'The world saw him as a McLaren man' - Maurice Hamilton on his new Senna book
Behind the scenes during the Brazilian's six-year McLaren career
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 01/05/14 5:09pm
Ayrton Senna, McLaren's most successful driver (Photo ©John Dunbar)
While Ayrton Senna raced for four teams during a decade in which he illuminated Formula 1, it is McLaren with which the Brazilian legend remains most synonymous.
In the week that marks the 20th anniversary of Senna's untimely death at Imola, the publication of a new book by award-winning motor racing journalist and author Maurice Hamilton titled 'Ayrton Senna - McLaren' lifts the lid on that compelling and highly successful six-year relationship through the personal recollections and anecdotes of the people who worked with Ayrton inside the team and knew him best outside it.
"It's not exaggeration to say Senna was family - he was," Hamilton told Sky Sports Online. "As the team goes, they saw him as family and I think the wider world saw him as a McLaren man.
"You have to remind them almost that he had a season with Toleman and then a couple of seasons with Lotus. He scored his first win with Lotus and while that was spectacular enough, people tend not to remember that.
"McLaren's where he achieved all his success - three world championships and all bar six of his 41 grand prix wins - so he is automatically tied to them. He is also automatically tied to them because of the wonderful performances that we all remember, things like Donington '93 and the pole lap at Monaco in '88. All these various amazing drives were by and large done in a McLaren so you associate the yellow helmet with the red and white car."
The challenge of bringing fresh perspective and insight to the Senna story two decades on was not lost on the author, but direct access to both the Brazilian's former inner sanctum at McLaren and the Senna family allowed the fascinating story of both Ayrton the racing driver and the man to be told.
"There are probably more books on Ayrton Senna than any other driver and the question would be what would you do to make it different," Hamilton explained.
"So what I did was, because the book is in association with McLaren and also with the approval of the Ayrton Senna Foundation, I had permission to work with McLaren and all the people that worked at McLaren with Ayrton, be it the guy in the stores, the mechanics, the engineers or the catering people, and they gave me their memories and anecdotes.
"So basically they are the voices that haven't been heard before."
Senna claimed 35 of his 41 F1 wins at McLaren (Photo ©Fujio Hara)
Across 288 pages, the hardback book recalls numerous such tales from Senna's time at McLaren and Hamilton says that "there are just some really brilliant stories".
"There is specific one that really tickled me," Hamilton continued. "It's a guy who works in the stores, so it's not a guy who'll see or whose name you'll hear mentioned, who had been there a long time. He had worked part-time for McLaren back in the late 80s and he wanted to go there permanently and he had mates inside and they were tipping him off when vacancies arose.
"One such vacancy arose in the stores so his mates tipped him off and said 'get your CV in quick'. He realised he didn't have a CV so he and his Mrs quickly knocked one up and she said to him 'look, you can't post it, you've got to take it round personally'. So they went round at nine o'clock at night to the McLaren place in Albert Drive and, typical McLaren, would you believe they don't have a letterbox! So he was standing at these locked smoked-glass doors and he's aware there's somebody moving behind in reception.
"So he's got his CV in his hand and the figure's beckoning him to shove it between the two glass doors - and then he realises it's Senna! He's terribly embarrassed by this but Senna says 'come on, come on, push, push'. So he pushes it through and Senna drags it to the other side and gives him the thumbs up. Some months later he got the job and he saw Ayrton at the factory and he mentioned this and Ayrton remembered it.
"What Ayrton had been doing was - this was in the days before mobile phones and the communications we have now - actually using McLaren's phone at night to phone Brazil because it was cheaper!"
Ayrton Senna - McLaren (Blink Publishing) is out now priced £35