“Senna” – the Ayrton Senna movie reviewed

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“Senna” opened in Japan two months ago but British fans will have to wait until June to see the film on big screen.

Luckily I had the chance to attend a private screening of the film in London yesterday where I also spoke to the film’s author and co-executive producer Manish Pandey.

In making “Senna” the producers had access to Formula One Management’s extensive video archive. That vast amount of material has been condensed into a film which lasts little longer than a Grand Prix.

I’m sure that, like myself, many F1 Fanatic readers would have been happy to watch a Lord of the Rings-style three-part epic. But exerting discipline over what to include and what to cut has clearly been to the film’s benefit, and not just in terms of making it suitable for a mainstream audience.

“Senna” tells the story of his life and F1 career through original footage, much of it never before seen. It avoids the dry documentary style of talking head interviews, using instead voice-overs from several contributors plus clips from television commentaries.

Thanks to this approach the film moves along rapidly, introducing Senna with his breakthrough performance at Monte-Carlo in 1984 and speeding through to the onset of his rivalry with Alain Prost in 1988.

Although the film has plenty to say about Senna’s character, his charitable work and, of course, his death, his bitter battle with Prost is the film’s principle focus.

While no one should underestimate the difficulty the producers had in choosing what to leave out of the film, the decision to skip over some events inevitably shapes the film’s view of the main figures.

Two important moments in the rising hostility between Senna and Prost are omitted. These are their wheel-to-wheel battle at Estoril in 1988 and the row that erupted over the restart at Imola in 1989.

Perhaps these weren’t thought significant enough to include, but putting them in might have helped to balance the film’s view of Senna, which verges on the saintly at times.

It is not Prost but FISA President Jean-Marie Balestre who is ultimately portrayed as the villain, and the glimpses of his heavy-handed and partisan interventions do him no favours at all.

As well as these controversial episodes there are moments of great humour, none of which I’m going to spoil by giving them away here.

For a lifelong Formula 1 fan who discovered the sport at the height of the Senna-Prost war, the film is a treasure trove of fascinating moments from a great era.

Telling a story which most people already know the end of presents problems of its own. Watching “Senna”, you know what’s coming – and you don’t want it to get there. You just want to watch the black-and-gold Lotus dancing its way around Adelaide in 1985. And you want to see more of the remarkable behind-the-scenes footage of his first home win at Brazil in 1991.

The film reaches a poignant and moving conclusion. It’s impossible to re-watch the events of that Imola weekend without feeling heavy-hearted and the final sequence strikes an emotional chord.

As Manish wrote here in October: “Many non-F1 people know [Senna] because of his death: hopefully, they will now have some insight into his life.”

“Senna” accomplishes that brilliantly. Quite simply it’s the greatest film about motor racing I have ever seen.

F1 Fanatic rating out of five

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“Senna” opens in the UK on June 3rd, 2011. It has already opened in some regions including Japan and Brazil. Please share information on when it opens in your area in the comments.

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    109 comments on ““Senna” – the Ayrton Senna movie reviewed”

    1. Can’t wait to see it, like yourself discovered F1 around the same time, and remember being utterly distraught at his passing. I imagine the film with tug on the heart strings some what.
      Thanks for the review, roll on June!

      1. I’m a huge fan of Senna and always will be, but the film, perhaps because of the support by the Senna family/foundation, is too one-sided and clean. It doesn’t touch on the ego, the bullying, the obnoxious ****** Senna was clearly capable of being and there is no allusion to his sexuality. It is a glowing eulogy and has fantatsic race/car footage, but is far from a great film.

    2. Charles Carroll
      16th December 2010, 14:14

      Hello Keith,

      Any word on this film’s availability in the United States?

      1. I don’t think a date has been announced yet. It is up for a Sundance Award though.

        Apparently it’s out in Australia some time in 2011.

        1. Thats great news that it is coming out in Australia, I cant wait to see this movie, I just hope a cinema near me shows it. :)

          1. What about Malaysia?

            1. You guys will probably just battle over the naming rights.

        2. I really hope it is released in Australia at the same time as in the UK – although I highly doubt it would ever be shown at my local cinema. :(

      2. Any one know where we can find the torrent? I live in Africa and there is no way in hell im flying to the UK just to watch the movie.

        1. It’s not released here for another six months. It might be released where you are before then, or soon after.

          1. They generally dont notice us down here, so I doubt it will ever be released here.

      3. According to the New York Times there is no release date in the States yet.I am so excited to see this movie.It may be the chance for me to take my friends and finally get them into F1.

        1. I won’t lie — I was tempted to fly to Utah for Sundance to see it. Then I came to my senses. ;-)

          Seriously, though, I’m hoping it ends up showing somewhere here in NYC. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the Tribeca Film Festival, which has partnered with ESPN to show sports documentaries in the past.

      4. Humberto Casiano
        19th February 2011, 9:41

        The movie came out 18 February at Laemmle Theatre in Encino, CA. It believe I read somewhere it will only be available for 7 days. Hope all of you get a chance to see it.

        It is also playing in NYC, though I do not know the name of the theatre.

        Hope this info helps.


    3. I started watching F1 around 1991 and can not wait to see this. I’m looking forward to seeing the footage and dreading the stuff from 94.

      This film can’t come out soon enough.

      1. I think I’ll cry like a little girl at the end.

        I’ve watched the trailer more times than I can count and even that gets me a little upset each time.

    4. “the film’s view of Senna… verges on the saintly at times”

      That is the one line of the review which puts me right off this film. We hear enough about how brilliant he was, how he would have won more titles than Schumacher had he lived longer, how he was the greatest driver ever to have lived, how he could turn water into wine.

      I’m aware of how brilliant he was. I’m also aware of his numerous flaws. Just because he died at the wheel of a Formula 1 car doesn’t make him a saint. I wish we could just have a balanced assessment of him for once

      1. I would say don’t let it put you off. It is really good, and how often do you get the chance to see a film about F1 in the cinema?

