It was back in 1993, when the duo of the Williams Renault with Prost and Hill was dominating the field. Thanks to traction control, active suspension and Renault ‘s superior engine the two Williams seemed unbeatable. Schumacher ‘s Benetton was the second fastest car in the grid, using the latest spec of the Ford Cosworth engine. Senna was struggling in an underpowered Mclaren, powered by the 92 spec Ford engine and lacking the state of the art technology developed by the Williams team. The qualifying proved once again the great advantage of the Williams cars, Alain Prost and Damon Hill taking the front row in the starting grid. More than two seconds behind were Schumacher third and Senna in fourth place. But the rain would change the odds unexpectedly….
The green lights were on, the Williams duo making a nice start retaining first and second place as they turned around in the first corner. Karl Wendlinger in Sauber was the one who made a blistering start from 5th place, grabbing 3rd just as he approached the first turn. Schumacher closed Senna on the outside, but the Brazilian made a swift and aggressive move, taking the inside line before the corner and gaining 4th place from Schumacher. A pair of a left-hander, then a right-hander followed. The track was extremely wet, forcing all drivers to take the left-hander moving in the inside, so that they didn’t risk overshooting the turn, while maintaining a correct "racing line" for the right-hander.
However, this was not the case for Senna. The Brazilian moved in the outside, taking a line completely different from all the other drivers and, seemingly, completely wrong. However, Senna taking the outside overtook Wendlinger easily, while placing his car in time in the correct position for the right-hander that was coming. It seems that the outside line had much more grip than the inside line; how Senna was the only driver to realise it remains a mystery.
Hill and Prost were ahead, in the extremely fast Williams. But the heavy rain was all Senna needed. Driving courageously, he was coming out of the corners much faster than Hill and Prost. Driving "as if the track surface was dry", he passed Hill aggressively, then Prost after an S-bend, Ayrton moving so much faster and smoother through the S, as if the Frenchman was driving an F3. So before lap 1 the Brazilian had grabbed 1st place, in what remains the best opening race lap I have seen. But the show wasn’t over, not for seventy more laps.
A stunning performance by Ayrton Senna, driving for many rounds in slicks under wet conditions and finishing so much ahead of the tremendously overpowered Williams. Stirling Moss once said that Senna was "the greatest 'racer' of all time". And that race at Donnington (plus his 66 pole positions) is probably the best proof of the above statement….
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