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Ayrton Senna

Senna's mega drive: Donington 1993, 30 years on

With 11 April marking 30 years since Ayrton Senna's victory at the 1993 European Grand Prix, RacingNews365.com relives one of F1's all-time great performances.

Senna Donington 1993
To news overview © XPB

Ayrton Senna was known as a master of wet-weather racing, having first shot to prominence in the rain-shortened 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, before taking his first win in atrocious conditions at the following year's Portuguese Grand Prix.

41 wins and three World Championship titles bears testimony to Senna's status as one of F1's all-time greats, with countless examples of the Brazilian displaying his blistering speed and unparalleled ability.

And on this day 30 years ago, at Donington Park in 1993, Senna showcased his superiority over the rest of the field in devastating fashion.

			© Photo4
	© Photo4

Low expectations for 1993

Heading into 1993, Senna was facing the unusual prospect of not being one of the title favourites. The Brazilian had finished a distant fourth in the 1992 standings as Nigel Mansell had swept all before him in his Williams FW14B, complete with cutting-edge active suspension and a Renault engine that was the class of the field.

With McLaren set to lose their Honda power units for 1993, and having to make do with under-powered Ford V8 engines, Senna tried everything to force his way into a seat at Williams, even offering to drive for the team for nothing.

However, arch-rival Alain Prost had already secured a seat at Williams for 1993, and the Frenchman’s contract contained a clause vetoing Senna joining him.

Unhappy at contractual negotiations, Mansell would depart Williams at the end of 1992, meaning Prost would instead be partnered in 1993 by Damon Hill, promoted to a race seat after serving two years as the team's test driver.

With no prospects of a seat at Williams, and the McLaren MP4/8 not thought to be a title contender, there were doubts over whether Senna would even be on the grid in 1993.

Ultimately, the Brazilian did suit up for McLaren at the season's first round in South Africa, initially on a race-by-race basis, though he would end up staying for the whole season.

After finishing second to Prost at Kyalami, Senna would showcase his skills in the wet at the following round on home soil in Interlagos, making a mockery of his inferior machinery to take a brilliant win in changeable conditions as Prost slid into the gravel and out of the race.

But even Senna's Brazil win paled in comparison with his efforts at the following round at Donington Park on Easter weekend.

			© XPB
	© XPB

A changeable challenge at Donington

Some predictably unpredictable English weather greeted the drivers on Sunday, with rain tyres the order of the day on a slippery track. Prost lined up on pole position ahead of Hill, with Michael Schumacher third and Senna fourth.

After being crowded out at the start and dropping to fifth behind a fast-starting Karl Wendlinger, Senna soon found his rhythm and muscled his way past Schumacher at the Craner Curves, before darting inside Wendlinger as they headed up to the Old Hairpin.

Next on the menu for Senna was Hill, who succumbed to the Brazilian's attack as they went around the right-hander at McLean's.

Now Senna had his old rival Prost in his sights, with the Frenchman failing to assert his dominance in conditions he was known to be averse to.

Finding grip where others feared to tread, Senna was able to brake later and carry more speed through the corners, and duly passed Prost as they negotiated the Melbourne Hairpin to go from fifth to first before Lap 1 was out.

From then on, Senna would control the race, winning by over a minute from Hill and relinquishing his lead only when making one of four pit-stops, with the changeable East Midlands weather necessitating the usage of both wet and dry tyres.

In the days before pit lane speed limits, Senna actually set fastest lap when he came in to pit but aborted his stop, inadvertently showing that there was a shortcut through the pit lane.

Although Senna was not to win the 1993 title, with Prost and Williams eventually asserting their dominance, the Brazilian's epic drive at Donington is widely considered one of the finest individual performances in F1 history.

Check out Senna's legendary opening lap at Donington below.

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