        1. The last one was in 1967!

          1. No. 1977. “Bobby Deerfield” by Sydney Pollack with Al Pacino and Marthe Keller. A tear jerker but some good racing scenes.

        2. Oh no, I’m sure it’s still a great film and I can’t wait for it to be released, but these Senna love-ins really irk me. It ruins most of his biographies.

      2. I agree that Senna has become ever-so-slightly overrated because of his death. And I’m a Schumacher fan too. Still, how can you NOT want to watch this movie? It’s a glimpse not just into Senna’s life and soul, but also F1 in a different time, a less-pc era.

        1. These cars were more pc-esque than the cars nowadays. Traction control, very “modern” electronic feedback etc… (and to cary on with the pc-esque part : unreliable)

          I wonder how senna would have fared vs Hamilton and/or Alonso.

          I just wish a driver in the paddock would be as open as him (Kobayashi maybe? Webber in his own way?) because I just can’t stand the interviews anymore, that’s “for sure”.

          1. Tango- I’m not sure I’m misinterpreting a joke here but I think Journeyer is refering to pc as ‘politically correct’, not ‘personal computer’!

            1. Thanks Ned, I really thought pc as in personnal computer. My grand parents tend to say pc for anything that is modern / electrical… Well, sorry Journeyer! At least the last part is about politacally correct so my comment isn’t so off topic…

            2. Also it was only in the early 90s that the electronics came in (notably in the ’92 Williams).

              In the 80s when Senna started the cars were still very agricultural.

            3. In the 80s when Senna started the cars were still very agricultural

              ?!?!?! I was watching back then, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t drive tractors

            4. It’s traction control, not tractor control!

          2. Wasn’t Hamilton a little scared driving Senna’s McLaren MP4/4

            1. I’m sure he was at least a LITTLE scared, but he did say you’d have to be insane to race F1 back then. No paddle shifters so you had to one-hand it … plus it was lacking so many safety features the new ones have.

      3. I know what you’re saying Ned, but really he already had that sort of aura about him (pun not intended) when he was alive. For better or for worse, he was a legend in his own time – and I say that purely objectively: for many people, that’s what he was. When you see the films from his funeral procession in Brazil, you may not feel a personal emotional connection, but it’s obvious that he aroused a sort of passion in people that few sports figures do. I don’t relate to that personally, but I can understand it to a point and so I can’t quite agree that it’s his death that made him into what he (or his memory) is today. He was already made into a mystical figure when he was alive (not to mention that he saw himself that way, to an extent). Whether that stops people from viewing him objectively today is another thing. Mind you, after having said all that, I’ll agree that a more balanced look at his darker (maybe even fatalistic?) side would not only be good, but more interesting than a ‘love-in’. In any case, most of us have to wait a while to see it for ourselves.

      4. I share the same apprehension. Hopefully it’s just limited to showing him do great things and brushing the bad stuff under the carpet rather than all-out hagiography with people lining up to say he was the greatest, etc.

        Watching “Senna”, you know what’s coming – and you don’t want it to get there

        Actually this is the bit I’m looking forward to most. As welcome as all that footage will be, the biggest blank in Senna’s life has been the ending. So little footage is available, even in documentaries, of what went on that weekend and I don’t think anyone will ever be able to truly appreciate the horror of it without seeing as much as they can. Does the film focus a lot on Barrichello’s accident and Ratzenberger’s death? Obviously I don’t want to see gory details but I’d hate if the film skipped over these things or focused only on their impact on Senna.

        1. Footage of his death was available, but then Charlie Whiting handed the cars intact black box back to the Williams team, which was then handed over the Italian authorities in a mangled state.

          In regards to the details of his death, I don’t want to know the specifics. Eric Comas was accidently released from the pits when the race was under red flag conditions and upon seeing what was happening at the scene of Sennas accident returned to the pits and retired from the race.

      5. There isn’t enough time in a film to adequately cover all the bases of such a complex person as Ayrton Senna.

        The film needs to be appealing to audiences and give them an appreciation about just how special Senna was, and F1 is. If the film weighed heavily on criticism, the plot would be “dangerous driver who gets what he deserves.” That wouldn’t be appealing to anyone except Alain Prost.

        1. Now come on, Prost was commentating on french TV during the accident, and he sounded truly chocked and lost. He refrained from the opportunity to say “I told him so” and so on (and nobody knew at the time the man was good as dead). He actually told his co-host that given how little of the choc had been absorbed by the car, it was a very very grave accident. He fell silent for most of the race after that.

        2. I watched the funeral on Eurosport and Alain Prost was one of the pallbearers so I don’t think it was ever anything personal. They were just both ultra competitive and would do whatever to win, Senna a liitle more probably

      6. I agree. How could it leave out the restart at Imola, surely that was where the relationship was irreparably damaged? It doesn’t make me want to go and see the film.

      7. well… it happened with Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and so many others.

        But Senna had the upper hand most of the times when he was alive. So it is justified, somehow.

        Yes, it’d be better to have a balanced assessment. But how many times we get that in real life? Barely none. It’s do or die at everything nowadays!

      8. We must think alike Ned, for when I read that part I kind of cringed a bit. I can see this will be a minor issue in the film, but I honestly can’t wait! I am really looking forward to seeing some new angles of races thanks to FOM letting the producers into their archives!

      9. Hey, you are not a brazilian…. so you don´t have a clue what he means to us……
        In a time of complete chaos financially(way worst than USA two years ago), people without jobs…….It was a very sad period, and he was our only joy…. to see a fellow brazilian win and carry our flag to the top of the podium….. The way he gave millions and millions to help underprivileged people….. not for publicity, no media knew that until he died, but becouse he wanted to help…. and weeks before his death he started with his sister an idea that after he died became his INSTITUTE that help over 40 million children across the globe….

