What Would Have Happened if... Ayrton Senna Had Survived His Imola Crash in May 1994

Stuart Tidman21 Jan 2014 09:24

Over Christmas, I spent most of my time at the poolside of an excellent hotel in south-west Tenerife, not just enjoying the warm weather, the somewhat unusual volcanic landscape and scantily clad ladies, but a book I picked up in the airport about the life of the Brazilian Formula One legend, Ayrton Senna. This, combined with the completely unexpected news of the horrific skiing accident seven times World Champion Michael Schumacher suffered, inspired me to write an article.

Initially, it was going to be a look back at the glory days of Formula One during the eighties and nineties, but my fiancée’s son (a huge F1 fanatic) and his continual barrage of questions left me wondering what the motor-racing scene would have been like if Senna had survived his crash and raced on. Personally, I considered the Brazilian absolutely, fantastically thrilling entertainment on the track, with his pre and post-race press conferences bordering on Eric Cantona style pathos and meaning. Senna was arguably the best F1 driver who ever drove a car in anger, but – according to some quarters of the British press at the time – was a bit of an arrogant cock. I was never fortunate enough to have met the great man myself, so could never give a try representation of how he really was. But I did encounter Herr Schumacher – albeit very briefly – at the 2011 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

While driving a shuttle around the circuit infield ferrying media, photographers and celebrities between the new ‘Wing’ pit complex, the helipad and the old pits at the south of the track, I frequently observed the drivers and their entourages shuffling behind the ‘Wing’. It was quite normal for me to be brought to an abrupt halt as another helicopter landed, or a scrum of paparazzi and T.V cameras darted out onto the service road in front of me. On one occasion, I was made (sic) to stop to allow Lewis Hamilton’s then partner, Nicole Scherzinger (Hello……….) to safely cross. As the day progressed, I also transported Carol Vorderman (pretty smile) and BBC presenter Suzi Perry (very nice legs) from one location to another.

However, the biggest melee broke out as a certain seven times former champion appeared. Completely surrounded by the press and an abundance of fans with smartphones in camera mode, all seemed to be keeping a good arm’s length away from the German – it was though he had an exclusion zone around him as he walked along, that no-one was allowed to venture into. Perhaps it was a Doctor Who-esque force field he had acquired with his vast wealth, which had the ability to send undesirables to the far side of the galaxy, never to be seen again. Schumacher, from behind his very expensive designer sunglasses, gave the impression he was surveying the scene with distain – all of this was just a necessary inconvenience and a more boring part of his chosen occupation. But then, if I was permanently pestered and followed around by intrusive photographers, I’d be just as indifferent to their presence. For the thirty or so seconds I observed him from my vantage point, his face more looked like he had smelt something most unpleasant, but could not locate its source. Wonder if I look like that when I arrive at work?

This article is in no means going to be disrespectful or derogatory to the memory of Ayrton Senna or intentionally means to cause any upset or hurt to his family, friends or millions of fans throughout the world. I still remember that dreadful first Sunday in May 1994. To me, it was one of those days you’ll always remember where you were when you heard such big news. I was attending a classic sports car and retired racing car exhibition in Birmingham with my father. As we wandered around the amassed Le Mans winners, former Formula One competitors and several beautiful Aston Martins the type James Bond would normally be seen behind the wheel, we became aware of rumours circulating amongst the crowd of something had happened at that day’s race at Imola. From what I could glean, a big accident had occurred with one of the new Williams Renaults.

A short while later, an announcement was made over the public address system of the NEC which left no-one in any doubt what had happened. Three times F1 World Champion, the Brazilian Ayrton Senna had been involved in a very heavy accident at the Tamberello bend on the Imola track, resulting in him being air lifted to hospital by helicopter immediately. His condition was very, very serious. All the motorsport fans at the exhibition were just coming to terms with the death of Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger the day before. Now the best driver in the sport, the guy who drove fearlessly with an air of invincibility – near indestructible quality - around him, had come to grief. Everyone in the exhibition looked at each other in disbelief. If an air ambulance had been summoned, it must have been really bad. I loved to watch F1 races, and thought of all the times I had watched Senna win. He had frustrated me so many times, always appearing to have the measure of my compatriot Nigel Mansell and now Damon Hill. Only now, nearly twenty years on from that dreadful day – and without jingoistic glasses on – do I see what he brought to motor racing, and developed it for the better. Of what I know of his professional career up to his untimely death, and how Formula One has continued since, here is how I see the future would have been if Senna had lived.

