Are race car drivers athletes?
Do you consider driving a sport?
What is a sport?
No matter how you answer these question will make no difference to your eventual conclusions after watching a new documentary about Brazilian Ayrton Senna, 3-time Formula One champion: Senna
While it may not answer all the above question conclusively, you will emerge with no doubt that you would never want to have a sandwich-eating contest with the man let alone race him in any capacity.
Described by one racing writer as a monumental genius, frighteningly committed, and someone who had a willingness to go right to the very edge, Ayrton Senna was one of the greatest drivers ever to have got behind the wheel of a race car. I spent a few years in my early twenties watching F1 pretty intently but I never saw Senna race live. I had certainly ‘heard’ of him though.
What caught me more than anything else about him was the level of compete he had. In much the same way a tennis player might explode to the net, might attack the ball to control the game, Senna took every inch you gave him and liked to force the issue. He was aggressive, hungry, and wanted nothing more in the world than to win. This mentality is captured perfectly in a response he gives to Jackie Stewart asking him about a controversial collision with archrival Alain Prost:
“By being a racing driver means you are at risk all the time, and by being a racing driver means racing with other people. And if you no longer go for a gap, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, competing to win and the main motivation for all of us is to compete for victory, not to come in second or third or fourth...”
This personality, when let loose in politics or business can be incredibly destructive, but when harnessed to an engine that can accelerate to 100 miles/h and back down to 0 in less than five seconds, it can be absolutely beautiful.