        Just for you know…. more than a fantastic driver…. he was a very very special person…. not perfect but more perfect than most…..

        1. I’m brazilian, Bruno, and I don’t like the saint idea created here in Brazil. An image created by Rede Globo by the way ¬¬’
          He is a legend, yes! He is the greatest of all time, of course! He is an example of human being and humanitarian, Yes! A saint, the only joy to us brazilians, no way!
          I was 4 years old when he died, I have everything of him: toys, mags, clothes…but motorsport is not about flags and give hope, it’s about cars!it’s about races and who is the best driver!it’s about passion and commitment with motor racing

      10. He is not a saint because he died at the wheel of an F1 car. He is a saint for the affect he has had on millions of people before he died & after. I pity you, obviously you missed it. I guess it was over your head. See the light!

        1. Ayrton was a man, an exceptional man.Not perfect but driven to perfection. No more no less.

    5. Journeyer, I think perhaps Senna’s unfortunate death at Imola may have romanticised his sometimes uncompromising driving style, but I don’t think anyone can say that he became overrated because of his death. Senna is definately not overrated, he was truly a brilliant racing driver, just watching him driving in video footage shows the commitment and passion he showed behind the wheel of a racing car…

    6. Don’t know when I will end up watching the movie but if I ever does I will be lucky.Why will it take June 2011 for it to be telecast in UK in a country where F1 is one of the most popular sports?

      1. I agree. Its really disappointing that they can not show it until next year! This is one of the biggest countries to follow F1, we have the most champions, and the most teams on the track.

    7. I really reaaaaally hope they make it available IN CINEMAS over here…

      for the mainstream viewer, it’s not the best movie. But I hope Cinemark and all those movie theaters realize half the Argies have petrol instead of blood.

    8. It doesn’t seem to come to Finland any time soon :/

    9. “Quite simply it’s the greatest film about motor racing I have ever seen.”

      i can’t wait. but i must, because the movie industry is even more clouded and nonsensical than formula one. show us the movie already!

      not to change the subject, but what are your thoughts on steve mcqueen’s le mans? seems it has been trumped as THE motor racing movie (james gardner’s grand prix doesn’t come close) but the field isn’t exactly spoiled for choice.

    10. Yep im with Ned FLanders on this one, that line put me right off as well but i will watch it, through slightly apprehensive teeth, if im not mixing my metaphors Blundell style there.

      Senna was deeply flawed and his messianic belief in himself would probably not have been taken so well in todays more microscopic media gaze. But his is a great if tragic story and his undeniable charisma will help it im sure. But “greatest motor racing film” isnt really saying all that much is it.

      1. any distinctive character is usually frowned upon these days. look at kimi – the guy just wanted to be left alone, but that’s not good enough for the press and businessmen.

        “But “greatest motor racing film” isnt really saying all that much is it.”

        there’s another fast and furious movie on the way, if that’s your cup of tea :)

    11. I had the pleasure to see the film twice while I was in Japan & can honestly say it is one of the most enthralling pieces of cinema I have ever watched. Keith’s review does it justice in hitting the ups (& downs) of the movie as a whole. For me the final portrayal of the events during Imola is done breathtakingly with Rubens crash & Ratzenburger’s death, & Sid Watkins interview about arriving on the scene will make the hardest F1 fan tear up IMO. Obviously, I am a Senna fan, but I don’t think the movie makes him out to be a saint (particular attention is paid to his feelings about winning the title after not relenting the corner to Prost); It pays much more attention to HOW important he was to Brazil & the F1 community in general…there were a lot of tears flowing at the end throughout the theater. Also, the soundtrack is brilliant. Has anyone seen a listing of the music in the movie because there is no official soundtrack set for release.

    12. OmarR-Pepper (@)
      16th December 2010, 17:56

      it’s a shame these kind of excellent productions are hard to find in Peru, but if it were impossible, I would definitely buy it from internet, so Keith, PM or the others, if there’s a link to buy it now or in a while, please post it here.

    13. I am brazilian, a huge Senna fan, and already seen the movie. Honestly, I was a bit dissapointed with the movie because it leaves so much of Senna’s story behind, for example, no mention of his historic lap in Donnington 93. But as a fan of the sport, as a brazilian, as someone who saw Senna in his glory days and felt what he represented here in Brazil, the movie is very good. I respect the movie because it is giving an opportunity to so many people here in Brazil and in the world, who only heard of Senna after his death, and by seeing the movie they have the chance to experience a bit of who he was. I don’t think that many people really understand what kind of figure he was here in Brazil, I mean, 20 years ago Brazil wasn’t such a succesful and growing country as it is today, and Senna really was one of the very few reasons that most of the brazilian people had to cheer about. The movie depicts this very well at one point. The impact that his death brought on the people down here was something out of this world. Many people had no clue what f1 was, nor had seen a single race on their lives, but when he died, everyone here cried. In my opinion, when you watch the movie, you feel that Senna once again is doing his magic in F1 cars, for those 2 hours, once more. And because of that, you can’t help but to feel a very heavy mood towards the end of the movie, because you know what’s going to come next. Seeing today the footage of the fatal race weekend, you can see in Senna`s face that he had a bad feeling, after all that happened with Ratzenberger and Barrichello. Tears towards the end of the movie are a natural consequence for fans.

      All in all, I really enjoyed the movie, and as Keith brilliantly said, I would have loved if the movie had 3 parts of 3 hours each! It is a must see for fans of the sport!

      1. Well done describing that – seeing bits of his funeral gave me an impression of what you mean. I really hope the movie will soon hit the Netherlands too, although usually we end up having to wait while they fit subtitles.

    14. I just hope to catch it in the cinema’s here in the Czech Republic or in the Netherlands sometime next year, or at least 2012!