1994 – Brazilian Three times World Champion, Ayrton Senna becomes the third driver to be involved in an incident at the San Marino Grand Prix, crashing heavily at the Tamberello bend on lap fourteen. Like his compatriot Rubens Barrichello who had his own big incident the previous Friday, Senna is kept in hospital overnight for observation, but released the following morning. Williams state the case of the crash is possibly hydraulic failure. At the next race, Senna now forty points behind championship leader Michael Schumacher, gains his first victory for his new employer, winning the Monaco Grand Prix. As the season progresses, the Benetton Ford in Schumacher’s hands is delicious, with Senna pushing the German hard. After a couple of disqualifications for rule infringements and a two race ban for the German, Senna and team-mate Hill close up on Schumacher, and inevitably create a final race showdown. Whoever could finish in front of the other out of Schumacher and Senna would be champion. At the start of the race, the Brazilian trailed by just one solitary point. During the final fixture in Adelaide, Schumacher clipped a wall, seriously damaging his car, unbeknown to Senna. He caught up with the German just after this collision a few short turns later, and attempted to naturally overtake. Positioning himself for the next turn, Schumacher then collided with Senna’s Williams, damaging the Brazilian’s front suspension and eliminating both drivers. Determined to carry on, livid Senna has to be told by his pit crew his car was undriveable and unsafe several times, and reluctantly retires from the race, thereby gifting Schumacher the title. Hill wins the race though. So begins a new rivalry reminiscent of the Prost – Senna tangles in the past.

Michael Schumacher champion of 1994 (First Title)

1995 – After a full close season of testing, Senna begins to develop a great relationship with the Renault engineers reminiscent of his previous one with Honda. His previous time working with Renault when he was at Lotus assists greatly. Despite Schumacher’s new impetus as reigning champion, his obvious developing brilliance and his ability to make his Benetton perform better than anyone expects, Senna and Hill combine to become a very formidable double act. If the German had a team-mate of the calibre of Hill, he’d have an excellent chance of retaining his crown. For all intense and purposes, it seems Senna missed the intense rivalry with Prost, Piquet and Mansell. Schumacher has rekindled that fire in the Brazilian. Additionally, Mansell returned to F1 from his foray into American CART racing, signing for McLaren. This strange juxtaposition for Senna and Mansell, of driving for the team the other was racing for a few years previous is not lost on the British media. Schumacher leaves Benetton at the end of the season to join Ferrari, driving alongside Rubens Barrichello. Mansell retires from racing completely, after an indifferent season. McLaren are just beginning to come to terms with new engine supplier, Mercedes-Benz. Their other driver, Finnish Mika Hakkinen is involved in a heavy accident in practice at the Australian Grand Prix, due to a rear puncture resulting in him hitting a wall side-on at 120mph. After being hospitalised for a while, he makes a full recovery. Just as when Barrichello crashed at Imola the previous year, Senna is one of the first drivers to see his former team-mate, and try and establish what occurred.

Ayrton Senna champion of 1995 (Fourth Title)

1996 – A repeat year for Williams, and a near carbon-copy for Senna of the dominant 1988 season he had with McLaren. The Williams Renault proves to be so consistent and reliable, it’s only the team’s different colour scheme that shows it is a different car to that of Senna’s first championship success. Senna’s only problem is finishing in front of his team-mate, Damon Hill, who is improving greatly the more he races. Ferrari are a work in progress, so Schumacher proves no real threat as such, but does score his first victory for his new team at the Spanish Grand Prix. After Senna wraps up his fifth record equally title, Hill announces he is leaving Williams after spending the previous three seasons in the Brazilian’s slipstream. He is replaced by test driver and fellow Brit, David Coulthard. Also at Williams, designer Adrian Newey leaves, moving to British rivals McLaren. Benetton technical director, Ross Brawn leaves the team after three years to be reunited with Schumacher at Ferrari. Brawn was credited with devising Benetton’s successful race strategy, and assisting Schumacher to the title in 1994. Renault announces they will leave F1 at the end of the 1997 season, but will have their engines built under licence and supplied to Williams (as Mechachrome) and Benetton (as Playlife).

