“If you no longer go for a gap which exists you are no longer a racing driver”

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“Being a racing driver means you are racing with other people and if you no longer go for a gap that exists you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing.”

Ayrton Senna uttered these famous words 25 years ago this month, and it has since become arguably the most famous phrase ever spoken by a Formula One driver. It is certainly the most frequently quoted by readers of this website.

Kimi Raikkonen lunging at Valtteri Bottas in Russia, Lewis Hamilton forcing Nico Rosberg wide in Austin, Max Verstappen crashing as he tried to pass Romain Grosjean in Monaco: these are just three of the most recent incidents* which have led to the quote being as a justification for drivers exploring the limits of acceptable racing.

However there is a problem with invoking Senna’s immortal words in this way, one which tends to get overlooked:

He was lying.

Suzuka 1990

During the build-up to the Australian Grand Prix in 1990 Senna, who had just won his second world championship, sat down to be interviewed by three-times champion Jackie Stewart for Australia’s Channel Nine. Before the pair started talking a video clip was played.

1989 Japanese GP: Prost’s Suzuka chicanery denies Senna the title
The film showed Senna’s white-and-red McLaren ploughing into the rear of Alain Prost’s scarlet Ferrari at the start of the previous race in Japan. The crash put both out of the race and confirmed Senna as champion for the second time in the most controversial way. Senna defended his driving to Stewart.

“He knew I was right with him,” Senna began. “I was not far behind. I was right with him and when I was right behind him he moved to the inside line going towards the first corner, I just chased him and then he opened the gap. And knowing me like he does know, he must realise if there was a gap I was going to try and overtake him.”

Senna took umbrage at Stewart’s line of questioning. “As soon as it ended and the cameras were switched off, Ayrton told me that I should not ask for another interview because he would never speak to me again,” Stewart recalled in his 2007 autobiography.

At the time Senna was eager to portray the incident as a collision between two drivers who were fighting for the lead of the race and the world championship. It took his a year to admit what many at the time suspected: he had taken Prost off deliberately to be certain of the championship in retaliation for Prost taking him out at the same race the year before, and following what Senna believed was prejudicial interference in Prost’s favour by the president of the sport’s governing body, Jean-Marie Balestre.

In October 1991, Balestre lost his presidency of the Federation International du Sport Automobile to Max Mosley, a British lawyer who during his campaign had criticised Balestre’s handling of the original Suzuka affair. One week after winning the election, Mosley watched Senna win his third world championship in Japan, following which the Brazilian driver finally confessed he hadn’t been ‘going for a gap’ when he hit Prost the year before.

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Senna’s explanation was as follows: “I said to myself: ‘OK, you try to work cleanly and do the job properly and you get fucked by stupid people. All right, if tomorrow Prost beats me off the line, at the first corner I will go for it, and he better not turn in because he is not going to make it’. And it just happened.”

Senna was later persuaded by Mosley to put his name to what the new FISA president called “weasel words” in order to protect himself from allegations of dangerous driving. “At no time did I deliberately collide with Alain”, the statement read as Senna unsuccessfully attempted to show he had been “misinterpreted”.

According to Stewart, Senna didn’t speak to him for a year after the interview – until he decided to own up to the collision. “I was in Australia for the grand prix when Senna called me,” said Stewart last year. “He was a deeply religious man and he said: ‘Look. I am phoning to apologise because I do now admit that I did take Prost off the road intentionally and God won’t allow me to live this lie. I am going to announce it to the media tonight.'”

“He is not going to make it”

1990 Japanese GP: Senna clinches second world championship by taking Prost out
Whether you consider Senna’s action at Suzuka in 1990 a justifiable response to previous wrongs or a reckless act of unpardonable selfishness, the debate over whether it was intentional concluded in 1991. Given that, his original explanation for the collision falls to pieces.

Senna was a driver of staggering ability, intense application and immense charisma. His untimely death in 1994 undoubtedly kept him from winning more than the 41 races and three world championships he did achieve.

But he was no saint, and this period in his history was Senna at his least saintly.

When Senna said “if you no longer go for a gap you are no longer a racing driver” he was not espousing a pure philosophy of motor racing, he was telling a fib which he clung to for 12 months. But at least he eventually set the record straight – something which can’t necessarily be said for others who committed F1’s dodgier moves.

*There are many more examples: here’s another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another.

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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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104 comments on ““If you no longer go for a gap which exists you are no longer a racing driver””

  1. Lovely article.

    Senna was probably angry after putting himself in such situation, being asked all those things and being pointed out as a reckless driver, with more incidents than anyone.

    Stewart said that if he went back to all the World Champions, put together the number of times they made contact with other drivers would not equal Senna, and Ayrton angrily replied with this famous quote. It was pure emotion, pure anger, which transformed in a philosophical quote that’s taken as a fact by some and laughed at by others.

    1. yes, hearing the truth often hurts one far more than lies can @fer-no65

      1. @bascb yeah, yeah, not justifying him. :P I probably didn’t express myself the way I wanted

        It’s funny. I simrace at iRacing and everyone on the forum always laugh at that quote :P

        1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
          21st November 2015, 8:17

          It’s easily one of the worst things about simracing: drivers who take this quote and apply the logic to their own driving and just take people out.

        2. As in you crash and then say “but you know, I saw a gap and we should always go for a gap as a racer” and everybody laughs you off for what it was – a stupid move that could never succeed @fer-no65?.