      1. Maybe next year Christmas we can go together here ;-)

    15. I think I am a fan of Senna simply because there was and has been no one like him. And yes I see that he was never 100% right. But I think his attitude towards racing that hehad you don’t see in current drivers. His saying ” you cease to be a racing driver when you don’t go for a gap” is both controversial and in part true. Jackie Stewart commented to senna that he also had a large number of accidents. Prost says he had a deathwish. As afan it was good to see a driver not saintly as he was not but as a driver he was above everyone else in his pursuit to be a racer. He drove on that edge that no one else has found , renowned for skill in difficult circumstances that other drivers shirked from. Yes I think he In part had a deathwish and part enjoyed pushing the barriers. Adelaide in the wet I remember he was the ONLY driver who wanted to race. Yes that goes against the human instinct but I think that’s what F 1 nerds people that wantto race and overcome the odds. I don’t see many like that on the grid since.maybe 2 drivers have shown a glimpse of that- but not to this extent.

      1. FINALLY !!!
        Someone is telling the truth….
        Still overarted after all these years and the myth of his life has become greater than the sum of his accomplishments. He killed himself in pursuit of glory an WAS A DANGER to all who raced against him. I simply don’t understand why so many of you treat him with such respect. I also saw every race during his time and note he was good but others were also good.

        1. Have to agree with Ted Bell here. Looking from a distance, my perspective on Senna has changed much. When I was a kid, he looked really cool to me, and he still does, kind of… But if I go back and play his races, which I taped on VHS :), then I find that he was more punk than racer.
          I have my doubts about how good he was now. I found one too many races where indeed he was fast in the first laps, then just got out of pace, but very few, other than Prost, Mansell, etc, would dare to overtake him, because he was such an effective danger, cutting trajectories and so on.
          Of course, for me, after having learned that he collided with the Ferrari, on purpose, is enough to demote the man to a 2nd class driver and not to a top of the tops.

    16. I really really can not wait for this….bring on June!!

    17. I have two favorite drivers, Senna and Sterling Moss different and times and for different reasons. I would think that a documentary on Moss would nearly as interesting as the one on Senna.
      Both men have presence in abundance and like all artist, are experts with the tools of their arts. I watch Moss manipulate oversteer in sports cars and F1 cars and it sends chill down my spin. I watch Senna Challenge gravity and the edge and I feel my own gut tighten as enters and exits turns on the absolute limits.
      The closest I have seen to these two drivers is Hamilton but he is not there yet because “there” is a very special place where only the best resides.

    18. I have seen it twice here in brazil. I think its a great movie, theres a lot of never before seen footage, interesting stuff… Every F1 fan should watch it, its great to see F1 on the big screen.

    19. Great review, Keith. I just disagree with the “saintly” part a bit. For me the most inpressive thing was how obsessively sought for overcoming himself and whatever challenge he had in front of him.
      Being a teenager when everything happened, I HAD this saintity vision of him, which the movie moulded into a more realistic view. Most impressive was how his tough driving was a reflection of his tough character outside the track.

    20. I have been scouring the papers & websites for an Australian release date but no luck yet, if anyone knows anything more definitive than 2011, please let us know. I guess, at least ‘2011’ is not that far away anymore.

      I am really looking forward to seeing this movie, I only started watching F1 in ’98, so I missed the Senna years. But it is impossible not to have absorbed the impact he had on the sport. I got a slight taste of what this movie is likely to be like with Top Gear’s story earlier this year about Senna, which was icredibly powerful (and most un-Top Gear-like) for such a short story. And although I already know the ending, I am really keen to see it.

      1. Impreza_600BHP
        15th January 2011, 4:03

        let us know if you find any UK release dates?

    21. i started watching f1 in 1981, when senna just arrived from brazil. The first news i had about his existence was the f3 race at silverstone in 1983, in a podium picture at the granprix magazine because alen berg had some publicity from them, and had finished third. When he entered f1 the next year, there were so many great drivers that i didn’t pay much attention to him, and then came monaco, Where he almost won. That was pretty clear. He was good. But how good. That was answered to me, at the podium at brands hatch when he finished third to lauda and warwick, and told them the next time i’ll bit you.
      I was lucky enough to watch his first victory at estoril in 1985. But it should have been the second one, because monaco was taken from him in a ridiculos decision.
      When he died, he was not at his peak. Even though he was still fast, his mind was no longer as focused on the sport as before. So i think he was never going to be back at his maximun level, what i consider was in 1990. That season he had maximun commitment, and the anger to right the wrongs balestre had done the year before. Without a doubt the best era i have ever watched in f1, and with the path f1 is taking, something we will never see again. Without a doubt the most exciting driver the world has vever seen, in the most difficult cars to drive in the history of the sport. With a level of danger that no longer exists.

    22. I read somewhere that they will be releasing the film throughout the year always in conjunction with a GP. not sure though about the countries without a GP


      Still overated after all of these years. Willing to run over the edge on a regular basis cost him his life. Often his tatics behind the wheel were not only a danger to himself but also to the others that he raced against. Truth be told that his rivals at the time simply chose not to ride the edge of danger as Senna often did and for that reason he now has been immortalized. Sure I was bothered by his death but at the time I wondered for years when he would end up going to far. Some of you will blame the car, some of you will continue to be caught up in his reputation and there are a few of us who say “good driver” in the “best car” who lost his life pursuing the edge where some live and some die. Overated then and overated today.

      1. Willing to run over the edge on a regular basis cost him his life.

        I still find it hard to believe it was a driver error. The type of corner, the manner in which the car went off and what little evidence there is suggests to me there was some kind of car problem.

        Your eagerness to have a go at a dead man certainly hasn’t won me over to your point of view.

        1. heresy again!!! where were you guys when he was winning races? The fact is that you look at senna from today’s point of view. In the eighties that kind of racing was considered acceptable. Please use your brains when you make this kind of comments to a true legend. You might upset people.
          Now everybody praises prost, but if you were following the great brazilian, when he was alive, you would think otherwise. Prost was so boring and unexciting, that just remembering him, makes me sick.

