May 1 will mark the 25th death anniversary of Ayrton Senna, one of the greatest racing driver in the history of Formula One. Termed as the 'legend' by many, he lost his life during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix held at the Imola Circuit. The day of his death has been dubbed as the "Senna Day" in Brazil, is home country where he termed no less than a 'superhero'. A survey in 2014 showed 47% of people in Senna's home city of Sao Paulo ranked him as the biggest sporting name in the country. Football great Pele was a distant second.
Senna's death sparked an outpouring of grief around the world. But his loss was felt acutely in Brazil where the sight of Senna, easily identifiable by his distinctive yellow crash helmet, taking the chequered flag, had been a rare source of joy for ordinary people struggling to make ends meet.
"In the 1980s we were living with hyperinflation, the end of the military dictatorship -- it didn't make sense to be proud of Brazil," explained said Alexander Grunwald, a Brazilian motorsports journalist. "But Senna was carrying the Brazilian flag around the world like a symbol that made so many Brazilians proud." Senna's legacy was to "transform" F1 racing, he further added.
After Senna last title in 1991, there has never been a world champion from Brazil. "There were some successes after Ayrton Senna ... but the lack of an internal structure in Brazilian motorsport did not allow its development," said Alexander Grunwald, a Brazilian motorsports journalist.
Charismatic and controversial, Senna was crowned the F1 world champion in 1988, 1990 and 1991 when he drove for McLaren. He had already switched to the Williams team when he was killed. It was at McLaren that Senna's notorious rivalry with French driver Alain Prost began -- a relationship that has been scrutinized over and over by F1 observers for years. "It's obvious that everything was not perfect ... there was rivalry on the track," said Brazilian F1 journalist Fred Sabino.
However, "the positive aspects outweighed the negative," he added. After years of public bickering, the two drivers appeared to resolve their differences before Senna's death. Prost helped carry the coffin of his deceased team-mate. "Determination" and "dedication" are the words often used to explain Senna's success on the track.
Image Source: France24