Senna has been one of the greatest racing driver ever. Not doubt about it. Somebody could argue with you whether he has been the number one. He died unexpectedly and he became instantly a myth. Sometimes happened a myth surpasses what the man was, how often we lose a reasonable view of the facts and suddenly we worship a desirable view of the people already gone.
Senna has an incredible number of events, facts, happenings, etc to be studied and learnt from.
Simracing drivers tend to observe one of his most memorable and misunderstanding sentences.
If you no longer go for the gap which exists you are no longer a racing driver.
People use to understand this in the simplest way of the sentence: you have to attack a preceding car no matter what corner or turn both of you have ahead. Ok, so this could be simplified even more as overtake or die. Isn’t it something too much stupid for a world champion? Yes. It is. Because Senna never intended to say something like this.
In some moment through those years we lost the context. Refresh your memories and remember what happened in the previous race to that sentence.
An explanation of the whole context you should be read here. I extracted some parts.
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.
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.”
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.’”
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.
If you no longer go for a gap… When you exit with better traction, having a better or at least a possible line, in a favourable corner or straight and with no less than 75% of success rate, you are no longer a racing driver.
Every time you going for a gap and you fail, you’re slowing down your rival and giving breath to the pursuing cars. Every time you fail an overtake, the preceding cars take more advantage and your possibilities to make something wonderful fade. Every time you attack a preceding car and try an overtake, you chances to finish the race shrink exponentially.
So, think about it again. Be smart. Think you only have one shot to pass a preceding car and make it count. That’s what Senna would meant to say if a real lesson was his intention.