          1. I find it tiring that to push Senna up, one feels it necessary to push Prost down. Without Prost, there is no Senna legend.

            1. i don’t agree. The legend would be there, just not as bright. To make a title more precious, you must look at the competition.And senna not only had prost to fight against. There was lauda, rosberg, piquet, mansell, schumacher. If you had seen senna on a qualifier during the turbo days, you would know what i am talking about.

        2. He’s expressing his opinion of a racing driver…what difference does it make if the driver is alive or dead?

      2. You are completely clueless!! Perhaps you should go and ask Mr M Schumacher/Moss/Stewart whether they think Ayrton was overrated!! “Good driver in the best car” eh??? Perhaps you didnt see his performances in 84/85/86/87 and 92/93 & the start of 94!!!

        1. Totally right Gubstar.

          Even the people who HATE Senna dont call him overated! 3 World titles doesn’t even scratch the surface. Get yourself on you tube Ted, there is plenty of footage of Senna. Some of him defying the sport yes, but mostly of him defying physics!

      3. is mr Ted Bell an automated troll or does he really exist?

        answering to such a troll is an offense to Ayrton’s memory

    24. bit harsh Ted! Motor racing is inherently dangerous, still is, but in F1 they basically have the space shuttle protecting them. The fact Senna pushed the edges of acceptable driving is both a criticism of him and a compliment. If everyone sat there at 8 tenths it would be a pretty dull sport.

      All individuals are flawed, the fact most people gloss over these when someone dies prematurely is a mark of respect. Im not sure he was over rated when he drove but certainly the media was less critical then.

      The tragedy of that Monaco race when Senna came to the race worlds attention was that the guy behind Senna was closing him down quicker than Senna was closing down Prost. Unfortunately the fearless Stefan bellof died at Spa overtaking at eau rouge (of all places) and we never got to see what he really had.

    25. Nice troll TED. Fact is Senna was a fearless true racing driver that achieved greatness anything else to be said about him is irrelevant. RIP Senna!

      1. Quite being so emotional and take a reality check.Your manlove died while in the lead from a car failure. It would have been greatness if this had happened in a spectacular moment of overtaking or going for points in a championship setting. Instead he bought the farm while in the lead. How irrelevant is that?? Such a loss as he had the potential for becoming something special.

    26. “offense” or “offence.” Either way you’re talking melodramatic rubbish

      1. rubbish or not, he is the troll and you are a subtroll spell checker

        fact is though that Ayrton Senna never had the best car and even if he had for 2 seasons 88-89, he had to share it with a 4 times world champion

    27. soon enough we would be able to download it from the internet…. but what i really want its wachtit on the cinema!

    28. “Senna opened in Japan two months ago”
      In Brazil too.


    29. I’m Brazilian and went to cinema twice to see our great hero. In fact, I found myself sobbing even harder in the second time.
      As a fan, I’ve felt that the film flowed extremely fast, in part due to the pleasure I felt watching it, but also because I missed some episodes I thought it’d be included.
      But I understand that this film is not intended to be a just-F1-hardcore-fans-oriented-only film. Instead, it is a good chance to people feel closer to Senna.

    30. Yes, Senna was a great driver. I think he is overrated slightly. But that’s not the issue for me. I think THE OTHERS are underrated on his account. He was a great persona and amazing driver. But for me not the greatest. For me Stewart, Prost, Lauda and a few more are on the same level as he was. Acctually I rate them higher.
      What is a true racer? The one who fearlessly and sometimes carelessly goes for every gap, even if it exist only in his own mind? Don’t think so. Don’t know who said this but Racing is not about who goes go fastest in a lap, or pedal to the metal all through out the race, butto win the race driving as slow as you can. That’s true art of driving. Everybody are fast in F1.
      Senna was great qualifier, yes. And he improved his race setups over the years. But to put this into perspective; most people are forgetting that in the 80’s (at least untill 1988 season ) qualifying wasn’t that important. It was more important to set your car for the race. And we all know that true masters of that were Lauda and Prost. Prost learned that from Lauda, and Ayrton learned that from Prost. Like it or not. And that’s the truth. Wining a race is more important than qualifying.
      I can’t wait to see the movie.
      R.I.P. Ayrton

    31. Impreza_600BHP
      15th January 2011, 4:02

      i just cannot wait to see this film, its like the film “when we where kings” but with motor racing, in fact i would say Ayrton Senna is to Motor Racing what Muhammad Ali is to boxing . . . the all time great, the legend

    32. It’s playing in NYC and LA starting this weekend! I just bought my tickets for the LA show!!

      In LA it’s playing at Laemmle Theatres Town Center 5 at 17200 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA.

      In NYC it’s at:

      Village East Cinema
      181 – 189 2nd Ave
      NEW YORK CITY , NY 10012 • 212-529-6799

      I met Ayrton Senna when I was a kid when he visted the Honda engine plant in Anna Ohio near where I grew up. The photograph he signed and gave me is my prized possesion.

    33. Saw Senna yesterday in NYC with the NYC F1 Meetup crowd.

      Moving, inspiring and intense, I would recommend for any F1 fan. The Professor was made to be the villain, not unsurprising, but almost a bit too “Reality TV” edited, so it did seem very one sided… but it gave the story a great narrative.

      There seemed to be a sense from the director that the “technology” was taking the soul out of the sport, when discussing the advantage the Williams had in 92-93, and that conversation feels familiar, if you are in F1 or in technology, or just observing the rapid change of life these days.

      Great group of guys in NYC at the F1MeetupNYC. Met some fellow F1 geeks and felt at home.

      Go see Senna if you get the chance.

