In the beautiful new film, 'Senna' - out in UK cinemas in June - Ayrton ponders, after being denied the chance of winning at Monaco in 1984, that when you're a small guy you will be the victim of the politics of the establishment. On that occasion he meekly accepted it and, among the unearthed treasures of footage, there is some of him walking with his second-place trophy, giving a shy smile then a fist of delight. It had, after all, been a sensational performance.
It's just one of many revealing snippets in what is a wonderful piece of work. The typical reaction of those in the media who saw it was 'what about this incident, what about that one?' and it's true that we could all probably happily watch five hours or more of this subject matter. But to confine the many wonders of his career within the 100 minutes required for cinema, many reluctant calls had to be made about what to cut, and, as the film's creators explained at the screening in Senna's home town of Morumbi, these decisions were often dictated by the need to maintain a narrative to carry the film.
The storyline picked out is just one of many possible, but the portrayal of the little guy at the mercy of the establishment who breaks through and becomes the establishment by the force of his personality, righteous belief and spellbinding talent works pretty well.
Alain Prost is cast as a key part of 'the establishment', the guy whose power and influence had the race at Monaco stopped before he suffered the embarrassment of being overtaken by the rookie in the Toleman. Later, as they are teamed together at McLaren, it's Prost's relationship with FISA president Jean Marie Balestre that is portrayed as frustrating Senna's greater driving skills from being rewarded with commensurate success.
Ayrton Senna © LAT
The events of Suzuka 1989 are used as a fulcrum in the story, where - using footage taken by a fan, of Prost heading for the stewards room the moment he alighted from his car - the establishment forces conspire to cheat Senna of his due. In this we are reminded how unfairly Senna was treated: the moving of pole to the disadvantageous side after he'd set it, his disqualification from the race for a spurious 'offence'.
It was blatantly wrong and given someone of Senna's hair-trigger emotion and fundamentalist outlook, it explains - without excusing - his actions there one year later. Prost is cast in a slightly villainous role, but then this is the story from Senna's perspective. It isn't intended to be a Senna/Prost documentary, and is all the better for that subjective take.
Like any cinematic storyline, it's a simplified version of what happened. In real life there are ambiguities and incidents that are inconveniently out-of-sequence with a narrative. But if you suspend that, watch it only as a compelling story, you feel its beauty wrapping itself around you; in turns poignant, turbulent, powerful, violent, spiritual.
The Sao Paulo street scenes as his body is returned home, hundreds of thousands lining the route, the testimony of the people as they are asked what Ayrton meant to them; these are powerful reminders of how totally he transcended the sport.
Once he'd broken through to become the sport's standard-bearer, he was not shy about throwing his weight around and there's a creeping element of spoilt brattishness about him as the film's chronology unfolds. His rant about being prevented (by Prost) from being able to transfer to Williams in 1993 now it had the fastest car, leaves you thinking: 'Tough. That's the game. Deal with it'.
It's projecting a very different attitude to the young Toleman driver with the shy smile. It's a pity there isn't footage of him using his status to try messing with Michael Schumacher's head by ranting at him at Magny-Cours in 1993, or later the same year at Hockenheim testing.
But one of the great things about this film is the unearthing of rarely or never-before-seen footage. We see him, for example, standing on the bank at Aida with Gerhard Berger, animatedly pointing out something about Schumacher's Benetton - presumably its uncanny traction. And so the final tragic pieces of the story begin to slot into place.
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