Ayrton Senna champion of 1996 (Equals Fangio’s record of Five titles)

1997 – Now in his fourth season with Williams, Senna is determined to set a new record of champions won. Ferrari and McLaren have improved greatly, with Schumacher not far off the Williams. Brawn the tactician works wonders at the Prancing Horse. Already looking ahead, rumours surface Senna is looking to leave Williams and find a more competitive car for 1998. No doubt the final few seasons at McLaren still stick in his mind, when he was off the pace of the then emerging Williams. Senna had frequently told friends and family he’d like to end his career at the Tiffosi, and with their car on the ascendancy, it was just a matter of time. As it is announced the Brazilian will be partnering Schumacher in 1998, the current season comes to a head at the final race of the season in Spain. Needing a win to claim his second title, Schumacher is caught by Senna in the race and turns into the Williams as they both round a bend. Schumacher’s Ferrari bounces off the side pod of Senna’s car, and eliminates himself from the race in the process, thus handing his rival the title. Some say this ‘nudge’ was Schumacher pointing out to his new team-mate who was ‘boss’ at Marenello. However, the FIA seek retribution against the German for his behaviour, and he is disqualified from the 1997 championship, promoting Williams’ other driver, David Coulthard up to second. Seeing his team leader leave for Ferrari, Coulthard himself moves to McLaren.

Ayrton Senna champion of 1997 (record Sixth Title)

1998 – For the first time since 1954, Ferrari have two world champions racing for them. The media speculate and insinuate as to who will have the upper hand out of their excellent charges. Senna was right about his former team, Williams, as they could only manage three podiums throughout the whole season. This year, McLaren and Ferrari are the main protagonists, as they compete against each other. McLaren just having the edge in their Adrian Newey inspired car. The faster circuits suit the British team more, the slower circuits with more twists more to Ferrari’s taste. With two races to go, Schumacher, Senna and Hakkinen all have exceptional chances to take the title, with it being too close to call. Rumours began to circulate the Brazilian might retire if he won his seventh title. Surprising all, Hakkinen wins the final two meetings in Luxembourg and Japan to secure his first title.

Mika Hakkinen champion of 1998 (First title)

1999 – Ferrari close the gap on McLaren more so, and it initially appears one of the Tiffosi drivers will be champion this season. However, Schumacher crashes heavily into a tyre wall at Silverstone, while chasing Hakkinen and his team-mate, resulting in a broken leg. For the next six races, Ulsterman Eddie Irvine, the Ferrari test driver, takes the German’s place. Once again, someone else who has had clashed with Senna in the past becomes his team-mate. Hoping the ‘friction’ between their drivers will lead to both titles, Ferrari announce Irvine will be assisting Senna in his quest for his seventh title. Come the last two races of the season, Hakkinen was only two points in front of Senna in the Driver’s Championship. Schumacher had recovered to return to racing, and set out to act as the perfect foil to help his team-mate gain the title. At the penultimate fixture, the inaugural Malaysia Grand Prix, Senna quickly raced away, while Schumacher purposely slowed down to keep both McLarens behind. The Brazilian wins, with Schumacher completing the Ferrari 1–2, forcing Hakkinen to settle for third. After the race, the Ferrari cars were found to be illegal by an FIA official and were disqualified, which would have the effect of making Hakkinen the world champion. Ferrari appealed and the FIA Court of Appeal in Paris later ruled that the cars were not illegal and the Ferraris were reinstated. Senna led the championship by four points from the Fin. A win for either driver at the final race in Japan would give them the championship. In Suzuka, the reigning champion took the lead at the start, while Senna was fourth. Hakkinen and Schumacher got away, while Senna became stuck in traffic. In typical style, the Brazilian dealt with the cars in front of him, and had a fortuitous pit stop to pass others. He was now right behind Coulthard's McLaren. The Scotsman slowed his pace, holding his former team-mate up, and the gap to Hakkinen increased. Senna was finally released when Coulthard spun off, but was well over a minute behind Häkkinen. Schumacher was within five seconds of the leader, and piled on the pressure but the Fin kept him at bay to win the race and the championship. Schumacher was second, and third for Senna was not enough for his title, but was enough to win the Constructors' Championship for Ferrari.

Mika Hakkinen champion of 1999 (second title)

2000 – Ferrari, now with their first constructor’s title in sixteen years, have the bit firmly between their teeth. Their car for the first season of the new millennia is untouchable. Schumacher takes to the new machine quicker than his illustrious team-mate, plus gains more luck too. Senna’s reputation for driving his car to beyond its limits chasing the leader is shown at several meetings again, which also aids his German team-mate’s cause. Senna hints and even insinuates slight favouritism in the team towards Schumacher, but it sounds like age old Senna rhetoric / sour grapes. Most of his mechanical failures had been his own doing, with his German team-mate more ‘gentle’ on his car. In fact, Hakkinen even moves above the Brazilian in the title standings, even catching up with Schumacher come mind season. The German claims the Driver’s title at the penultimate meeting of the season at Suzuka, with Ferrari claiming consecutive constructor’s titles at the last race of the season.

