DEC 12th 2014

Video: 'Flat‑out and Fearless' – Senna. Donington Park. 1993

Once the 2015 Festival of Speed theme ‘Flat-out and Fearless: Racing on the Edge’ was announced, it was a matter of time before we shared Ayrton Senna’s stupefying performance in the European Grand Prix at Donington Park in 1993. Quite simply it sits alongside the greatest Grand Prix performances ever. Think Fangio at the Nürburgring in 1957, Jim Clark at Monza in 1964, Nigel Mansell at Silverstone in 1987 …  

Unlike those three shining examples, however, Senna was driving an unfancied machine. The Williams Renault FW15C was a steamroller of an F1 car; utterly dominant. It’s still considered to be one of the most technologically advanced racing cars ever and in the hands of Alain Prost and Damon Hill it won 10 out of 16 races, recording 15 pole positions and 10 fastest laps in the process. But Senna that season found himself in a McLaren MP4/8, which apparently handled well, but had to make do with the Ford HB V8. This might not have been so bad but, controversially, McLaren was denied the same ‘factory’ support from Ford as was afforded that year to Benetton … 

With the Williams cars locking out the front row in qualifying there was no way the McLaren would compete around Donington Park, unless of course it rained … which it did. Starting in fourth spot Senna actually lost a place in the run down to Redgate to Karl Wendlinger, but what happened after that left the watching world stunned. It wasn’t so much that he managed to haul the relatively underpowered McLaren into the lead from fifth on the first lap, it’s how the man made every other driver there look as if they weren’t trying.

The clip I’ve chosen includes a bit of build-up so you can immerse yourself in the ambience of the few minutes building up to the race. But if you want to cut to the action start the clip at 2:55.

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