Fittipaldi, Piquet, Barrichello, Massa – Brazil has produced plenty of Formula 1 winners over the years, but arguably none have had as big an impact as the late, great Ayrton Senna. To this day, the three-time world champion continues to inspire an entire country – including F1 hopeful Felipe Drugovich. Here, the Aston Martin reserve driver reveals exclusively what makes Senna such an important F1 Icon…
I lived in Brazil from when I was born till I was 13 years old, full-time. Obviously, I go back there very often, so I do feel fully like a Brazilian. My family is still there, and I think I got the passion for motorsport from them.
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They really love the sport, but just in general anything with an engine or with some wheels they really have that passion for it. That’s where the passion came from. I started liking it more and more and basically when I was eight years old they made me try a go kart and it all started from there.
It’s difficult to say why Brazil loves motorsport so much. I think it goes in phases. After Senna, the country just had so much passion for the sport and people kept watching it all the time, and Brazil is a very passionate country as it is!
I think just in general, my family were massive fans of him. They have helmets and different stuff of his, and you just see his colours everywhere, even stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with Brazil or motorsport. But once you just see the yellow with a green and a blue stripe, it means it’s from him. He became such an icon that you see it everywhere.
Senna’s influence on me growing up was quite a lot actually. I didn’t get to see him driving in real time but still there are so many stories, documentaries that we could watch, that I learn from, just to try to get a feeling of how it was back then.
Also, here in the teams nowadays there are so many people that have worked with him, so there are a lot of stories that I can get to listen to and that’s quite nice.
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I’ve heard a few nice stories because [former Mclaren boss] Martin Whitmarsh – who is with Aston Martin right now – I think his first two drivers in Formula 1 where Alain Prost and Senna, so has he told me a few nice things.
But I’ve already watched too much of his highlights, so I don’t do that anymore. There was a time I used to watch everything, just trying to absorb as much as I could from that.
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Senna to Brazil is pretty much how [Max] Verstappen is in the Netherlands – but even more.
Obviously now with the newer generation they don’t know as much about Senna, but back then he was the only hero that the country had apart from Pele. They were the biggest guys in Brazil.
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I think it’s because he was quite different from any other athlete there was back then. The personality was quite different, he was very focused, and he just did the job on track.
I think he had something that you couldn’t confuse with anyone else. He was just unique and also how he treated the fans was quite nice, so I think he got the respect from that.
If I could have him here with me, I would ask him how it was back then, how were the cars to drive. Just the more technical stuff, that would be really cool.
My ultimate goal is to follow in his footsteps and make it on to the grid. It would be amazing.
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People back home having had Senna before, they are very passionate about the sport, so they are missing some Brazilian drivers here [in F1].
So, I feel that weight on my shoulder, a good weight in a good way; people are wanting me to go there and represent Brazil, so hopefully one day I can be there and represent the country.
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