Michael Schumacher champion of 2000 (second title)

2001 – Now with a point to prove, Senna comes out of blocks with a new intensity. Senna possibly saw himself becoming a little like Prost was at McLaren, and returns to developing a better understanding with his team’s engineers. This season’s Ferrari seems more robust with the Brazilian behind the wheel, who clocks up numerous victories. Schumacher is still his main rival, pushing constantly, keeping Senna on his toes. After claiming the driver’s title in Hungary, Senna’s family and friends urge him to retire now. He has won titles in three different decades with three different teams. What else has he to prove? Mika Hakkinen announces at the end of the season he is leaving McLaren to take a year’s sabbatical away from the sport. His place at the team is taken by compatriot Kimi Raikkonen. Renault also by the Benetton team outright, which will now just be known by the French car manufacturer’s name.

Ayrton Senna champion of 2001 (record seventh title)

2002 – With Ferrari still top of the game, the pendulum swings back to Schumacher, who dominates this season in search of his third title. The German finishes every race first or second, except Malaysia where he can only manage third. Through shrewd driving, and savvy tactics that are once again reminiscent of Alain Prost, he eclipses his now legendary team-mate. Ferrari take their fourth consecutive constructor’s crown. Renault sign a young Spaniard as test driver, Fernando Alonso.

Michael Schumacher champion of 2002 (third title)

2003 – For a great part of the 2003 season, several drivers from several teams had mathematical chances of winning the world championship. Eight different drivers won a Grand Prix, amongst them three first time winners. Kimi Räikkönen, driving for McLaren, and Juan Pablo Montoya, driving for, both had a chance of claiming the driver’s crown late in the season, with Räikkönen and Senna still mathematically in contention at the final race, the Japanese Grand Prix. Räikkönen lost the championship to Schumacher by two points, Senna by five, although the Fin won only one race to Schumacher's six. Fernando Alonso is promoted to full time driver at Renault, with Briton Jenson Button leaving the team and joining BAR Honda. Ferrari's defence of the constructor's title was challenged throughout the year by Williams and McLaren, one of the few seasons where there were three front running teams. A crazy scene occurs at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, where the track was invaded by the now-defrocked priest Neil Horan, who ran onto the Hangar straight, running towards the high speed oncoming cars, wearing a green kilt and waving religious banners. Miraculously, no –one is killed or injured as marshals remove him from the track. Perhaps finding it increasingly tough amongst the new generation of Formula One drivers, Senna unexpectedly announces he will retire from racing at the end of the season, at the press conference after his victory at the Italian Grand Prix. Maybe he did realise he had little else to achieve, and his hunger had now began to diminish. Additionally, with his fortieth birthday looming the following year, he considered it the right time to go. Ferrari announce Senna will be replaced by compatriot Felipe Massa, a driver very similar in some ways.

Michael Schumacher champion of 2003 (fourth title)

2004 – With no real competition anymore as such after Ayrton Senna’s retirement, Schumacher takes his fifth crown – third consecutively. The German wins twelve of the first thirteen races and eventually scored thirteen race victories, breaking his own record of eleven race wins in a season, set in 2002. The media claim Formula One is becoming boring and a forgone conclusion – Ferrari victory. Changes are needed. The FIA announce some rule changes to try to inspire some competition.

Michael Schumacher champion of 2004 (fifth title)

2005 – Renault become the team to adapt to the new rules the best, as Spaniard Fernando Alonso takes the driver’s championship after an all mighty scrap with Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen driving for McLaren. Ferrari are no longer the dominant force they were, with their prolonged success coming to an end. The team’s only victory coming in farcical scenes at the United States Grand Prix, after the race was only contested by three teams (Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi) using Bridgestone tyres, after French tyre company Michelin declared their rubber unsafe to run on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's unique banked corner. Alonso becomes the first Spaniard and youngest ever driver’s champion, with his team Renault lifting the constructor’s crown.

Fernando Alonso champion of 2005 (first title)

2006 - This season became a duel between Renault and Ferrari, Alonso and Schumacher. Ferrari had re-established themselves, and were matching the French team win-for-win. It climaxed in in a last race showdown in at the Interlagos circuit, in Brazil. A win for either driver would hand them the driver’s championship, but also their team the constructor’s title. Neither driver does well in the race, with Schumacher suffering a puncture early on, but Alonso comes home in front of his rival claiming fifth place and the title. Schumacher announces his retirement from racing at the end of the season – rumours had been circulating for a few months, with McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen being signed to replace him. The German takes on a technical advisor / development role behind the scenes with the Italian team.

