On the 25th anniversary of the F1 legend’s death, we examine the brilliance of the 2011 documentary ‘Senna’

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the tragic passing of one of Formula 1’s greatest ever drivers, Ayrton Senna.

Even a quarter of a century on from that fateful day, Senna’s legacy is still felt fiercely throughout the motorsport world. 

Not only did Senna’s untimely death lead to a radical improvement in safety in F1 but it secured his status as a legend of the sport.

Naturally, with such a reputation, it was only a matter of time until a film was made about the great F1 driver.

That came in 2011, with the release of ‘Senna.’ The sports documentary, directed by Academy Award-winning Asif Kapadia, used historical footage from Senna’s career, documenting his rise from humble beginnings in go-karts to the pinnacle of motorsport.

The brilliant blend of old race footage and interviews with key people in Senna’s life made for a fascinating watch when the film was first released eight years ago and it still tugs at the heartstrings even now.

We follow Senna through the key moments in his racing career, his rivalry with Mclaren teammate Alain Prost, winning World Championships and securing victory in Brazil to name but a few, all of which elicit differing emotions.  

Senna’s story works so much more profoundly as a documentary, rather than a traditional biopic such as Ron Howard’s Rush, as Senna as a character was filled with such emotion and passion about the sport in which he competed and replacing that with an actor would simply not have had the same effect. 

Of course, the film culminates in the horrific accident that, in 1994, resulted in the tragic death of Ayrton Senna and the film, emphasised superbly with a hauntingly beautiful score by Antonio Pinto, challenges anyone watching not to burst into tears. 

The scene following that, when Senna’s body is brought home to Brazil, perfectly encapsulates just how loved the man was. Hundreds of thousands of people, if not more, line the streets of Sao Paolo to pay their condolences and the love for Senna in that instant permeates the film throughout.

All of that, combined with the sheer joy of seeing Sennawrestling monstrous racing cars to victories and podiums, makes ‘Senna’ one of, if not the best sports documentaries of all time.

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