          Oh, and I did get the meaning of your post, I more or less thought I summed up the ghist of your post in one line :-)

          1. @bascb It’s basically that: people that are nowhere near your car, and just divebomb you. At least on iRacing, being polite at the track is like THE way to go.

        3. Hello . what happen when you use that quote fightingh for the lead or for a podium in real life iracing rfactor2 or assetto corsa, it is valid ? IT IS , because when you are competing, you are competing to win…also the man in front of you will not say..wait a minute and i will let you pass comfortably… its racing , no matter what, i can not justify to use that quote when you are slow and fight with no reasson, but when you are fast enough , and you dont go for gap, i am agree that you are no longer a racing driver.

    2. tgu (@thegrapeunwashed)
      20th November 2015, 15:22

      It was pure emotion, pure anger, which transformed in a philosophical quote

      Yes, that’s the irony – it was a brattish response, good on Stewart for holding him to account.

      1. I don’t know how many of you watched the race live, I did. At that time everyone knew Senna did it on purpose. It was obvious. He was competing against Prost! A 3 WC vs 4 WC. High stakes. Not an excuse though. Hindsight is always 20/20 right? It was nothing like today where we have not seen in years a couple of drivers that competitive getting at each other. He made mistakes? Many. But he attracted / facsinated many fans to F1 just to watch him race ( or fight)

        1. Are talking about Hitler or are we talking about Senna? I’m confused.

          1. Sweet, it took 8 hours for Godwin’s Law to kick in.

        2. Lucho19 what? I doubt you saw the race live (I did). You would know that in 1990 Prost had 3 championships and Senna had 1.

        3. I don’t know how many of you watched the race live, I did. At that time everyone knew Senna did it on purpose.

          Well, yes, 10-year-old me immediately “knew” it was on purpose. Rewatching it decades later I know this was heavily influenced by the german commentary going on about how a crash would make Senna champion, asking a “Will he or won´t he?”-question just before the start. I am not sure it would have appeared as clear-cut if it wasn´t for that commentary. That said, the commentary didn´t portray Senna as evil (or more evil than Prost), and it did also include the “All is fair in love and war”-quote referring to the championship-fight as a war.

    3. Let me say, as a Prost fan, it appears that Keith has made a significant error.

      Here is the full interview in question: https://youtu.be/pdCWDSpwv9U

      Keith’s error is obvious when one views the video.

      The first minute and 51 seconds discusses the incident of Senna taking out Prost at T1 to win the WDC.

      Then Jackie asks this question:

      “If I were to count back all of the world champions, after all this the 500th grand prix, that if you totaled up all of those great champions, the number of times they had made contact with other drivers, that you in the last 36 months or 48 months, have been in contact with more other cars and drivers than they might have done in total.”

      To which Senna responds:

      “I find amazing for you to make such a question Stewart, because you are very experienced and you know a lot about racing. And you should know that by being a racing driver you are at the risk all the time. By being a racing driver means you are racing with other people. And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver. Because we are competing, we are competing to win. And the main motivation to all of us is to compete for victory. Is not to come 3rd 4th 5th or 6th.”

      The remaining three minutes of the interview are spent with the two of them continuing on Jackie’s query of Senna regarding the number Senna’s collisions over the prior 4 seasons.

      When we place that famous (or infamous) phrase in the tighter context of the question to which he was responding, it’s clear that the thesis of this article is false.

        1. Keith for a guy running an F1 website you are astonishingly uniformed here.

          Senna was not lying from any perspective. First he wasn’t lying because he wasn’t talking about that specific incident but to a general accusation of his driving by Steward and second even if he was talking about that incident he wasn’t lying.

          The idea that Senna would have simply hit Prost at the first corner no matter what is a completely false interpenetration of Senna’s later admission. What Senna said was that he was determine not to back out if given the chance and it will leave it to Prost to avoid an accident and he didn’t care if they both got taken out. There is a subtle difference from “i will hit him no matter what”. What Senna was saying is that if Prost leaves me a gap i will put my car there and not back down in the least even if it means an accident may happen.
          Also it seems you do not remember the accident at all because if you put the video and watch it again you will see that Prost left the inside slightly open and Sena put the car there. Prost then immediately went to close the door but because Senna as he said he wasn’t willing to avoid an accident he let the accident happen. BUT if that slight door was not open Senna wouldn’t have actually hit him.
          Just go look and see that Senna didn’t move into Prost but Prost moved to close the door. Senna simply didn’t try to back out of it and avoid collision.

        2. Mauricio Garcia
          19th January 2017, 23:51

          Pity I missed this post when it was written but I will have to agree with Vortex. Keith, do you not see the difference between “going for a gap” relating to the Suzuka incident and Stewarts’ insinuation that Senna was a reckless driver that went for any “gap” and thus all the collisions he participated in were his fault? In trying to combine both answers into one you have shattered your own thesis into a thousand pieces. Senna was spot on with the (in)famous quote – as it is a blueprint between what distinguishes the greats from the mediocre’s. And also, why the concern over him lying about whether the crash was on purpose or not? Did Balestre say the truth in 89 that he disqualified Senna to give Prost the title because he was French? Everyone knew that just like everyone knew that Senna threw the car on purpose on Prost – so why the double standards here? Where is your post on Prost lying back then when until this day he maintains the position that he did not throw the car on Senna on purpose in 89?