Fernando Alonso champion of 2006

2007 – During the close season, it is rumoured McLaren are about to promote a young, untried and tested driver from their GP2 team into Formula One, Briton Lewis Hamilton. The problem facing the team is having an experienced ‘lead’ driver for Hamilton to work with. Allegedly, McLaren boss Ron Dennis is courting Alonso to leave Renault and join his team, but Dennis instead pulls an all mighty surprise out of the top drawer. In scenes reminiscent of Niki Lauda returning to the sport in 1982, Dennis signs Ayrton Senna to race for him again, and show young Hamilton the way. Dennis has his work cut out convincing engine supplier Mercedes-Benz and McLaren’s main sponsor Vodafone having a driver return to racing after three years away is going to be ‘on the pace’. They needn’t have worried, as the Brazilian finishes second in his first race back in Australia, then wins the next in Malaysia. Ron Dennis’ idea of Senna showing Hamilton the way proves to be inspired, as the rookie is snapping at his multi-championship winning team-mate’s heels. After Senna wins in Monaco (again), Hamilton then his first ever victory in Canada quickly followed by another in America. As the season progressed, an espionage controversy involving Ferrari and McLaren emerged, with the British team apparently acquiring some of the Italian team’s secret technical information from some quarters unknown. This led McLaren being excluded from the constructor’s championship, but their drivers being allowed to keep their points they had a crewed. Some of the press even hinting Senna himself might be involved, having links with both teams, but nothing was ever proved. Come the final race of the season, at Senna’s home circuit of Sao Paulo, the two McLaren drivers and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen were all in with a chance of taking the driver’s prize. Basically, whoever won would be champion, but if other results went their way, any one of the three could beat the others.. The Finnish driver came home first, believing he was champion, but due to some fuel irregularities with other teams, McLaren lodged an appeal with the FIA. If other drivers were disqualified, it would promote their drivers up the finishing order, and thus give them more points and the championship. The appeal was rejected two weeks after the race, and the title was awarded to Raikkonen. Hamilton and Senna ended the season tied on points, but the British driver was given second place in the standings due to better finishes overall through the campaign.

Kimi Raikkonen champion of 2007 (First title)

2008 – Two new street circuits are added to the race calendar, Valencia and Singapore, with the race in the Far East on the public roads being a ‘night’ meeting under floodlights. Inspired by his near miss at winning the driver’s title the previous year, Hamilton proves to be the man to beat. Much like Lauda had trouble with the youthful exuberance of Alain Prost when they were team-mates at McLaren in the mid-eighties, Senna appears to be finding his team-mate too hot to handle. Senna’s sole victory of the campaign comes in Hungary. Hamilton’s main threat is the man who replaced Senna at Ferrari, his fellow Brazilian Felipe Massa. At another climax to the season at Sao Paulo, a whole complicated range of possibilities and permutations existed over if one challenger finished where, he needed the other to finish in a certain position. This proved to be the case, as Massa won the race and initially believed he’d done enough to be champion, as Hamilton was trailing in sixth place. On the final corner of the final lap, the British driver over took the floundering Timo Glock in a Toyota, and clawed his way over the line to gain the fifth place he needed – the title was his. Barely able to take in the magnitude of his achievement, Hamilton was carried from his car back to the McLaren pits by his ecstatic father and now chief cheerleader, a certain Ayrton Senna.

Lewis Hamilton champion of 2008 (First title)

