Hamilton: Senna also faced a system which wasn’t always kind to him

2021 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

Lewis Hamilton has given revealing insight into his admiration for three-times world champion Ayrton Senna and his fight against adversity.

His childhood hero inspired him through “the way he drove, the colours of his helmet, the passion with which he spoke and his victories”, Hamilton told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Hamilton also described the similarities he sees in how both of them confronted adversity. “He faced alone a system that wasn’t always kind to him, something I experienced too in my career, albeit for different reasons,” said Hamilton.

Senna clashed with the sport’s governing body on several occasions, most famously following collisions with Alain Prost at Suzuka in 1989 and again in 1990. His career had a profound effect on Hamilton, who was nine at the time of Senna’s death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

“I said to myself: ‘I want to become a driver like him and get to F1’,” Hamilton recalled. “I liked cars and I considered it the most beautiful job in the world.”

Hamilton matched Senna’s tally of three world championship victories in 2015 and his former record of 65 pole positions two years later (pictured).

Hamilton promoted Black Lives Matter as he won seventh title
He won a record-equalling seventh world championship title last year. Hamilton, who has previously spoken of the racism he experienced as a youth, also embraced the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd in America and became an outspoken supporter of calls to promote diversity and tackle discrimination.

Hamilton said his passion for the cause also spurred him on to improve his performance on the track.

“The emotions that surfaced when I saw George Floyd being killed in the US reminded me that I too have experienced a small part of that violence in the past, though in a different way. And it was the fuel to drive again, it put a rocket in my performance.”

“I gave my all to win it and I am working hard to get justice against social discrimination,” Hamilton added. “Focusing on these issues, in an attempt to make them stand out in the public eye, gave me more strength, an extra boost when I was racing on the track. It wasn’t just about winning to get yet another triumph, but to do it for a greater purpose.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2021 F1 season

Browse all 2021 F1 season articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

Posted on Categories 2021 F1 season articles, F1 newsTags , , , , ,

Promoted content from around the web | Become a RaceFans Supporter to hide this ad and others

  • 68 comments on “Hamilton: Senna also faced a system which wasn’t always kind to him”

    1. For me he is more like Prost, bar his performances in the wet. Prost was not really that great in the wet right?

      1. Definitely Prost more than Senna in style, perhaps not the first 2 seasons but hes much more considered than the wild and aggressive Senna.Thrilling to watch albeit maybe not so much if you were a backmarker looking in your mirrors back then.

        I think though hes talking about being an outsider. Senna did always think he was but in reality he rarely was, Prost may have been at least his equal at political chicanery but both played the system to their advantage and Senna was definitely Honda’s favourite and got first dibs on updates as well as the devotion of Ron.

        Certainly their personalities are totally different though I wonder how we would perceive Senna if he’d been a driver in this era of social media, specialist websites and whole channels devoted to examining the sport and its protagonists.

        1. You are right. He should attack himself more at front just like Senna did when he was leading with 30+ seconds margin. Remeber it like it was yesterday. Senna 30+ seconds lead. Stops. Let’s few car by and the attacks them in real Senna way.

        2. Sure sure
          First year in a championship winning car
          Than a King at mercedes with NO competition
          Struggle is real

      2. No, Hamilton is much more like Senna than Prost, but 90, 91, 92, 93 Senna. Prost was wholly overrated, terrible in the wet, not a good qualifier, and made plenty of mistakes, especially if the track had even a drop of water on it. Prost is the most overrated multi wdc driver other than Vettel.

        1. Ambrogio Isgro
          2nd February 2021, 0:01

          I loved Senna, but I don’t think Prost is overrated. The professor was one of the true greats, he was the only one able to compete in an equal machine with Senna, he was super consistent on sundays and demolished Mansell and Keke Rosberg.

          1. When will the world realise that Prost was totally overrated? Prost weighed 58kg vs Senna’s 72 and Mansell’s 82kg. Up until roughly 1994, certainly after Prost’s retirement, the minimum allowable weight rules were changed from only the car (500kg) to the car and driver combined (roughly 580kg?). Certainly by the late 80s (if not before), the leading teams were able to get down to the 500kg limit, such that Prost ran with a 24kg advantage over Mansell. That’s equivalent to about 0.7 seconds per lap, particularly if you consider all factors, e.g. reduced tyre wear. No wonder it looked like Prost wasn’t pushing, and rarely made mistakes… It’s a mystery why I seem to be the only person on the internet who’s figured this out. You’re on the right track, Megatron!

