I’ve got to say I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the idea of this book.
The whole tragedy surrounding the Formula One driver’s untimely demise is heartbreaking enough, so I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to peruse a coffee table book of photographs leading up to the day one of the best driver’s of all time died on the track.
Concerned there would be photos of the accident itself I approached the large hardback book with trepidation.
Photographer Ercole Colombo grew up in Italy next to the famed Imola track, where Ayrton Senna died, so was on hand to capture the Brazilian throughout his career.
The photos reveal the many sides of Senna – compassionate individual, family man, religious man and utterly, utterly ruthless on the track.
The track photos I can leave (classic F1 car fans will be drooling, no doubt); it is the personal aspects of the book I love.
The picture of rather unlovable team principal Ron Dennis grabbing a reluctant Senna’s arm during tense contract negotiations; the comparatively basic steering wheel with a handful of buttons, such as ‘radio’ and ‘boost’, compared to today’s mind-boggling wheel; but one piece of information really floored me.
A dark weekend
I’m a Formula One fan myself so was very aware of the day that the 24-year-old driver died and also mindful of the fact that another less well-known driver, Austria’s Roland Ratzenberger had died the previous day on the same track in practice.
News to me after reading this book is that, on the day he died, Senna had an Austrian flag furled up in his car during the race so that he could wave it in memory of Ratzenberger at race end. I never knew that until I read this book.
Not surprisingly, Ratzenberger’s death unsettled Senna to the point where the Brazilian brought forward a pre-arranged drivers’ meeting about safety for the following week.
In the lap of the gods
The pensive look on Senna’s face prior to the fateful race is poignantly captured in these photos; a team doctor even suggested he just quit the sport there and then and go away fishing with him. Yet Senna opted to race.
Thankfully, there is no such graphic imagery of Senna.
Unfortunately there is a photo of the injured Ratzenberger in the book, which, in my view, is disrespectful and unnecessary.
The image on the final page catches you, though, due to circumstances surrounding one of the driver’s years later.
Three drivers stand on the podium at race end, unaware of Senna’s fatality yet heads are bowed, aware of Ratzenberger and of Senna’s serious crash.
The winner of the race? Michael Schumacher.
Ayrton Senna: The Last Night
Published by: Skira Editore
Photographs by: Ercole Colombo
If you like this, I totally recommend Senna, the film. Up there with one of the best sport documentaries I’ve seen. I’d even go so far as to say you don’t need to be a fan of Formula One to watch it, it’s that good.