    34. *** May contain spoilers (not that the rest of the thread doesn’t) ***

      I also saw “Senna” yesterday in East Village in NYC, in a sell-out screening where I had to split my family of four in order to find somewhere to sit! I found it really incongruous to see the word “Senna” on a Manhattan cinema. After more than a decade of living in America, I have hardly seen the presence of F1 here away from Indy and SpeedTV, let alone any public awareness of Ayrton Senna and his impact on the sporting world, but here was an enclave of Senna nostalgia, right in the heart of the Big Apple. Strange.

      Anyway, I think this is a beautiful film, a piece of art with an unexpected lightness of touch, in that it doesn’t simply bludgeon us with a blow-by-blow account of F1 poles, race wins and titles, and then leave that as his validation. Instead, it shows us the very human story of the driver, his family and the people he touched, and the way that there was and still is a unifying and transcendent purpose to his life. The words “human story” should set off alarm bells to anyone who has seen racing movie attempts to interweave off-track stories, especially romances and love triangles, with on-track drama, but this narrative, cleverly, barely touches the stories of Adriane Galisteu and Xuxa. I loved all the new footage from driver briefings, pit and paddock clips and interviews (many in Portuguese or French with English subtitles, so I’m sure my 5 year-old missed a fair amount of the meaning). The story it tells, then, is of a warm, vulnerable and often surprisingly dry and funny character that comes across in unscripted, behind-the-scenes moments, and in sharp contrast to the serious, distant and even boorish unstoppable-force many saw in public, especially earlier in his career.

      The editorial decisions are very smart and disciplined, resisting the temptation I would have felt to focus on race and qualifying footage and that edge-of-genius driving brilliance (as Keith noted we see him dancing the turbo Lotus between the kerbs in Adelaide, with various voice-overs describing his cold-fury driving style, and Ron Dennis hailing his intellect). Tellingly, my wife – not an F1 fan – thought the balance between on and off-track narrative was just right, even though I was left hungry to see the ’85 wet/ dry Spa win, the ’86 Jerez win by thousandths, the ’92 Monaco win over Mansell (or any of his six Monaco wins, for that matter), that first lap at Donington in ’93 and so on. These are sacrificed to a higher purpose, to take one example: the footage of Martin Donnelly’s crash at Jerez, Senna’s reaction to it and the candid way he assessed the personal risk and the possibility of his own death. We see Prost accusing him of flippancy: “Ayrton has a small problem, he thinks that because he believes in God he can’t hurt himself”, which glib assessment is exploded by all the footage of Senna himself, where it is clear that not only did he fear getting hurt, he was painfully aware of it and always demanding of himself the right reasons to continue, all the way to the dark weekend in Imola.

      The film is hard on Balestre but still nowhere near hard enough, and it resists the temptation to demonize Prost, to some extent. But it does put on record Prost’s political stealth (we watch him be the first to hot-foot it to the steward’s office to try to get Senna disqualified after Prost ran into him in Suzuka in ’89), his desire to avoid competition, and his disingenuousness over matters like the so-called ‘normal line’ he claims to have taken into that chicane (there was clearly nothing normal about it and we see Prost challenged on the point by a journalist without having any response beyond asserting his driving credentials, including the bald fact that he had just secured his third WDC!). Fascinatingly, we hear Prost, presumably interviewed much more recently than 1993, admitting that his first demand of Williams was to contractually exclude Senna from the team, and noting their quick agreement to do so. This is astounding to me because I clearly recall a public furor at the time, caused by Prost’s flat-out refusal to admit anything of the sort (he actually said in public in early ’93 that he did nothing to block Senna, who remained entirely free to negotiate a contract with Williams at his leisure, and that Senna must just be having problems negotiating a deal with the team). Senna, as we know, called Prost’s bluff by offering to forgo his usual multi-million dollar salary and drive the Williams for free, with (of course) no contract forthcoming. So, it’s simply amazing to me to hear that Prost has since changed his tune completely, and I wonder why he didn’t just tell the truth at the time. (When I read accounts like Malcom Folley’s book “Senna vs. Prost”, which is unerringly pro-Prost, I have to wonder why some people still see Prost as a serial victim and some kind of model gentleman, when the truth is that he was as devious, underhand and sometimes plain untruthful, as anyone).

      The ’89 to ’90 conflict is, of course, central to the story of Senna’s ascendency and I was pleased to see the back-story to the collision in Japan 1990 documented correctly, and in full. Namely that, having been taken out pretty cynically by Prost in ’89, but re-started to win the race, Senna was then disqualified at Balestre’s intervention, on the breathtaking grounds that he had ‘cut the chicane’ and therefore not completed the full race distance, Balestre having also gone on to levy a $100,000 fine and a 6 month suspended ban on him. We are treated to a highly amusing appeal from the youthful Ron Dennis, showing video examples of escape roads being inexplicably used without penalty (something that is even more commonplace now, of course, as long as there is no gain in position..ahem…but which Prost had himself also done without sanction at Imola the same year, on his way to score six WDC points). Then we have the astonishing sight of Piquet (of all people – as someone who was usually openly hostile to Senna) asking in the drivers’ briefing in Japan 1990 if drivers are seriously expected to do a U-turn and drive back against the oncoming traffic to rejoin the road. Piquet describes Senna as having been “f_cked in 1989” and the room is clearly in full agreement. Senna is seen explaining how he was treated ‘like a criminal’. This is the exposé of the sheer absurdity of Balestre’s position, that was lacking at the time. Finally, of course, we have Balestre personally intervening to make sure that pole is on the dirty side of the Suzuka grid in 1990 – only after Senna has won the pole, of course, and to his howls of protest. Senna has been so vilified for what happened next that the serial provocation behind it is often lost. A film about Senna can be expected to tell Senna’s side of the story, of course, but this is exactly the sequence of events that preceded that collision and I’m only pleased it wasn’t glossed over in any way. I have always argued against Senna’s act of revenge on the basis that two wrongs (or, in this case, five or six wrongs) don’t make a right, and that it was therefore still a mistake – all the more so in fact because it has now become Exhibit A in arguments against him as a driver of integrity. But there is a new meme doing the rounds, which is that the subsequent multiple professional fouls by Michael Schumacher were merely more of the same, that Senna was an equally dirty driver and that Japan 1990 is the proof of this. Well, other than the fact that Schumacher’s victims: Hill, Villeneuve, Alonso and most recently Barrichello had never so much as said boo to him in combat, let alone attempted to foul him to a DNF and a WDC, and that he long enjoyed the favour and support of the FIA rather than having its President try to drive him from the sport, then, yes, it’s a really fair assessment of the moral equivalence between the two drivers.

