A true legend of Formula 1, Ayrton Senna Williams only joined the team for the 1994 season, where he died during the San Marino Grand Prix, but at the end of the 1991 campaign – his last title – the three-time World Champion reassessed his options.
This season was marked by the duel between McLaren and Williams. However, the Brazilian preferred to remain loyal to McLaren’s engine manufacturer Honda, which convinced him of his long-term commitment, but it was Williams who dominated the 1992 and 1993 campaigns with Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost. An Alain Prost was thanked by Ferrari in the context of the use of the word “lorry” To match the single seater… “He was paid not to compete in 1992”Julian Jacobi, the manager of the French, pointed out on the Beyond The Grid podcast. “And Ayrton always thought it was very funny. He said, ‘I’m very impressed that a driver can pay in full for doing nothing for a year’. But then he went back to racing for Williams.”
“Ayrton wanted to join Williams, but he was loyal to Honda. Before, his first instinct was to go to Williams, but he was especially loyal to Mr. Kawamoto, the president of Honda. They were very close because Honda In short, He went to McLaren in 1988, bringing Ayrton there, and they won three championships together. I remember that even at the end of 1991, when he won his third title, he had the intuition that the Honda engine was no more than him, and he was worried about the future. was”.
“And I remember in 1991, we went to Spa with two contracts for Ayrton: one for McLaren, one for Williams. And Ayrton knew that I think he should have gone to Williams. Both of our contracts were ready to be signed. Sunday .in the morning we thought he was going to sign with Williams. But the night before he talked to Kawamoto. Sunday morning he came and said he was going to stay for another year. So he stayed at McLaren in 1992. He left [chez Williams] For 1992, anymore and Nigel probably wouldn’t be there. And that’s the year he won the championship. But when Ayrton retired, Mansell stayed. Anyway, Kawamoto convinced him to stay and Honda will stick with it.”
“It was a really tough decision. And ultimately it was up to him. All we could do was present both alternatives. In the end, he chose loyalty. Then, of course, Honda decided to back out, and I believe , Ayrton was told three months earlier that Ron had been told [Dennis, directeur de McLaren]. He was devastated. And we had to find another steering wheel for 1993. What if he couldn’t race in 1993? It almost happened. “What happened was that he was thinking of taking a year off, like Alain did in 1992.”
McLaren had to pull out all the stops to convince Senna to stay for 1993 despite Honda’s departure: Philip Morris (a subsidiary of Marlboro) persuaded the Brazilian to attend a crisis meeting with the staff in February 1993. of the tobacco company and the stall. However, securing a full-season contract proved financially impossible.
“Ayrton was concerned that the Ford factory engine was in Benetton and Ronda [Dennis] there is only one client engine”Jacoby explained. “Ron, of course, had to find the balance because he had to pay for the engines and therefore had less money at his disposal to pay Ayrton. Ron said he only had 5 million at his disposal and Ayrton replied: “Then I’ll just do the first five races.” The contract was extended race by race for the rest of the season. And if the money didn’t come by Wednesday at the latest, it didn’t come. And that happened twice.”
“He came late to Imola because the money didn’t come: he didn’t go, then the Brazilian office couldn’t find him. So he came a day late and Joe Ramirez [coordinateur de McLaren, ndlr] went to Rome to be picked up by helicopter but went to the wrong airport. In short, he came too late, did the first free practice, put the car in the pit wall at the end, remember. The other time was at the German Grand Prix.”
Despite the struggling single-seater, the brilliant Senna was to take five wins and finish second in the championship that year… Before joining the Williams team, two years after he could have, fate was as tragic as we know it.