            1. It’s hard to know where to start with “opinions” like Megatron or Alesici…suffice to say, their asinine comments aren’t supported by the evidence of any F1 reviews covering the 1980-1993 seasons!

            2. Interesting comments. Of all the multi WDC drivers, I think Prost is the one who most often is regarded as *underrated* by commentators and experts.

              The issue of driver weight is more complex than some make it out to be. It must be understood that ones driving characteristics are not just determined by the rudiments of size, weight, aggression and the like, but by a confluence of complex physiological attributes. Put more simply, a driver’s style is affected by the physical and not just the mental. If Mansell weren’t as large as he was, it is entirely plausible that he wouldn’t have been such a fantastic charger. If Prost were larger, its possible his entire nature as a brilliant engineer and race tactician could have been replaced by a more aggressive wheel-to-wheel racer.

              This was especially true before the days of ballast. Now days, because drivers are constantly subjected to systematic controls, the effects of nature are less physiologically pervasive. Still, it’s quite possible that smaller drivers are actually disadvantaged by weight adjustments; particularly if they grew up in less formal racing series’ that didn’t adhere to ballast systems.

              Also, jokingly, if driver weight were so crucial, why didn’t Mansell spend more time at the gym instead of golfing his days away?

      3. Above all Ham is not hot headed at all, he is sly but he most definitely would not crash on purpose.

      4. @krichelle So he’s like Senna in wet weather, qualifying and race craft. Senna could also be patient (like Prost) if needed

      5. I tend to agree. His racecraft looks more like Prost than Senna these days.

        I think it is actually a misconception that Prost was poor in the wet. He was probably one of the better drivers under such conditions in his day, especially before the Pironi incident. His perception as such is rather different, mostly because he went up against Senna who was even better.

    2. Lewis might want to read up on his Senna history, like, desperately.

      1. Why is he wrong is not even a swipe it’s a praise lol

      2. I guess he doesn’t really need it @proesterchen. The image that inspired him, also inspired many others to follow the sport, and even get into motorsport worldwide.

        That the real person of Senna, and the reality to some of his acts and playing the audience/politics game does not match that image, does not really matter anymore. The inspiration was there, and can still play its role in being there to motivate him at the right moment.

    3. Lewis has his own great legacy and dilutes it by trying to draw comparisons to Senna.

      1. Yes how dare he talk about his favourite idol 🙄🙄

    4. Was Hamilton a big Senna fan? Massive if true.

      1. Yep He states in his 2008 book, he cried when he heard about Senna’s death

    5. I fail to draw any comparisons with Senna’s own struggles and Lewis’s – unless I am completely missing something. I have read many books about Senna – Lewis does not have the same desires as Senna on track or the same internal struggles off track. Senna’s problems with FISA were political.
      Hamilton would be mo where near Sennas records without such a dominant car. Hamilton has lost a lot of my respect for not changing teams after his 5th title. Lewis’s 7 titles do not Evoke the same feelings of the achievement that other world champs have. Just as Horner said if the rules waited a couple more Years to change How many titles would Lewis and Vettel have each?

      1. You read the full article then?

        1. Yes I did.

          This statement – one of hundreds posted along side a wet race in 1984.
          “ Que saudades de te ver correr ?Estas emoções eram incríveis ..Vc foi muito grande querido Ayrton.Coisa linda…A gente corria junto com vc…E no fim cantava a música vitoria..Eternamente em nossos corações ..”

          You need to translate it – just use google.
          Do you feel the same? Will you feel the same after he retires? Will a whole nation?

          Senna’s struggles were self fulfilling. Hamiltons struggles were/are not.

        1. Don’t bother posting if nothing constructive to say. I’m happy to listen to objections of my thoughts and may even change my mind to a good argument.