      Senna’s 1991 home win in Brazil, with the car stuck in 6th gear and followed by the driver passing out, does get billing, again because of the emotional content of the home win and the touching and funny footage of Senna saying “don’t touch me” to his well-wishers in the pits, and also his need to embrace his father despite the obvious pain he was in. But this is far from a race by race documentary account, and there are moments where the film moves ahead with economical statements like “Senna won six of the next eight races”, none of which we see. Yes, it’s true that the Estoril ’88 and Imola ’89 confrontations are missing, but so are so many of the other great Senna moments, through necessity given the limitations of the movie length format, that it doesn’t strike me as especially egregious to omit them.

      The competitive focus is naturally on Prost and there’s little mention of other champions like Mansell, Piquet and Rosberg, even though it’s part of the backdrop that Senna’s success had to include vanquishing unusually strong fields containing those drivers, too. His F3 nemesis Brundle doesn’t even get a mention, neither do Warwick, Berger, Alboreto or (I think) Lauda. Mansell is almost dismissed, which is at least an accurate reflection of how Senna seems to have viewed him as a competitor: we see him crashing in Monaco in 84, throwing his car and WDC chance into the gravel at Suzuka in 91, and 1992 is (correctly, if somewhat simplistically) described as the year in which electronic suspension/ active ride and driver aids distorted all competition and rendered the title moot before the cars even did a single lap. This is somewhat dismissive, but then it’s exactly what happened, and we hear Senna’s view that this was the antithesis of a driving competition. Some would no doubt call this whining when such innovation is obviously part of the sport, but the point about the sheer magnitude of the superiority of FW14B, and its singular role in diminishing driver input, is well taken. Senna’s remarkable campaign to win five races in the customer-engined 1993 McLaren-Ford is skipped over fairly lightly.

      The story of Imola and his death is just loaded with footage of the anguish of the time. We hear of the instability of the post TC and active ride cars and we hear Senna’s concerns that we would see a lot more cars going off as a result. The notable exception, of course, being the Benetton, or at least one of the Benettons, and we hear Frank Williams saying that Senna was convinced the Benetton was still running traction control, and had implored the team to lodge a protest (he was correct, of course, as we learned later). With some lament in his voice, Williams notes “we did not”. (Team Briatore’s “accidental” removal of its fuel filters to shorten pit stops is not mentioned, and was clearly never known to Senna). There is footage of Ratzenberger talking about the extent to which he is having to over-drive his car, a horrible reminder of the crash the extremely youthful-looking Barrichello suffered, and then the darkness descends, through Ratzenberger’s sudden death, told in real time through Senna’s reactions to it, and then the fateful final race, the Lamy/ Lehto collision (also shocking) and the onboard footage of Senna’s final lap. The cinema was eerily silent through all of this, save for some quiet sniffling, with everyone (my five year-old excepted) knowing and dreading what was coming (he was very sad). The cause of Senna’s off is correctly identified as a mystery but I’m glad one of the team members is heard describing Tamburello as comfortably flat even at race speed, which it clearly was. It was even flat in the wet in some conditions, as Senna had showed the previous year, and all the drama and speculation surrounding his death seems to have left the impression that the car would somehow have been on edge through that curve. It is stated that steering column breakage is a probable cause, or perhaps the low tyre pressures and bottoming caused the car to just skate, and left at that.

      Senna’s religious conviction has a prominent part of the narrative, through his own words. Although I am, like Syd Watkins, an atheist (actually I am generally hostile to religious pretensions, including the ones which claim the creator of the universe is interested in, and intervenes to influence, the outcome of sports competitions), it is clearly correct that this aspect of his life is told on its own terms. He turned to religious conviction after his mistake at Monaco in ’88 and used it to channel his strength and move forward, and it’s clearly a part of how he sustained himself. Only once does the film run the risk of over-selling the case, which is when he is described as having read a bible verse (I think this was narrated by his sister Viviane) on the morning of his final race day, which says something cryptic to the effect that God will provide a great deliverance, namely God himself (and I paraphrase only from memory), and then went on to the race with renewed vigor. Hmm. The implication hangs in the air that perhaps he foresaw his own death, or received a divine instruction to race, which is dangerously close to descending into Nostradamus or horoscope-style generic mumbo-jumbo. It’s possible that the implied narrative I took from this was unintentional, and/or that I would see it differently on second viewing, but I do think that the Senna story is extraordinary enough on its own merits without needing to refer to the supernatural. Nonetheless, the role of his religious conviction was tangible in his life and it deserves the airing it got.

      The film is sandwiched between footage and a Senna voiceover describing his 1978 and 79 periods in karting as ‘pure racing’, without politics or any money involved, in answer to a question about which driver he derived the most pleasure from racing (Terry Fullerton, his karting rival, was his answer). For all of the above, this is not a divisive film. It is about a remarkable person we didn’t see enough of behind the yellow helmet and the formalities of interviews, and someone of massive personal charisma and conviction. We only see him running to help Comas in Spa during the closing credits, but we hear Syd Watkins describe his friendship with Senna as the closest he’s had with any driver, we hear the fan interviews which describe how much he elevated the nation of Brazil during a particularly desperate period in its history, and the fan interviews are very touching, especially those of some of the women describing what this F1 driver meant to them. We hear of the Senna foundation, his desire to help kids in poverty and the lasting legacy which has educated millions of Brazilian children. The darkness of Imola is followed by a cathartic return to his final podium celebration after his win at Adelaide in ’93, putting his arms around Hill and the departing Prost, and some playful scenes of him with friends on the beach – an overtly celebratory tone, in other words, rather than dwelling on the sadness and vacuum of his death. I never felt that anything good came of his death inside F1, the competition was distorted for a decade and – ultimate humiliation – Eau Rouge even became a first gear chicane for a race, but the point is made that the steps taken in safety have been followed by no more driver deaths, and that must count for something. I find his educational legacy in Brazil rather more compelling, though, since I know it could not have happened anyway.

