On April 11, 1993, Ayrton Senna made history with what many consider the best first lap off all time in Formula One. The Brazilian driver’s feat at the European Grand Prix brought a lot of joy to his fans, and other curious stories complement that unique race in Senna’s career. Take a look back at some intriguing stories involving Ayrton Senna at Donington Park.
Flying through the pit lane
With the race in his hands and way ahead of his adversaries, Ayrton made clear how smart he was during the European GP: the Brazilian posted the fastest lap of the race by going through the pit lane. As a Formula Ford and Formula 3 champion who had already won at Donington, Senna knew the track better than most, and was sure that by cutting through the pit boxes his lap would be shorter and faster, since there was no pit lane speed limit at the time.
Barrichello, one of the race’s highlights, remembers being lapped by Senna
A young Rubens Barrichello also had a fantastic first lap at Donington Park – the Brazilian was making his F1 debut that year, as a Jordan driver. Rubens started in 12th place and quickly climbed to fourth before the first lap was over. At a certain point of the race, the Brazilian drivers shared a funny moment, “I was lost in the race, I didn’t know what lap I was in. All I saw was “P2”, meaning I was in second place. Then I saw Ayrton behind me and thought, ‘Well, now I’m P1. Now I’m leading. And even though he’s my idol, I won’t let him pass’. Then I saw the blue flag, meaning I was being lapped by Ayrton Senna”, Rubens revealed to Senna TV.
Not many overtaking spots? Not to Ayrton Senna
The 1993 European GP was the first and only official F1 race at the British circuit. The track hosted lots of testing sessions for the category, but was never part of the official schedule. Located at the small town of Castle Donington, the track was criticized by journalists and fans for not having many overtaking spots. Senna proved them wrong in a single lap and made history with team McLaren.
Best lap ever
As rain fell over Donington Park, Senna started the European GP in spectacular fashion. After being squeezed by Michael Schumacher (Benetton), Ayrton passed the German and barely paid attention to Karl Wendingler (Sauber), easily overtaking him. Right after that, he also left behind both Williams, driven by Damon Hill and Alain Prost. At the end of the race, the Brazilian driver lapped the third-place finisher, who was Prost.
Other intriguing facts involving Senna and Donington Park
- Senna’s first experience driving an F1 car took place in 1983, when he tested a Williams in Donington Park.
- At the European GP, Senna had a perfect strategy and was Always one step ahead of team Williams: Ayrton made “only” five pit-stops, while Prost, who finished in third, made seven. All thanks to the rain that kept stopping and starting again a few minutes later.
- In 1993, at the race that preceded the European GP, Ayrton had also made history on a wet track: the three-time champion won the Brazilian GP, which took place at Interlagos, beating the Williams driven by Alain Prost and Damon Hill.
- Senna never finished a race one lap ahead of the second-place finisher, but he almost did it at Donington: the Brazilian crossed the finish line 1min 23s 199 ahead of Williams’ Damon Hill. It was the largest gap between a first and a second-place finisher in F1.