          Lastly, you say Senna wasn’t saint – with all due respect are you any saint? Was Prost, Mansell, Piquet, Schumacher, Brundle, Clark (smashed into Von Tripps in a crash that killed 15 people) any saints? From what sort of moral high ground are you speaking from? Do you even know what is it like to have a championship stolen from you simply because you were born in the wrong country? How many articles have we ever seen from the British mainstream and blogosphere on this central issue of the theft of 89? It is remarkable how Senna is vilified here in Britain where he helped a British team win 3 WDC’s, whereas in France and Italy no one ever mentions his supposedly “dark” side.

          If any nation(s) should be critical or hypocritical of Senna it should be the Italians and French, after all the Scuderia (&Prost) lost the chance of winning a perfectly good title (90) and yet in Italy&France they don’t pretend not to understand the simple human nature of “payback”. In other words, by removing the root cause of 89 then one gets the impression that Senna was a “madman”, but have we ever heard why Mansell smashed into Senna in Estoril 89 also in the end of a high-speed straight, after being given the black flag for 4 laps, receiving the team orders via the radio and then pretended that he didn’t see the flag? And the British media off course never bothered to question him afterward – nor after he squeezed Prost into the wall at the very start of Estoril in 90. Here we have 4 identical events (Estoril 88 Senna squeezes Prost & Estoril 90 Mansell squeezes Prost to the wall) and (Estoril 89 Mansell crashes at a high speed into Senna on purpose to ruin his championship, [please watch the 89 season review and you can see from Senna’s mouth that he says the same thing] and Suzuka 90 Senna on Prost) and yet we have the “no saint”, “villain”, “dark”, “ruthless” construct of Senna against the “gentleman” Mansell. Do you see why I bring the hypocritical nature of not only your article but the entire construct of the British media in this childish demonization of Senna over the years?

      1. Completely agree with you.
        The article is more a means to get people to read rather than an article on that full interview. Senna was responding to a much larger accusation. In a much broader response. That quote is the quote of a true racing driver and it always will be. Regarding the take out of Prost, you have to remember that the French ruled FIA really played Senna by putting all the Blame on Senna the year before. Where Prost clearly had taken Senna out.

  2. Don’t think I ever seem to tire of hearing stories from the old(er) days of F1, the rivalries, the tactics (good and bad), the attitudes and all that, it is always with rose tinted glasses i know, but I think we currently have potential for a similar situation with Seb and Lewis over the next few years.

    I hope really it gets to that Senna/Prost kind of rivalry – come on Ferrari, put up a challenge next year like you are promising and lets have a real battle between teams and 3 or 4 time champions, and lets have some controversy, clever tactics and quality racing – it can happen! – or am I just dreaming?

    1. @ginja42, But how do you know it is always viewed through rose tinted specs, there is so little good coverage to see how it really was. Every time I say the racing was better without pit stops my comments are consigned to the bin labeled ” Ignore ; deluded old fart with rose tinted spectacles” and no doubt often emphasized with the thought ” never happened” he must be confused.

  3. In today’s F1 media, anyone owning up to a mistake is a mistake in itself. PR 101. Perception is everything in this competetive environment. There exist autobiographies to come clean later.

    1. There exist autobiographies to come clean later.

      Sadly for Senna there aren’t, nor ever will be.

      (Not that we’re short of books on him)

      1. And sadly still people want to go back to more danger by targeting run offs instead of targeting the easier machinery or circuit design. Motoracing is inherently dangerous enough.

  4. ahhh, Suzuka 1990… this really is The Big One for F1 fans, isn’t it?

    Senna certainly had a lot in his head going into the race: the events of the year before, Balestre’s driver’s briefing he famously walked out on, [supposedly] having his request to change the place of the pole position denied… you can clearly see his frustration in his comment in the article:

    “I said to myself: ‘OK, you try to work cleanly and do the job properly and you get f***** by stupid people. All right, if tomorrow Prost beats me off the line, at the first corner I will go for it, and he better not turn in because he is not going to make it’. And it just happened.”

    this clearly is the comment of a man who feels he’s been pushed beyond his limits and I, as a Senna fan, love to see that: so many people, specially here in Brazil, tries to idolize him and change him into some kind of angelical figure when the real, human Senna is much, much more interesting.

    in that way, i think the whole “If you no longer go for a gap which exists you are no longer a racing driver” much more than an excuse for the incident he was on, was a stand that Senna was trying to make.

    1. That comment though proves that Senna’s intention wasn’t to absolutely hit Prost but go for any gap he will find and not back down and leave it up to Prost to leave him space which he didn’t be moving to close the door and Senna took no avoiding action.

      That actually proves that Senna never hit Prost to take the championship.

  5. Well…just a couple thoughts. It is a fact that for one of those incidents Balestre did change the rule after quali was over and did put Senna on the dirty side of the track as the pole sitter. You can’t call that normal and you can call that poking a sleeping giant. Senna was a purebred racer who was not going to be manipulated by Balestre.

    Also, just because he admitted his intentional actions for a few specific incidents, that does not make his statement untrue about going for a gap.

    1. I think you missed the whole point there @robbie. Unless you mean to say that the gap Senna had seen according to his words was not a gap on track, but a gap in the rules he could exploit to overcome the injustice he felt about Balestre ruling in favour of his opponent in regards to the pole position (a rightly critisized desicion).