      2. Did Michael switch teams after his 5th title?

      3. The comparison gets lost to me too. Sure you want to be like your idol, thats fine. And both are world class drivers. I think modesty and gratefulness would however be more in order for Lewis. He is (after Vettel) by far the most privileged and lucky driver of all time. He is one of the best, for sure, but 7 WDCs..? Not in amillion years without that dominant car. So I would like to see an article in which Lewis states he feels like the luckiest man alive and realizes the golden spoons all around him

      4. Tell it like it is
        7th February 2021, 11:43

        I strongly suspect that if Hamilton had changed teams every year and still achieved 7 titles you’d have found something else to criticise him about, just a feeling I get, y’know?

    6. Hamilton is so out of touch.

      The moment he showed his brilliance the system catered to him from all angles.

      Maybe now that Mercedes say no to him for the first time, the system is against him after all these years.

      Senna had to make his way in to the sport, system did not care for him first few years.

      Does tge system care about Grosjean? Are they pandering Kvyat?

      No. Last year Mercedes turned their livery black at his suggestion, F1 introduced kneeling before each race, on his demand.

      This system that opposes him.

      Meanwhile Mercedes workers will be out of a job soon, and he wants a considerable raise +10% prize money? And interfer with how Mercedes handles SJW issues?

        1. Very well said. But fanboys and media won’t like it.

      1. At no point in this article does Hamilton suggest that the system is currently against him. From which orifice your assertion that he’s talking about Mercedes saying “no” to him comes from I couldn’t possibly comment.

        1. It’s screamingly implied. It’s cunning. It implies if he weren’t black, he’d be getting all his demands which puts Mercedes in a bad light. He’s using the race card in a situation that he definitely shouldn’t be.

          1. Clifford English
            3rd February 2021, 2:54

            Even if it’s true? Why does the truth bother so many people?

      2. He is incredibly out of touch with the real world yes. Still a good driver though

    7. There has never been a driver who has had the privilege of driving cars that could compete for Championships more than Lewis Hamilton. In a 14 year career he has had 3 seasons in cars that could not compete for championships – 2009, 2011 and 2013.
      There has also never been a longer period of dominance enjoyed by a driver/team combination without significant rule changes implemented to change the order of the grid than what Hamilton and Mercedes enjoyed. It is going to be 8 years, compared to 4 years Red-Bull was allowed to dominate the sport and 5 for Ferrari.

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        1st February 2021, 15:51

        @brum55 I believe Fangio jumped teams several times to ensure he stayed in the fastest car, as did Senna. The greats can because they are always in demand. The reason Hamilton joined McLaren when he did was a function of his outstanding speed and performance and then left for Mercedes because his talent was sought after. That’s a credit to him not a problem!
        As for rule changes, the 2017 aero regulations were a significant change which Mercedes and Hamilton navigated extremely well. No other team has maintained dominance after a major regulation change. Their FRIC system was banned as is the case for DAS and lets not forget the now banned quali mode. They just dealt with it better than Redbull or Ferrari and Hamilton has proved he is one of the very best at adapting his driving style to suit a car.
        Both he and Mercedes have earned the “priviledge” where Seb and Ferrari dropped the ball and Newey went for peak performance instead of drivability.

        1. @davewillisporter

          The 2017 regulations didn’t change the order of the top 3, so they weren’t really significant.

          1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
            1st February 2021, 19:07

            @aapje That definitely earned an eye roll emoji! The result does not change the magnitude of the regulations change. The 2009 regulations were very similar in degrees of change to the 2017 regulations i.e major! One produced a surprise winner and the other didn’t. Both presented significant challenges for the teams and significant opportunities. Mercedes nailed it. That is not their fault, it is to their credit. The ire should be directed somewhere other than Mercedes and Lewis.

            1. @davewillisporter

              Mark Webber predicted before the 2017 season that these regulations would make the cars more engine-dependent, thereby increasing the advantage of Mercedes. He was right.

              If you read the page on the official F1 site about the rules, the idea was that by removing the engine tokens, other manufacturers could catch up. But that’s not a change that can result in an upset, but merely in a gradual closing of the gap, at best (and the best didn’t happen).

