After Hamilton’s negotiation with Mercedes ends, we take an interesting look at another such saga that played out 28 years ago between Ayrton Senna and McLaren. Just like Hamilton, his hero, Senna also entered the year 1993 without a signed deal with McLaren and Ron Dennis.
The 1992 season was a tough one for the Brazilian hero. The latest Honda V12 engines proved disappointing, and Nigel Mansell was dominating in his Williams-Renault. The team switched from Honda to Cosworths for the season, but that meant that the team had a smaller budget to pay Senna. The Brazilian’s manager, Julian Jakobi, stated that the team had to pay Senna a million per week to keep him driving for McLaren. Ron Dennis said that he only had $5m available, and therefore he couldn’t pay Ayrton what he’d paid him in the past.
So Ayrton said, “That’s fine. I’ll do the first five races, and that’s it. And so that’s how the million per race happened. He didn’t say, “I want a million per race”, he just said “I’ll just do the first five races”.
“So that’s what happened, the first contract was signed for five races, and a million a race. But we put a provision in the contract. Ayrton said, “But I’m not coming unless the money is in my bank account by the Wednesday before each race,” recalled Jakobi. Now, McLaren had to be on their toes to keep up with the contract. It was financially straining and the first hiccups came ahead of the fourth race, the San Marino GP. Ayrton Senna made sure he made the Woking outfit realize his worth.
Jakobi had to confirm through fax or a call that McLaren deposited the money in the account. This time around, there was no amount credited, and Ayrton was adamant that he would not be driving that weekend. The team claimed it was a banking error, “Anyway, lo and behold, the money pitched up on Thursday morning rather than Wednesday,” recalled Jakobi. “So I called Ayrton’s office in Sao Paulo, and they couldn’t find him. He gone off with some girl somewhere.”
“He wasn’t in his apartment, he wasn’t in the office, and they couldn’t find him. And they found him Thursday lunchtime. So he jumped on the plane. Ayrton got to the track late on Friday morning, got into the car halfway through first practice,” shared Jakobi. The second hiccup was way past the five-race mark. Ron Dennis had given his personal guarantee to Senna regarding the payment this time around. Once again the money didn’t come in time and Senna did not leave his home.
“We said Ayrton was not coming, because the money didn’t arrive by Wednesday. We prepared all sorts of drafts to terminate the contract, and so various drafts were circulating around,” recalled Jakobi. Ayrton was in Rio and clarified that he would not get back on a plane unless the money is in the account. Jakobi stated Ron gave the Brazilian a personal guarantee to help resolve the last hiccup of the season.
He later moved on to Williams the next year and replaced Alain Prost, which was the last season we witnessed the Brazilian’s brilliance on the grid. He succumbed to an unfortunate accident at the Imola Grand Prix.