It’s ironic that this book by Guardian journalist Richard Williams, just 200 pages or so in length, is one of the best biographies of the legendary Brazilian.
Never judge a book by its title. “The Death of Ayrton Senna” may have the hollow ring of a cash-in, but the depth and nuance of the content is far better than that, and not as preoccupied with the death of the champion as the title might suggest.
Rather than serving up every last tiny little factoid about Senna’s existence, Williams sews together Senna’s achievements in the cockpit, his memorable words outside it, and Williams’ own illuminating perspectives, into a seamless narrative.
The best biographies are those that reveal those precious, telling moments that reflect all the myriad, often conflicting impulses at work in a person.
“The Death of Ayrton Senna” has exactly the kind of balanced, detailed perspective on Senna that most works on him lack.
This revised paperback edition (published in 1999) includes further detail on the agonisingly drawn out trial that followed his death.
It’s also unhesitatingly honest in a way none of the other biographies seem to be. Senna not only had flaws, but Williams even has the forthrightness to point out that his upbringing could scarcely have been better for a person wishing to become a racing driver.
Williams takes no cheap shots, but he’s not afraid of puncturing myths. Rather like his excellent biography of Enzo Ferrari, he doesn’t buy into the Senna cult. “The Death of Ayrton Senna” is an unmissable book because of it.