I’ll share with you now I was pretty nervous. Not about crashing or anything like that, but meeting one of only two contemporaries I’d classed as heroes. The other was Gilles Villeneuve who’s already been gone nine long years. And there was Senna’s reputation to consider too: his was a brooding presence and I knew already he was none too pleased about the way the Honda V12 in the back of his McLaren 4/6 delivered its power (though it would still be good enough to help earn him his third World Championship that season), relative to the V10 he’d used for the previous three years. What would he make of having to give up what little free time he had that day to drive a young idiot like me around a sopping Silverstone?
Not much it seemed. He came out of the motorhome late, even though time was short. He looked me in the eye without warmth, extended a hand and said ‘I’m Ayrton’, possibly the most redundant sentence I will ever hear in my life. Then he looked away and marched outside into a wall of flashbulbs and microphones. And now he was scowling.
We got into the car and headed down the pit lane whereupon I realised I’d forgotten something. Twenty-eight years later I can’t remember what but it must have been quite important because I had to ask the reigning Formula 1 World Champion to stop so I could go back and get it. My tape recorder I imagine. But he didn’t stop, other than for long enough to knock the NSX’s gear selector into ‘R’ (yes, I compounded my shame by turning up in an automatic NSX), and reversed back to where we’d been parked.