34 years ago Senna won his first Grand PrixApril 22, 2019
April 21, 1985, Ayrton Senna opened the scoring victory in Formula 1, winning the Portuguese Grand Prix behind the wheel of a Lotus 97T car. Then he will win 40 more victories, and each one will go down in history one way or another, but it is clear that the very first one has a special meaning.
That day in Estoril it was cold and damp, and some Grand Prix participants, such as Patrick Tambay, who played for Renault and finished 3rd, characterized him succinctly: “The race was a nightmare. Rain drizzled from start to finish, everywhere was full of water, clouds hung very low, and visibility was disgusting. Only the strongest could survive. ”
Even world champions, such as Alain Prost and Keke Rosberg, could not get to the finish line, but Senna showed real mastery of piloting on wet pavement, although it was only his 17th race in F1, and for Lotus – generally the second.
Not only did Ayrton see the checkered flag a minute earlier than the nearest pursuer, Ferrari rider Michele Alboreto, but also led throughout the race, showed the best lap and started from pole position, winning his first qualification the day before.
The race engineer of the Brazilian was then Steve Hellam, who later transferred to McLaren and worked there until 2008. Here is how he recalls the events of 34 years ago:
“To win in such conditions, you need exceptional talent. We can say that 20 extremely talented pilots took part in that race, but many failed, and he managed. And won a convincing victory.
He did what all good riders do: he was looking for places where there is adhesion to asphalt. On a wet track, this is not necessarily a drying trajectory. He always managed to correct the trajectory, feel the car and find the clutch. This ability of his in combination with the filigree technique of piloting allowed him to further become a racer, who literally crushed everyone else. ”
The weather was getting worse, but Senna, who started perfectly from pole position, continued to increase the advantage, and after 30 laps he was already in the lead with a 30-second margin. Lotus Chief Designer Gerard Dukaruzh even suggested that he slow down.
“At that time, we were always nervous, wondering if it was worth interfering with his work,” admitted Hellam. “But gradually we got closer and closer to him, and Ayrton explained to us that he usually finds a certain rhythm, and when we ask him to slow down or just slow down the pace, this is, from his point of view, more risky than letting him go rhythm.
After the race, he said: “I was not piloting perfectly, there were a couple of moments when I thought I would cure off the track.” At the far end of the route there was a twist, which must be overcome on 4th or 5th gear, and he said that he was passing almost in a slip, fearing that he would ruin everything. But this is mainly due to the fact that there was a lot of water on the asphalt. ”
When Senna won, Ferrari Alboreto crossed the finish line only after a minute and almost three seconds, and the rest of Ayrton ahead of the circle and more. By the way, of the 26 participants in the race, only nine were classified.
“We flew off that evening,” Hellam added. – It was one of those times when we wanted to stay and enjoy the moment, but the weather was too rainy. Packing equipment was not so fun – we just wanted to put it in the truck, just hoping that everything was not damp.
We arrived in Estoril from Brazil, so the cars did not have time to visit the base. It was somehow not too festive, but it happens if you return home immediately after winning the race. We just wanted to get to the airport as soon as possible and go home. ”
Hellam worked with Senna for three years at Lotus, and then moved to McLaren and their collaboration continued, but that first victory takes a special place in his memory: “Definitely, there was a feeling that something was starting. In my opinion, the next race was held in Imola, where he won the pole again, and we said again: “Wow!” … ”
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