The 2010 film Senna provided the motivation for Richard Craig to write this new biography of Brazil’s great F1 hero.
He seems to have mixed feelings about the the movie, which he describes as “fantastic” but also “hagiographic”, portraying Senna as “some sort of Christ in a crash helmet”.
In response, Craig wrote a book which he says “looks at both sides of Senna and explores why he and other celebrities who die young have so many of their misdemeanours smoothed over after their passing”.
This narrow conceit might be worthy of an entire book if it considered several similar subjects in sufficient detail. But after encouraging readers to “not adopt pink-hued ocular apparatus too quickly” The Messiah of Motor Racing quickly settles into the usual chronology familiar from a dozen other Senna books.
This is the latest addition to a market already saturated with Senna literature. My bookshelves seem to feature as many biographies on him as every other F1 driver combined.
Any new title on this subject needs to provide something that distinguishes it from what has gone before. This offers perspectives from Thierry Boutsen, journalist Mike Doodson and photographer Keith Sutton but there’s no compelling new insight.
The book weighs in at under 200 pages and the prose is briskly-paced but even so there’s too much filler. I enjoy the dry wit of Clive James in the eighties’ season review videos as much as anyone but I see no need to repeatedly quote it here.
There are some basic errors, too. The passage of 18 years since Senna’s death has apparently not been enough time to accurately count how many races he started (161, not 141). There’s no index (there is a bibliography without citations) but that hardly matters because the book doesn’t contain any new information.
Senna was neither a saintly paragon of virtue nor a lunatic with a death wish, and this has not been entirely overlooked by his previous biographers. Richard Williams’ excellent The Death of Ayrton Senna remains one of the most illuminating and balanced views of this divisive figure.
But Senna is one of those rare individuals who transcends the sport and deserves a scholarly biography which avoids the mawkish sentimentality of much previous literature on him. When one finally arrives, hopefully the steady drip of half-baked efforts will cease.
F1 Fanatic rating
Ayrton Senna: The Messiah of Motor Racing
Author: Richard Craig
Publisher: Darton, Longman and Todd
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