      Since Senna himself admitted (a year later), that he had never seen a gap to go for in Suzuka, but instead had rightaway targetted to crash Prost out of the race, this is clearly not about pure racing.
      And Senna was not going for a gap because he felt he should be that pure racer you mentions, but because he felt the need to get his hands dirty to win in a dirty game he felt being played on him.

    2. Also, just because he admitted his intentional actions for a few specific incidents, that does not make his statement untrue about going for a gap.

      Couldn’t put it better myself.

    3. @robbie I think his statement is untrue in the sense that it implies that a racing driver is justified in putting his or her car into any gap, no matter how marginal or how likely it is to cause a crash. There are gaps, and you see this all the time, which are open, but will naturally become closed because the driver ahead has priority for the corner. Senna’s logic here is that if you don’t put your car in that gap, even knowing that it’s almost certain to cause a crash, then you’re not really racing. In that sense, his comment isn’t true. It has been used by observers to try and justify all kinds of stupid driving.

      The point is, Senna almost certainly didn’t believe that the statement he was making was true. It seems to make sense on the surface, but it doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. A driver may have the opportunity to try and force a gap, but the best drivers are those who pick and choose their moments so that they carry out a successful overtake the majority of times. A driver with the mentality Senna describes, just goes full Maldonado and tries to YOLO it every time there’s a sniff of a gap. That’s why Stewart’s comments to him were so cutting – Senna prided himself on being a master of every aspect of executing a successful race, but the evidence suggested that he took more risks than the best drivers of all time would have been prepared to take, and as a result sometimes compromised his own race, and to an extent the safety of himself and other drivers, by taking on marginal maneuvers which a sensible driver would never have gone for.

      1. Fair comment but it is not like Senna crashed into cars seeking some phantom gap every race like, as per your reference, Maldonado. I’ve just always kept that asterisk in mind that Balestre must take some of the blame for setting this situation up. MS was a bully who had more advantages than any driver ever in the history of F1 before and since his run, and still had to drive people off the track and literally run into them just because he was a career long bully, whereas Senna was much more cunning and thoughtful and imho respectful of the art of racing, most of the time.

    4. LotsOfControl (@for-unlawful-carnal-knowledge)
      20th November 2015, 20:49

      “It is a fact that for one of those incidents Balestre did change the rule after quali was over and did put Senna on the dirty side of the track as the pole sitter.”

      A fact? Really? Where do you get these facts from?

      Fact is: the pole was on the same side as it was in 1987, 1988 and 1989 Japanese Gp!
      This is FACT!

      Nobody changed anything.

      1. Nobody changed anything.


        Senna secured the pole, but was unhappy with the side of the track it was situated on, claiming that pole should always be on the racing line. He and Gerhard Berger then went to the Japanese stewards, to request a change of position of pole to the cleaner left side of the track. The stewards initially agreed but an injunction by FISA president Jean Marie Balestre later that night rejected the decision and the original pole position remained on the dirtier, less grippy right side of the track.

        Huh. How about that.

        1. Every race up until that point was started on the inside(usually dirtier)line. This was Senna just pushing the rules to see if he could have them changed. The Japanese stewards said yes, but these were not the rules. Senna always had a sense of entitlement having grown up rich in an extremely poor country and then would whine endlessly when he didn’t get his way. Imagine someone like Hamilton demanding a rule changed for his own benefit and then complaining about it not being changed mid-season. The rule being right or wrong didn’t matter. Senna never complained about this at any other race. This is how it looked at the time. Ignore the Senna movie from a few years back.

          1. With the pole on the inside line I meant.

  6. Compromising another driver’s life because of Balestre’s behaviour was the lowest point of Senna’s career. Ironically, it contributed to him being a three time world champion, an accolade many now would admit he deserved.

    I think in a nutshell that sums up Senna’s career. What makes it so fascinating is its reflection on our own day to day struggles as we navigate through this strange life… teetering bulbs of dread and dream as Edson once put it. We’re certainly not the honest creatures we sometimes make ourselves out to be, and how we handle knowing when we’ve done wrong can often define us I think.

    (end of philosophical mutterings).

  7. Ballestre and the corrupt FIA have to take some of the blame. Not all. But the grid side thing was wrong and so was the DQ the year before. And if the governance isn’t trusted people do take things into their own hands.

    Not that I ever took to Senna tbh. I thought he took self-obsessed to a new level and made a lot of mistakes. The fact that this mystic-sounding saying turned out to be just a get-out is pretty much in line with my view of the whole Senna messiah thing.

    Interesting article, thanks @keithcollantine.

    1. and so was the DQ the year before.


      1. Because he was disqualified for cutting the track, after the famous collision with Prost. Sennas car was on the run off area, so he could never return other than via the cut off. And it gave him no time advantage at all, which could be the only valid reason to dsq him.

        1. He was also push started. No outside assistance was a rule back then. Maybe it still is. They could have dsq him for that as well. This whole FIA Balestre bit is from that crappy Senna “documentary” a few years back. It was more a fictional movie created with real footage.

          1. @darryn

            It was more a fictional movie

            I’d like to know which part you’re saying was “fictional”.

          2. This whole FIA Balestre bit is from that crappy Senna “documentary” a few years back.

            Which was compiled from a combination of interviews of people around at the time, official video footage, and FISA/FIA records. Everything in it is verifiable fact.

