Yes, it’s just what Formula One literature needs – yet another biography of Ayrton Senna.
The Life of Ayrton Senna is a substantial 600-plus page work. Rubython is the author of Business F1 magazine, a monthly magazine with a hefty £25 price tag and a rigid focus on Formula One business and politics – not sport.
The book focuses particular attention on the infamous Senna trial. In an exhaustive 41-page treatment of the trial, Rubython is particularly scathing of state prosecutor Maurizio Passarini, who “accuse[d] honest men of being liars and lost any hope of finding the reason for the accident.”
To Rubython, as to many Formula One journalists and commentators, the five-year legislative process that followed the death of Senna was an expensive and fruitless bureaucratic exercise that served only to hinder attempts to understand what the cause was. It culminated in attempts to prosecute Williams employees Frank Williams, Patrick Head and Adrian Newey, FIA circuit director Roland Bruynseraede, circuit director Giorgio Poggi and track owner Federico Bendinelli.
Thankfully he gives more space to an account of Senna’s spectacular life than the ugly controversy over the details of his death. The very early years are done away with in far less space than many other biographies of Senna, and separate chapters given over to the Formula Ford and Formula Three years.
The impression of Senna that emerges is of a determined but extremely calculating young man, who had the extraordinary guile to turn down his first F1 opportunity (with McLaren) in favour of a straight race drive with a lesser team (Toleman). The author even goes so far as to suggest that Senna deliberately held back from ascending through the formulae too quickly, to ensure his dominance in each given category – a bold assertion. Senna’s Christian evangelism is not given the same weight as by some commentators, particularly his stronger detractors.
The numberable works on Senna often seem like exercises in quality over quantity and this hefty book hardly stands out from the crowd in that respect. Richard Williams’ The Death of Ayrton Senna may be a far more slender volume in comparison but is none the worse for it.
The Life of Ayrton Senna is a thoroughly worthy work on Senna’s life. But perhaps that should be enough for now. Formula One writers have for too long ignored other drivers of comparable significance to Senna – where are the books on Prost, Piquet and Mansell? It seems that a book on them might have to be called Senna’s Rivals to sell any copies.
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