racing or testing, he'd get up around midday, half past 12. Go for a run and then have a brunch at two. He wouldn't eat until ten at night. Go to bed at two. He had his own metabolism. It was extraordinary. It was useless first thing in the morning."

"And he would call you at one o'clock in the morning because he had no idea," Jakobi continues. "And he would say, 'I've just been speaking to my father in Brazil,' because it was nine o'clock in the evening there, one o'clock in Europe. 'And we've been discussing this. What do you think of this?' And, you know, you'd be kind of half asleep and everything else and he expected you to awake because he couldn't work out that nobody would be on the same time as he was. It was always known as Senna time."

What would have happened if Ayrton Senna had continued racing, winning additional championships, and then retired from Formula One?

"He wouldn't be owning a team, that's for sure," Jakobi states. "I think he would have retired. He wanted to retire. He didn't want to go into politics because he felt that politics was too corrupt and he could do more with the money he made privately, which is really what his sister has done with the foundation."

Behind the competitiveness and rivalry that marked his career, there was respect for Senna's accomplishments, with many drivers wishing to reach his level of instinct.

"I think he was regarded in awe by them because his talent was always... he was always one of the gifted drivers that there has ever been. A natural talent. And he had a level of intensity about him of wanting to be the World Champion. He was in this business to win," Jakobi affirms.

"I think that he got a tremendous satisfaction from winning when he was in this, in Formula 1 to win. He felt it was his destiny. He felt, you know, he felt he had the ability."

Click here for Part I of Jakobi on Senna.

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