          3. The whole thing about Prost getting favored by Balestre. The editing of Prost running back after the ’89 Suzuka crash to tattle on St. Ayrton. I can take interviews of anybody and re-edit them and make it seem how I want it to seem. I think we all understand that. There was narration as well. Are you saying that Senna wrote the narration and did the editing. The whole movie was slanted to favor Senna. Which is fine. It just put it all on Prost when it wasn’t like that at all. Senna was push started and could have easily been disqualified for that as well as cutting the track in ’89. Every race started before that with the pole on the inside line. Senna wanted the rules changed in his favor and Balestre overturned what the Japanese wrongly gave to Senna. The movie acted like Prost was controlling Balestre in cheating poor Ayrton. It wasn’t that way at all.

          4. They were allowed a push start out of a dangerous position @darryn.

            Prost quite obviously turned in early to take him out, which was a disgrace, cost him a minute, then after he won anyway this ridiculous ‘missing the chicane’ thing was trumped up. Prost gets nothing. Next year he’s put on what is obviously the wrong side of grid.

            So it was a classic case of bad governance leading to bad behaviour.

          5. It isn’t obvious that he turned in on him to me. It is just one of those things that only 1 person in the world really knows what happened. It wasn’t a dangerous position in the ’80’s. Senna was totally desperate and tried a Maldonado style move from too far back. No one in their right mind would expect someone to try a pass there from that far back. I don’t think Prost even saw him. I don’t think Senna could have even turned into that chicane. It is just lucky I guess that he only killed himself in the end instead of taking others with him.

          6. What nobody ever mentions is that Suzuka ’89 shouldn’t have happened. Prost should already have been World Champion before that race since Berger should had been disqualified from Estoril for jumping the start.

  8. Reading the story makes me think of Rosberg’s ill-fated move on Hamilton last year in Spa (2014). Rosberg basically said the same thing (and did a similar thing for similar reasons).

    1. The difference there is that Rosberg didn’t crash into Hamilton: he simply didn’t get out of the way when Hamilton cut across him.

      Although in that case, what both drivers said leading up to and after the event is equally interesting: Hamilton did a tv interview for the bbc where they reviewed an overtake on Rosberg and he admitted “that’s a psychological move, that’s one driver saying ‘hey that’s *my* corner’.” Both he and Rosberg knew that the intimidating moves on track weren’t in any way necessary to complete the overtake, but were there to instill psychological dominance. Hamilton’s an excellent psychological driver (and paddock member), and uses it a lot. When Rosberg decided to stand his ground and allow the commission to happen, it was obvious there would be trouble with the team. However he was surprisingly honest about it immediately after. I think he thought the team would see it as a 50/50 situation brought on by the previous record between the two. For whatever reason they came down hard on him and we saw the result.

      Psychology and appearances are often considered important in the paddock and it’s not just the teams who get into it. Though it is surprising to see Hamilton lean on it quite as much as he has this year, particularly his comments after Austin and Mexico.

      Anyway, this is a good article, though it does miss out senna’s blank embarrassment when Stewart posed the issue of whether a champion should know the difference between a gap you can go for and a gap you can’t.

      1. tgu (@thegrapeunwashed)
        20th November 2015, 15:25

        The difference there is that Rosberg didn’t crash into Hamilton

        I seem to remember cockpit footage showing Rosberg turning into Hamilton.

        1. I seem to remember cockpit footage showing Rosberg turning into Hamilton.

          At Spa 2014? What exactly were you watching?

          1. Deliberately missing a corner so that you can get along side another car… Hamilton cut across rosberg you said? Right, Sure. Regardless of motive there was no move on whatsoever so please don’t use terms like “cut across” Hamilton was on the racing line, end of.

          2. Perhaps something that included this frame @raceprouk?

            @thegrapeunwashed is exactly right. Rosberg needs to be on the brakes steering straight ahead, but he’s steering hard right as Hamilton’s sidewall is about to come alongside his endplate. That is why his own team fined him, and why the crowd booed him.

          3. @lockup That image just shows that Rosberg was turning right so he could take the next left turn. I’m not sure what physics model you deal with on the road, but here in Australia, and in Belgium (where I’ve driven also), I can tell you that you need to turn right to make that next left turn. Further to that, the car will not instantly turn left or right, the car arcs in a radius, so even if by some miracle that Nico manages to straighten his car for the apex of the next left hander, he’d need to throw out an anchor to make the next left at such a tight angle. In addition, looking at the photo, if Nico went straight at that exact point, he is nly going to jump over the rumble strips.

            Not only that, a still photo doesn’t tell you who is backing out and who is accelerating, but from the video, you can tell that Nico was backing out and the slower of the 2 as he realised the gap was closing…

            The other thing that amazes me is that it is exceptionally hard to clip someones rear wheel at over 200km’s with the G Forces hammering at you and focusing on making turn all at the same time.

          4. @lockup, if Rosberg was braking in a straight line, he would have cut the left-hander. Also, Rosberg was slowing down at the time anyway, and was moving to slot behind Hamilton; given how it’s impossible to see where your own front wing is, not to mention the G-loads and the vibrations, it’s easily believable he simply misjudged the move. Not that you bothered taking any of that into account, as is plain to see by your post.