              It is true that Mercedes nailed the new regulations, but they were also best positioned. They would be ahead of RB & Ferrari if they performed equally well on aero, because of their engine advantage. So an upset could only happen if those other teams did much better than Mercedes.

            2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
              2nd February 2021, 22:16

              @aapje Except in 2017 2018 and 2019 Ferrari had the best performing PU and was untouchable on tracks that suited them aero wise. People seem to forget that for a large period in 2019, other teams were questioning the level of performance Ferrari had with the PU because they knew that the performance wasn’t possible within the rules. The 2017 Merc was a peaky performer like the Redbull 2020. It was off colour unless it was set up correctly. Mercedes had a good grip of the facts and developed their car better than any other team.
              Regulation changes are regulation changes. Period.
              Mercedes did not have an advantage, their PU was underpowered compared to the Ferrari.

    8. The “system which wasn’t always kind to him” allowed Senna to still drive race cars after attempting to kill Alain Prost. Unlike Lewis, Ayrton came from wealthy parents and would have had an easy life regardless of chosen profession (in fact, Senna came close to dropping motorsport to join the parental business). I understand wanting to be like your hero, so I don’t really begrudge Hamilton for these comments, but they are not based in any reality.

      1. I agree, he’s trying to find a link between himself and his hero

      2. When did Senna attempt to kill Prost?

    9. You are right. He should attack himself more at front just like Senna did when he was leading with 30+ seconds margin. Remeber it like it was yesterday. Senna 30+ seconds lead. Stops. Let’s few car by and the attacks them in real Senna way.

    10. I don’t exactly understand the comparison. The clashes and decisions made by FISA (and Balestre) were highly political in nature, and while Senna can be easily seen as the victim in some of the calls, he certainly played the game as hard as he could (Suzuka 1990 for example). Hamilton has had a few questionable stewarding calls, but that’s about it.

      1. @kaiie The article states “albeit for different reasons” and then continues on some side step about racism

        1. @f1osaurus

          Yes, apples and oranges.

          Grosjean also had struggles like Senna, albeit for different reasons, because he struggled due to not being a good enough driver.

          You could write a story like this for every driver.

          1. Yes but the media knows hardly anyone would read it. And forums like this know far fewer would comment on the story if they did.
            But as a Hamilton fan I do appreciate all the negative comments that help keep him on the front pages.

          2. @aapje Exactly, click bait it is

    11. I don’t know Lewis Ayrton had it way harder than you. For some reason European’s preferred Fittipaldi and Piquet over the Brazilian taxi driver.

    12. It’s the start of February and Mercedes still haven’t announced the contract. Car launch day announcement perhaps?

    13. Ah, Lewis….
      It never ends, does it?

    14. I often try to like him. But he makes it so hard.

    15. Senna was a man, Lewis is boy.

    16. Nothing’s changed. Senna on a pedestal back then, Hamilton on it right now.

    17. His adoration with the yellow helmet, the god quote tattoo and christian paraphernalia, children charity etc is all embarrassing hero-copying, and quite rare to see sportsmen as outright fanboys like this.

      The ‘system adversity’ is of course just made up to further his comparison, but both have/had a persecution complex, at least there’s that.

    18. LH is a remarkable driver but the PR ‘adversity martyr’ puff is pathetic . Social justice?! I’ll fight for it for the poor souls he stopped doing a number 2 on his private jet. As for Senna, having spent his career bustling other drivers out of his path and off the track, he faced no action for deliberately crashing in 1990 to win the title, nor for hitting the plucky Irvine for unlapping himself in 93.. Senna came from wealth and Hamilton didnt, but both share self-absorption and a well developed persecution complex. The superstar messiah aura of both is vomit-inducing.

      1. Clifford English
        3rd February 2021, 4:13

        WOW! If I didn’t know any better, I’d say “thoughtful observation”. However I do know better and I hear ‘venom dripping’ envy, jealousy and some outright hate, because he doesn’t adhere to the ‘standards’ you people ‘set’, for him! Amazing.
        QUESTION: How many points has Max Verstappen been assessed against his Super License in his F1 career? DITTO: Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen, Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton, Seb Vettle, Kimi Raikkonen? Now, look at the collisions all of these drivers have been involved in. Does anyone see a pattern?

