Formula 1

Ayrton Senna: Hamilton, Alonso among F1 stars to laud Brazilian great

Ayrton Senna held a fond place in the hearts of F1 greats, with many considering him the best of all time. He died 26 years ago on 1 May in San Marino.

Remembering Ayrton Senna, 26 years after his death stunned F1

Three-time world champion Ayrton Senna died at the age of 34 when his Williams crashed at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola on 1 May, 1994, depriving Formula One lof one of the greatest and most respected drivers of all time.

The likes of Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton – the sport's most successful drivers – have been moved to tears by surpassing milestones from the revered Brazilian's career.

In the 26 years since his death, his importance has not waned in the slightest, with many of the biggest names ensuring he continues to be held in the highest regard. 

Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton

"A lot of the way I drive today is inspired by the way I saw him drive. People say I have an aggressive style and sometimes I don't think that is all just me. I think it's partly because I watched Ayrton Senna when I was young, and I thought: 'This is how I want to drive when I get the opportunity.' And I went out there and tried it on the kart track. And my whole approach to racing has developed from there. He was also such a magnetic personality. I particularly loved his vulnerability and his openness. I only met him once, the year before he died, but it left a lasting impression on me. As a kid, you see these people and you think they're super-heroes. But everyone has weaknesses. And for all Senna's brilliance and achievements, so did he."

1996 world champion Damon Hill (via The Guardian)

"The Japanese and the Brazilians saw him as a god. His passion was undeniable, and I sincerely believe he wanted to make the world a better place. Ayrton was heroic in that sense because he felt deeply and compassionately, and he was struggling as to how best he could use his position to help people."

Former McLaren team principal Ron Dennis (via Formula1.com)

"I raised my game because I could see the commitment he brought to his driving. Like any team situation, if someone demonstrates that you can try even harder, then you do. He showed what he was prepared to do to achieve his objectives. He raised my game because I think that you try to be as good as the person you are with. I liked his principles – they played to my strengths. He changed Formula One because he raised everybody's game."

Former team-mate and 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell (via BBC Sport)

"Ayrton was our toughest rival. He would leave no stone unturned to get the utmost out of his car and his team. As the years ticked on, we developed a healthy respect and understanding for each other and became friends. [He was a] true thoroughbred racer."

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso

"He was an inspiration. I remember some of the races that we could see in the news in Spain, because we didn’t have the TV coverage of Formula One. I remember I went to school, and on my book, I didn't have girls – obviously I was too young to have girls on the book – but I had Ayrton there, and the same in my room. I had a big poster of Ayrton and even my first go-karts were in the colours of Ayrton's McLaren because my father also liked him."

Two-time world champion Emerson Fittipaldi (via McLaren.com)

"Ayrton transcended the state of mere driver and reached a level of respect and envy that puts him on a higher plain than any of his rivals. It is my opinion that, had Ayrton walked uninjured from his Imola 1994 accident, he would have won the world championship for Williams in all three of those years – 1994, 1995 and 1996 – which would have given him a career total of six world championships to Michael's [Schumacher] five."

Former team-mate and four-time world champion Alain Prost (via Autoweek)

"I always said, Ayrton didn't want to beat me, he wanted to destroy me. That was his motivation from the first day; on my last day, in Adelaide, everything changed completely. On the podium in Japan two weeks earlier, he wouldn't even look at me, but now I was retiring, and he put his arm around me!"

Former Williams team principal Frank Williams

"Ayrton knew what he wanted, and he knew who in the company could deliver and he went after the guys and got them onside. He got the best out of everybody; that's what he was good at. And on the track in a racing car, he was extraordinarily special. [He had] immense brain power, charm, charisma and determination like you can't believe."

Three-time world champion Niki Lauda

"He was the best and most charismatic race driver F1 has ever had. He had personality, he was fast and he had charisma. No wonder that he won everything."