            @Jayd, I have no idea what you’re talking about; I think you meant to reply to someone else?

            @thegrapeunwashed, it appears I misjudged my response to you; my apologies.

          5. He’s turning right into Hamilton’s wheel @dragoll, simple as. You’d be right if the road was empty, but it wasn’t. If you watch the video it’s a flick right, with no other purpose.

          6. tgu (@thegrapeunwashed)
            21st November 2015, 8:31

            @lockup Spot on lockup. In the video it’s clearly a petulant swipe at Hamilton – a “Take that!” before he can disappear up the road.

  9. He was not lying… He was making up an excuse.

    1. I remember the whole weekend very clearly and the build up of pressure on Senna was immense by the media and people in charge of the rac. It was inevitable two great drivers and non was prepared to give an inch to the other.

    2. He wasnt really going for the gap, was he? he was going for the other car.

  10. I think the idea of the “death of the author” can explain such phenomena

  11. Oscar Wilde put it best. “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

    There are many reasons Senna continues to be one the most highly regarded figures in the world of racing. He had such unique complexities as one of the best race car drivers ever (if not the best), but also as a man. Many, maybe most people would have stuck to their story forever, even if was not the truth. Not Senna.

    Great article @keithcollantine . Every day we read journalistic examples of things said by famous people taken out of context and repeated so often it seemingly becomes “truth”. Proper context is the best way to approach wherever the truth may lie.

  12. But at least he eventually set the record straight – something which can’t necessarily be said for others who committed F1’s dodgier moves.

    Such as? I can’t remember anyone using a dodgier move. Especially because, as Senna admitted, it was premeditated.
    I don’t really care about the reasoning behind it. The fact that he decided to take out Prost before the race even started makes it the most dodgy move I’ve seen in F1.

    1. To be clear, I didn’t write that meaning ‘other moves which were dodgier than this one’, I just meant dodgy moves in general.

    2. Ask Damon Hill for a story about an identically dodgy move and result.

      1. @hohum

        Sure, Damon Hill crashed into Schumacher a few times but it never got him the championship and I doubt he planned to do it before the race.

  13. With all due respect, I disagree with the notion of this article, @keithcollantine.

    First and foremost, the famous (or infamous) quote that served as the title of this very article was not said as a reply to Jackie Stewart’s question about the 1990 accident in Suzuka. It was an answer to the next question which was a lot more generalised, pointing, in a barely veiled fashion, to the 1989-1990 incidents between Prost and Senna.

    And that leads to my second point: picking out a single collision (Suzuka 1990) between these two drivers and citing the fact (which I obviously acknowledge) that Senna had initially lied about his role in it does not make the quote any less valid. What it means is simply that Senna was not applying his principle in Suzuka in 1990 – but he did so in a number of other cases, including Suzuka 1989 for instance. And it is still applicable despite the fact, again, that is is still misinterpreted in a number of cases.

    So while I do agree with you in that a lot of the times people are probably not right when they cite the quote, I all but disagree with you in the way to tried to make a point in this article.

    1. Agreed @atticus-2. See my response below.

    2. @atticus-2 I see where you’re coming from but I don’t agree. Senna was perpetuating a falsehood throughout the interview: First he said Prost was wrong to leave a gap, then he said you have to go for a gap otherwise you’re not a racing driver. It’s all part of the same fabrication.

      1. @keithcollantine Yes, he was definitely not thinking entirely straight and, as you wrote, he admitted as much a year later.

        But I still think that bits and pieces were not false – such as the, here otherwise excellently debated, quote which, as I’ve said, was really reflected in a number of other moves he did during his career.

        Of course, I’m not talking about his manouver on Brundle in Oulton Park, for example. There’s a fine line between successfully putting oneself in a ‘gap that exists’ and making a brainless lunge – the difference is that the former driver keeps his car under control and can safely negotiate the bend in the width of the track he’s allowed to go in (which, from a fair-but-firm defender usually means a car’s width from the inside edge, see vaguely Ericsson on Massa in Montreal’s T2) while the latter under/oversteers wide into his opponent (see Maldonado into Ericsson last weekend). That’s the fair-but-firm attackers and defenders ‘inside move’ driving code.

        Senna was arguably doing it right in Suzuka in 1989 (only for Prost to ‘do a Raikkonen’ – in Monaco v. Ricciardo or in Mexico v. Bottas – and close the door on him not leaving him a car’s width). He was not doing it right with Brundle – and it was a whole different case in Suzuka in 1990 where Senna was going to push Prost off the track whether he opened the gap or not, I’m pretty sure of it; he was just not slowing down for T1/T2 at all.

        What I’m really trying to say with this, especially with the latter paragraph, is that in Suzuka in 1990 it was not at all about the ‘fair-but-firm attacker’s inside move driving code’, it was something else, a red mist descending, once can say. I’d say it’s a bit… off the mark judging ‘the quote’ in the context of Suzuka 1990.

  14. ““If you go for a gap which no longer exists you are Pastor Maldonado” – Senna

  15. What’s the point of this article? It comes across as silly posturing, self serving with a massive dollop of self righteousness by the author, which I have to say is the usual tone for this website.
    I personally think the statement in its purest form still stands. Not in the sense of pushing and crossing the boundaries of fair racing but rather that at its core F1 is about racing and a racing driver should attempt to overtake even when the situation is less than optimal. The greatest overtakes are always in less than optimal conditions. As a fan I am happy to see that this ethos still lives in young drivers such as Verstappen, Ricciardo, Lewis. Long it may continue !

