As we approach the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix on November 11, we remember Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna, one of the greatest racers in Formula One history.
The winner of an amazing 41 grand prix and three World Drivers' Championships (in 1988, 1990 and 1991), Senna was born in 1960 to a prominent family in São Paulo. Showing an early aptitude for racing, he entered his first go-kart competition at age 13. After moving to the U.K., he joined his first Formula One team in 1984.
That year, the Monaco Grand Prix put Senna on the map: He stayed steady in eighth place for most of the race, but barreled into second on one of the most dangerous turns of the course, sweeping through the slick streets of Monte Carlo to finish second behind future rival Alain Prost. It was only the sixth Formula One race for Senna, who would eventually be known as "the King of Monaco."
In 1990, he took the pole position at Jerez de la Frontera, breaking the circuit's record and marking his 50th pole position in Formula One. To this day, his six consecutive grand prix victories have never been surpassed.
"He would take the car beyond its design capabilities," ESPN commentator John Bisignano explained in the 2010 documentary Senna. "He would brake later, fly into these corners where the car was just over the edge, and somehow, he could dance a dance with that car to where it stayed on the track."
But Senna's career came to a tragic end on May 1, 1994 when his car smashed into a concrete retaining wall during the San Marino Grand Prix. The Brazilian government declared three days of national mourning and an estimated three million people filled the streets of São Paulo as his coffin was taken from the airport to the July 9 Palace, where he laid in state.
Nearly a quarter-century later, Ayrton Senna is still beloved as a Formula One legend—one possessed of an almost supernatural talent, an unparalleled urge to push the limits, and an unsurpassed skill at driving in wet weather. He forever changed the sport—altering the aesthetic, improving safety, and inspiring contemporary drivers.
Weeks before that fatal crash, Senna and his sister Viviane had discussed creating a foundation to help young people in Brazil. Six weeks after his death, she launched the Ayrton Senna Institute, an educational nonprofit that reaches more than two million students and 60,000 educators every year. In addition to supporting traditional educational initiatives, the institute offers computer coding classes and teaches leadership, communication and other "soft skills" students need to compete in the modern world.
To further honor his skill and spirit, TAG Heuer has designed a special-edition watch inspired by "Magic Senna," a TAG Ambassador dating back to 1991.
Limited to just 175 individually numbered pieces, this TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02 Tourbillon comes on a matte black leather-and-rubber strap and a tachymeter inscribed with the name "Senna." With a 65-hour power reserve, it's powered by a certified chronometer movement and features a tourbillion visible at six o'clock.
"Ayrton Senna's unequaled talent and panache ensured he left a lasting mark on Formula One, more than any driver before or since."