2009 – The FIA announce major rule changes, in an effort to make the sport more competitive, and encourage overtaking. The cars will have less aerodynamic effective bodywork, a return to totally slick tyres, plus the introduction of the KERS energy recovery system to boost horsepower for a short space of time. Due to the global financial crisis, several teams had now ceased to compete in motorsport, with Honda calling time on their efforts in Formula One. Despite having a car semi-developed, this left it with no engine, and no funds to race. Fortunately, the former Ferrari technical expert, Ross Brawn, purchased all of this off Honda, thereby creating his own team. A deal was struck with Mercedes, and thus they had a car. The Honda drivers from the previous season, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are retained by Brawn. This completely new team adapts to the new rules the fastest, winning six of the first seven races, with appeals being lodged by McLaren and Ferrari over the legality of parts of their car. Several of the drivers, including Alonso, Senna and Hamilton, comment as such. Jenson Button develops a strong lead in the driver’s championship, and despite Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren coming back in the second half of the season, the gap is too much for them to catch up. Ferrari driver Felipe Massa is hospitalised after being hit in the face with a flying spring during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix. The part is traced back to Barrichello’s Brawn, a complete mystery as to why it came away from his car. After being hit, the Brazilian brakes hard, then crashes head on into a tyre wall. First to come see his countryman to establish his well-being, is Senna. Even more poiyant for the multi championship winning driver, Massa was signed as Senna’s replacement at the Tiffosi. Ferrari initially announce Michael Schumacher will take Massa’s drive for the rest of the campaign, but due to a neck injury he sustained in a bicycle accident, Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer stepped in for the next two races, with Giancarlo Fisichella completing the fixtures in Massa’s absence. Having not achieved a podium all campaign, Senna announces at the end of season Abu Dhabi Grand Prix he is retiring once again, this time for good. Perhaps. He takes on a technical advisor / development position at McLaren, with a view to enhance the team’s competitiveness.

Jenson Button champion of 2009 (First title)

2010 – Just before the New Year, Mercedes-Benz announced they no longer wished to be just an engine supplier in Formula One and wanted operate a team themselves. The German manufacturer purchases the Brawn team, keeping Ross Brawn himself as team principal. However, drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are released, as they sign two German drivers – Nico Rosberg from Williams, and manage to persuade five times world champion Michael Schumacher to come out of retirement, in the same way Lauda and Senna did. Button moves to McLaren, taking Senna’s place – making the new campaign a little ‘Britain v Germany’ now, with the two teams having senior staff of their home nationality. Barrichello takes Rosberg’s seat at Williams. The British press question who will have ‘top billing’ at McLaren – the current world champion Button, or the driver they’ve developed over many years through the ranks, Lewis Hamilton. Renault driver, Spaniard Fernando Alonso moves to Ferrari, as Kimi Raikkonen leaves the team to take a sabbatical from the sport. Red Bull finished 2009 in the ascendancy, and continue this form into this season. Adrian Newey, now with Red Bull, proves to have designed another gem of a car. German racer, Sebastian Vettel is irresistible in the car, and only claims title in the final race of the season (Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber all in with a chance of becoming champion at the final meeting). Vettel becomes the youngest ever winner of the driver’s championship – a record that has been progressively broken in recent years by first Alonso, then Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel champion of 2010 (First title)

2011 – After missing out on both championships the previous year, word emerges from McLaren of the intense development and testing their car had been under all winter. No doubt having a test driver (Senna) who holds a record number of driver’s titles, and an amazing rapport with the development engineers has a major advantage! Red Bull are still the team to beat, but McLaren push them all the way. Button catches up with the reigning champion as the season progresses, with the title once again going to the wire. Despite Vettel’s team-mate Webber claiming the final victory of 2010, Button’s second place is enough to claim his second title. The Briton dedicates his championship win to Senna, who’s input had been invaluable.

Jenson Button champion of 2011 (Second title)

2012 – A peculiar season, as no driver takes a hold on the championship until the second half, with Vettel beginning to win consecutive races. At McLaren, Hamilton seems very unsettled, hinting at times out of frustration more than anything else Button is slightly favoured over him, and he is being persecuted by the race stewards for minor infringements over the last couple of years. Schumacher has failed to achieve the impact and level of success Senna did on his return from retirement, so announces his ‘second’ retirement at the end of the season. With Hamilton looking for pastures new, he agrees to drive for Mercedes the following year. At another final meeting climax to the season, Alonso just needed a podium place to win his third title, but after a poorly timed pit-stop, Vettel managed to finish with enough points to keep his crown.

Sebastian Vettel champion of 2012 (Second title)

2013 – McLaren sign Mexican Sergio Perez to replace Hamilton, who showed much promise and potential the previous year with Sauber. Red Bull become super dominant in the second half of the season, with Vettel winning all of the last nine meetings. McLaren appear to be way off the pace, with Button out qualifying and consistently finishing higher than Perez. Perhaps to prove a point what can be done with the car in super talented hands, Senna replaces the Mexican for the final four races of the year, out qualifying team-mate Button twice, and finishing fourth at the final Grand Prix of the season at his home city of Sao Paulo. Now only months away from his fiftieth birthday, the Brazilian announces he will not race competitively again, it was too much effort to produce the finishes he did. We shall see……..

Sebastian Vettel champion of 2013 (Third title)

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