    1. @pmccarthy_is_a_legend

      What’s the point of this article?

      See paragraphs four and five.

      1. That was rhetorical question. @keithcollantine

    2. @pmccarthy_is_a_legend – “I personally think the statement in its purest form still stands.

      So the context in which any statement is made is meaningless?

      1. I think I can spot a leading question from a mile away. Make your point please. @bullmello

        1. @pmccarthy_is_a_legend, it’s all moot now, the pitwall look for the gap but it is a different kind of gap, nowadays if you are a racing driver you go for your delta.

        2. @pmccarthy_is_a_legend – The point is that the context any statement is made in can be as important as the statement itself. It helps to define and clarify the statement and why the statement is made in the first place. It was enlightening to me how this statement came about even though I have been following F1 for about 50 years now. I agree with you the statement can stand on its own, but the context it was originally made in makes it that much more fascinating and illuminating considering the surrounding circumstances. Don’t you agree that context can be important?

          1. @bullmello
            Absolutely, I agree the context is important.
            What I found interesting is that in the article the author grossly misinterpreted the context of the quote. If you pay careful attention, when Senna said those words, he wasn’t specifically attempting to justify the collision with Prost. He was answering to a more general question posed by Jackie with regards to Senna’s overall approach to racing over the course of the previous 3 to 4 years.
            That is the context of the quote. And both in that context and indeed on its own the quote very much still stands true.
            Under scrutiny it is clear that the argument presented by author that the quote was a lie is not enlightening nor illuminating, but lazy and flawed.

          2. @pmccarthy_is_a_legend
            In closing I refer back to my original post in response to this article:
            Oscar Wilde put it best. “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

  16. That was then, this would be more like now:

    “If you no longer press the DRS button when less than one second behind, you are no longer a racing driver”

    1. That put a smile on my face :-)

  17. A most enjoyable article :) Thanks!

    1. @joe6pac Can’t believe you just thanked the author for that article. That is something akin to you thanking your neighbour for taking a dump on your doorstep. It is hilarious.

      1. Interesting point of view. Please elaborate.

        1. I think he’s just bitter someone dared criticise Senna

          1. Far be it for someone to have an opinion different than yours right @raceprouk?

            The article took the quote out of context and ran with it.

          2. The article took the quote out of context and ran with it.

            Then I have no idea what article you were reading, as the article at the top of this page is clearly taking the quote and putting it into context. Or are you just another person who can’t stand people saying bad things about a driver they like?

            Oh, and before you go calling me a hypocrite, allow me to prove I’m not.
            I like Vettel. Since joining Ferrari, he’s been one of the most likeable drivers on the grid, thanks in part to his playfulness in the press conferences. And I have absolutely zero issue with placing the blame for his collision with Webber in Turkey 2010 on him and him alone.

        2. @dragoll (below) had some interesting inputs
          All input is great, that is what we build our opinions upon.
          cheers all

  18. Ok… I had to fire up the Senna documentary to rewatch the interview with Jackie Stewart again, I then found the full interview on youtube and discovered that the Senna documentary heavily edited the interview. After rewatching the interview (in full), I think ultimately I think this topic comes down to individual interpretation. The reason why this particular topic is in the grey area is because of the way this interview transpired. So… for one, I think @keithcollantine has shared his views from his interpretation and he has put forward his justifications, which I respect, because he knew that surely there are a lot of Senna fans out there that will blindly defend Senna, so took some guts to put this out here. Remember kids, everyone is entitled to their own views, if you disagree, then put forward an argument, don’t attack people.

    Firstly, the Senna documentary edits the interview, below is the 6min interview in full, I urge everyone here to rewatch it https://youtu.be/pdCWDSpwv9U

    Initially Jackie Stewart hypothesises that Senna’s manouvre as a

    calculated risk

    which Senna agreed with @ 1:40 into the video.

    Then Jackie changes tact with his line of questioning, and in a subtle, but not so gentle way, puts forward an unsubstantiated statistic that Senna has had more contact with other drivers than all of the previous F1 champions combined (1:56 into the video). It is at this point where Senna is clearly aggravated by the accusation, and as part of his response we get the famous quote.

    My thoughts: I believe that Jackie Stewart attempted to glean a confession out of Senna before he even sat down with him for that interview. To do this he first asked Senna directly about the incident and attempted to counter with logic hoping to ground out an admission of guilt. When Stewart felt that he couldn’t get Senna to admit guilt by this line of questioning, he then tried a different approach by putting forward an unsubstantiated statistic to see how Senna would react. From Senna’s side, initially he was being fairly transparent in his description of what happened when asked directly about the Suzuka 1990 incident, he evaded the blame aspect of the incident where he could and focused on other aspects of it. When it came time to respond to Jackie’s statstic, I believe Senna had forgotten about the previous line of questioning, he was angered by the accusation, and by someone like Sir Jackie Stewart a previous Grand Prix World Champion, to come out like that and accuse him of taking out more drivers than all other champions combined, I don’t think he was thinking about the singular incident in Suzuka 1990, I think he was thinking that Jackie has lost the plot and was trying to remind him of what its like to race competitively, as a holistic topic.

