If you’re one of the many F1 fans who like me, has switched off from today’s offerings of “DRS” and “team orders” then now might be the time to take a trip into a golden age of racing and pay homage to one of the last truly great characters of F1, Ayrton Senna.
Director Asif Kapadia tells the story of three times F1 world champion Senna as a perfectly pitched documentary taking old footage with layered on voice overs from the people who were there. No interviews, just voices in the background giving way to the onscreen gear changes as we go through each eventful racing season.
The film focusses primarily on Senna’s rivalry with Alain Prost and events leading up to his untimely death in San Marino in 1994.
The portrayal of the rivalry with th
e Frenchman is superb and forms much of the first half of the film; teammates and tentative friends, both different but equally talented and brilliant. Disunion arrives as like many sporting rivalries, the slightly younger pretender realises his potential and is too talented and focussed to concede.
Prost is probably unfairly pitted as the pantomime villain, indifferent, machine like and the ultimate contradiction to the magnetic, instinctive Brazilian; and magnetic is how Senna comes across. He is both fearful and fearless, often flawed but brilliant, very much deeply thoughtful and almost tortured. The foreboding feeling running up to Sunday’s race at Imola is palpable and haunting. Captivating and revealing footage closely captures the emotion of all and Senna at the death of fellow driver Roland Ratzenberger, which chills in mind of coming events.
The best sporting movies are not about the sport but people, and Kapadia captures the real essence of a conflicted, passionate man whose naivety almost didn’t fit in with the politics of a cut throat sport. Maverick and alone, Senna’s values of honesty and morals equally endeared him to many but caused him derision from a governing body seemingly having higher priority for the sports commercial appeal and not the safety of their prize assets, the drivers. Some brilliantly revealing drivers meeting footage and interviews capture the true undertones of a glamorously presented sport.
Senna was the ultimate ‘people’s champion’ and to Brazil he was the only light during very dark times in the 80’s and Early 90’s. His rise from domestic god to international sporting superstar provided Senna with the means to support his poverty stricken countrymen, and place the Brazilian flag proudly on the world map once more. All of Brazil shared in Senna’s achievements and Kapadia gives due attention to the woes of a nation and their part in inspiring his success.
‘Senna’ is a brilliant, breath-taking story of a true sporting genius, expertly pieced together with authentic footage that reveals an unseen picture of a once tactile sport and one of its last truly great champions.
‘Senna’ is out now on DVD and showing on Sky Movies Premiere