AYRTON'S FIRST STEPS IN F1
by Maximiliano Catania/FUNO!
Buenos Aires (AR), 20 Jan 2003
The 25th March 1984 is not only remembered for being the opening date of 35th Formula One World Championship, but also for being the beginning date of Ayrton Senna da Silva's F1 career. The young Ayrton, a 24-year-old Brazilian from São Paulo, had won the 1983 British F3 Championship; for that reason such teams as Williams and McLaren had their sights fixed on him. Senna, however, signed up with Toleman, team managed by Alex Hawkridge and which cars were powered by Hart engines. Although the Toleman-Hart was known to not to be the ideal car for him to struggle in the leading positions, the talented Brazilian managed himself to get on the podium at three times in the season.
The whole attendance of Jacarepagua Circuit was euphorically waving to his fellow countryman 1983 F1 champion Nelson Piquet (Brabham-BMW) and was looking with expectation to both McLaren-TAG Porsche Team drivers, French Alain Prost and Austrian Niki Lauda. Ayrton, in his debut, started from 16th place by setting 1'33.525 during qualifying session (pole positions will be his speciality in the future). Italian Elio de Angelis started from pole, driving a Lotus-Renault (Ayrton will sign up with Lotus Team as of 1985). Senna completed 8 race laps until turbo pressure prevented him from continuing. Alain Prost (Ayrton's main rival few years after) won the Grand Prix and set the fastest race lap.
Despite his retirement, the Brazilian driver kept on fighting. He earned his first F1 point by finishing 6th in the next race (South African GP). Another point would be scored in Belgian GP... As a final detail, Ayrton will have to wait seven years (until 1991) for winning the Brazilian GP; he did such a feat by driving a McLaren-Honda at wet Interlagos. At that point, Senna was double World Champion and the favourite one for winning again.