    To this end, there is no right or wrong, because essentially everyone is reading too much into a one liner that was given at a point where Senna himself wasn’t thinking straight because he was angry with Stewart.

    1. @dragoll – Thank you for the link and your perspective. I was curious about the complete interview and especially in unedited form. I’ll give it a look.

    2. @dragoll – I agree with your urging everyone to watch the linked interview video and form your own opinion.

      I would say that the line of questioning from Jackie Stewart connects the Suzuka incident with Senna’s other incidents tying them somewhat together. Senna’s response I believe is in part a justification for the incidents specifically, including Suzuka where the questioning began, and also a statement of his racing philosophy in general.

      The interview itself is a fascinating look into the minds and interaction between two of the greatest F1 champions ever. Also agree that there is plenty of room for interpretation, which is what makes F1 history so intriguing.

    3. I think its quite possible that Steward had the intention of trying to get Senna to admit to crashing on purpose there @dragoll. From knowing Senna well enough and knowing the context at that race, he (and many who saw it at the time) were already convinced that that was exactly what happened.

      I have heard many an interview where skilled interviewers prepare their questions like that – going at their subject from different angles that can end up having the subject themselves, with their own answers, show what they really think, show how they were lying about something etc. To me it is what makes the good interviewer to be able to get that out.

  19. Good for the bloke to come clean one year after the fact, but it was always clear for everyone to see.

    But if you no longer divebomb into an imaginary gap forcing the other guy to get out of the way or else crash, then you are no longer Ayrton Senna.

  20. And the prize for the most sennaesque drive of the last decade, with serial divebombing award attached, goes to…..

    Sergio Perez, Monaco 2013 GP

    1. Actually, I think Ricciardo fits the bill better. Perez has made some idiotic lunges which resulted in tears but seems to have bettered himself in that regard. Ricciardo, especially this year, has been dive bombing left and right giving others the choice of either moving out of the way or colliding with him. He did it in China, Monaco, Hungary and Austin.

      And the true Senna-esque attitude revealed itself when he criticized Sainz for doing the same to him in Austin. Just like Senna went and had a word with Schumacher when Schumacher lunged down the inside and collided with Senna.

      It’s all in the spirit of a true racing driver until someone else does it to them.

    2. Good observation! But he was encouraged by the stewards to execute that same maneuver over and over again because the driver who had to avoid the collision had to cut the chicane and give the place “back”. Räikkönen eventually squeezed him for good, so it didn’t pay off in the end.

      1. Yep, it was richly deserved when Kimi finally called Checo’s bluff and wouldn’t budge. Gave him the black flag he should have got from the stewards by then. Too bad Kimi sustained damage too, had to pit and lost a few positions.

  21. The article is incorrect. If the quote was a response to only the Prost incident, then yeah. Senna responded to a much larger accusation done by Stewart. Saying that Senna made more accidents than all champions before him would have done in total. That accusation is one that Stewart should be ashamed of until today. Senna had been blamed completely for a crash a year before. When it was clear that Prost had taken him out. Senna got blamed and got banned. For a crash that would never have benefitted him. Till this day I believe that mainly French FIA favored Prost and cheated Senna and blamed him for the devious take out of another.
    Prost was the one who should have been punished and Senna should be world champion 4 times. I still think this was clearly the worst of what the FIA has shown us ever. They say F1 thrived by the rivalry. In reality they slapped the real F1 follower in their faces. Everyone that knew racing then and now knows how bad they treated Senna. Still I think they should take that title away from Prost and give it back to Senna.

    1. Saying that Senna made more accidents than all champions before him would have done in total. That accusation is one that Stewart should be ashamed of until today

      Except said accusation is completely and utterly correct. Ayrton Senna lacked regard for his own and his competitors health. The fact that Sir Jackie Stewart had the actual guts to call him out on it is something I will forever respect him for.

  22. Wow you need a whole article for all this drivel? Senna said UPFRONT that he would hold his line, because he got screwed on the grid position and held true to his word. So how does he need to explain that he did it on purpose afterwards? How is it lying when you keep your word?

    We know that you deeply dislike Senna. Get over yourself already.

  23. Great article! we need more of this.

  24. Great article. Thanks for posting

  25. Senna lied that he was going for a gap, that doesn’t mean his comment about going for a gap being fundamental as a racing driver is a lie. It’s a fallacy to assume that because one part of what he said is untrue that all of what he said is untrue.

    It would seem from the tone of current press releases from Mercedes that the team haven’t landed on pinning blame 100% on either driver and are just unhappy with them both for racing to the point of causing reliability issues and colliding twice this season. Hamilton stating that if he see’s a gap he will go for it because he’s a racing driver and that’s what racing drivers do, be it against their team mate or a rival team I think is fair.

  26. Netflix have a 2010’s movie the is important to understand that history. Well, F1 is not only about race. It’s also about politics. It is indeed essential to understand the context. Prost was a personal friend of Ballestre, back than the FIA’s president. And they literally had robbed down the Senna’s 89 Title. The corruption level was amazing. 90’s crash, when Senna’s did just exactly the same thing Prost have done (plus the fact that Senna was penalized for that by 89’s FIA, and on 90’s they just… strangely switched the pole’s sides to support Prost). Being them, one more time, accused by that definitely must have being difficulty to deal. Plus, Senna’s was definitely always aiming for the gaps, so… yeah. Great writting, by the way.

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