      All in all, I found this an epic and clever film, full of humanity, reflection and meaning (whoever thought it would be better to fictionalize the same story with Antonio Banderas in the title role was, well, a bit wide of the mark), and only partially a story about cars being driven extremely fast. That’s why it works, unlike almost every other racing movie ever made, and I’m wondering if it will stand on its own as a testament to perhaps the only driver big enough to carry it, or if it will spawn a genre of new driver-documentary films in a similar vein.

    35. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSFbJf0FhKM

      There’s a really interesting, long discussion here about the movie (and all matters Senna) with its producer, Bruno and his driver coach.

      Some fascinating comments later from the driver coach about how Senna outsmarted rather than just outdrove Prost (contrary to the accepted wisdom), how each generation of drivers gets more aggressive, and how Senna was actually a very fair racer by today’s standards (e.g. Barcelona vs. Mansell contrasted to Schumacher on Barrichello in Hungary 2010). While I was browsing, I came across this, as if to emphasize his point:

    36. I need to learn to use the link function. Here’s the second link:

    37. Was fortunate enough to see the film today in Adelaide (quite fittingly). It’s every bit as good as everyone is saying. I couldn’t agree more with the analysis and review from Sean in the brilliant post above.

      I’m also tired of people thinking that Senna’s & Schumacher’s indiscretions are comparable. Thank you for clearly articulating why they aren’t.

    38. The movie had it’s Australian debut in Adelaide (of course) last Sunday the 27th Feb. It is “Sennasational”. 2nd & final session Adelaide March 6th 2011 1.30 pm Piccadilly cinema. Don’t miss it!It is great to Ayrton on the big screen.

    39. Carl in Adelaide
      1st March 2011, 18:13

      just saw it at the Adelaide Film Festival and there is another screening this weekend. I concur, it is an entirely enthralling account of his career. It appeared a high number of the brazilian community here turned up to see it, not just motor racing fans. I think everyone was completely captivated and the cinema erupted in applause at the end. Highly recommended you see it when you can.

    40. They had an extra screening of the movie Sunday evening, different theatre.Adelaide.
      Alan & I have now seen it 3 times. The end never gets any easier.
      Love & light

    41. 3 screenings packed theatre every time.
      Adelaide. Applause at the end.

    42. I had the pleasure of watching the movie in Adelaide yesterday and start by saying that Senna was much loved in Adelaide and his rise through F1 greatness coincided with the Australian Grand Prix’s rise in the 80’s and early 90’s in Adelaide.

      The movie is a great snapshot of Ayrton’s life – to capture everything this man achieved in a movie is almost impossible but the director and producers have delivered a fantastic movie-mentary.

      Senna’s close personal relationships, in particular those with his mother and father, Doc Sid Watkins and girlfriend, Adriane Galisteu demonstrate the human side to an often shy individual.

      I had forgotten how spiritual he was, often citing God in his on-camera dialogue.

      The early go-kart footage and Toleman days will deepen the knowledge of those who have only known of him since 1994.

      The constant fued with Alain Prost is somewhat misrepresented, Ayrton was no saint, he gave more than he got, he was a racers racer, not afraid to make the unmakeable move and the movie in part represents this position.

      The race day drivers meeting room footage gives viewers a great insight into the racing life of Senna – outspoken, opinionated, all driven by ‘safety’.

      The format is great, the movie well paced and rare footage fantastic. Sadly there is no fairy tail ending, Senna dies, I wish they could re-write the script, I wish it never ended this way, but it did.

      Be prepared to shed a tear, ‘long live the King, the King is dead’

    43. I recently discovered this link, I am unaware if it is fiction or fact but recomend reading the article:


      1. What’s the original source?

        1. Keith, I’m sorry but I don’t know, saw the movie on Sunday and have been on a Senna surf for a few days and stumbled across it – when I get some time I will attempt to verify some of the story…

          DMC in Adelaide

          1. It’s from ‘The Life of Senna’, by Tom Rubython.

            It’s a very powerful section of what is a very hard book to put down.

    44. Absolutely wonderful movie. Contrary to some reviews, it doesn’t paint him in that good a light at all, although you see a lot more smiles than we used to from him. Having contributons from his family members somehow makes him seem quite human, but he certainly doesn’t appear saintly!! If you get a chance to watch it please do, the joy and the tragedy will stay with you for a long time, I promise you!!!

    45. Does anyone know when the movie will be open in Finland? :)

    46. Just seen the film and it was excellent. I don’t think it made Senna look saintly but it did highlight how I think certain people were against him for whatever reason. One thing that really struck me in the film was the utter arrogance of the FIA boss at the time, Balestre – he and Sep Blatter must be related with their identical opionions of themselves, that is that they are untouchable and so superior to everyone else around them. No matter how many times you have seen the fatal crash, it still shocks and brings the emotions back. You know it’s coming and then it does and you find yourself sitting there willing a different outcome. Also the footage of Ratzenberger’s comments to his team before the accident and then seeing his accident are chilling. RIP to all killed over that very sad weekend.

    47. You really make it appear really easy with your presentation however I find this topic to be really something which I believe I’d never understand. It kind of feels too complicated and very broad for me. I’m looking ahead in your next post, I’ll try to get the cling of it!

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