    19. Philip Carr, Sliven, Bulgaria
      1st February 2021, 21:28

      “I gave my all to win it and I am working hard to get justice against social discrimination,” Hamilton added. “Focusing on these issues, in an attempt to make them stand out in the public eye, gave me more strength, an extra boost when I was racing on the track. It wasn’t just about winning to get yet another triumph, but to do it for a greater purpose.”

      After saying this people actually believe that he is also seeking a huge salary. It just does not relate to the man speaking above. It’s like saying hey bro your life on the streets is really hard. Did you know my lifes hard too cos I’m trying to squeeze 60 mil out of mercedes.

    20. People are too quick brandish folks like James Hunt as playboys & then compare to Lewis’s vegan/activiism (Like the Kimi did as joke last year saying F1 driver have changed too much). But people forget James Hunt stood up for issues like anti-aprtheid in the 80s/90s & even boycotted BBC interviews to stand up for things he believed in. Lewis somehow both early in his career till 2017 got the ‘playboy’ lifestyle label thrown at him like a bad thing saying he should retire & you can’t do both. Now he suffers the opposite saying he should be more playboy like the old days & less activist for basic human rights/relvant issues. Folks now question his ‘mascunilty’ often too amongst other things when he’s still worth £250m+, racing driver, globally known, hangs with celebs & has dated half the Victoria Secret models, isn’t that textbook playboy??. He literally does both things & gets hated for both whilst somehow saying he’s not doing enough of either one. Odd world. The hate the lad gets almost makes me like him more. Funny how McLaren lads were never asked the Bahrain human rights question even once despite being owned by Bahrain & the inventors of ‘We race as one’ slogan.

      1. I keep reading on F1 sites about Lewis’ activism and all he is doing for the social causes he supports yet I never catch a whiff of anything specific or tangible that he has done for them on any other news outlets. Not a sausage.
        To then read the comments attributed to him above (“working hard to get justice”, “focusing on these issues”) leaves me confused as that suggestion of effort doesn’t correlate to what I’m seeing (or not). For someone to be apparently devoting so much of his time to these issues why is there such a vacuum of mainstream reporting on evidence of it, especially if his profile is as high out of F1 circles as we’re constantly led to believe?
        It’s not as though the media is averse to reporting on sportspeople sticking their heads above the parapet either. Colin Kaepernick and Marcus Rashford are two recent examples that spring to mind.
        I don’t expect him to be a spokesperson for anything just because he is undeniably successful but if he (or the team he has assembled to represent him) has chosen that path he has a certain responsibility not to diminish those causes by over representing his efforts or commitment towards them. Kneeling seventeen times for 30 seconds (four years after CK lost his livelihood because of the strength of his convictions) doesn’t seem equitable to me.

        1. I never catch a whiff of anything specific or tangible that he has done for them

          Hamilton reveals The Hamilton Commission to promote diversity in motorsport

          1. The Hamilton Commission/ Promoting diversity & raising awareness of civil rights, especially in often close minded & slow to evolve sport.
            Donation to Aussie bushfires, Countless animal rights charities, UNICEF Ambassador, Great Ormand St, Save the Children & more.
            -Also for Human Rights look into the questions he was asked about Bahrain human rights, He got letter from people on death row for democracy protests & he spoke fondly about writing back & raising issue with senior Bahrani officials. Once again Bahrani owned McLaren who have more power weren’t even asked this. I think he’s also a big supporter of a Zoo in Mexico which reduces big cats/wild animals from rich owners/drug lords & looks after them. Many more which aren’t public too I’m sure. Also loudly came out against Brazil forest GP in Rio plans which is rare in F1 as drivers are told to stay out of race promoter politics etc….He was open & public & that GP has been shelved.

    21. Lewis, that car is very very kind to you. Let’s not forget that!

    22. Don’t let words spoil the silence

    23. Hamilton was in the fastest car in his debut season of F1.

      The system has been very kind to Lewis.

      Alonso had to go to Minardi, Schumacher got called up out of the blue to drive at Spa in a Jordan and put it 6th on the grid, look at George Russell stuck at Williams but has proven he can do Hamilton’s job and a better job than Bottas with no preparation.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
    If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.