‘I’m Not Coming Unless the Money Is in My Bank’ – Ayrton Senna’s Bizarre F1 Contract With McLaren

Published 02/09/2021, 11:55 PM EST
A portrait of Ayrton Senna of Brazil, driver of the #1 Honda Marlboro McLaren McLaren MP4/7A Honda V12 during tyre testing for the British Grand Prix on 7 July 1992 at the Silverstone Circuit in Towcester, Great Britain. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Allsport/Getty Images)

After Hamilton’s negotiation saga ends, we take an interesting look at another such saga that played out 28 years ago between Ayrton Senna and McLaren. Just like Hamilton, his hero, Senna also entered the year 1993 without a signed deal with McLaren and Ron Dennis.


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The 1992 season was a tough one for the Brazilian hero. The latest Honda V12 engines proved disappointing, and Nigel Mansell was dominating in his Williams-Renault. The team switched from Honda to Cosworths for the season, but that meant that the team had a smaller budget to pay Senna.

The Brazilian’s manager, Julian Jakobi, stated that the team had to pay Senna a million per week to keep him driving for McLaren. “Ron [Dennis] said that he only had $5m available, and therefore he couldn’t pay Ayrton what he’d paid him in the past.”


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Ayrton Senna, Grand Prix of Japan, Suzuka, 22 October 1989. (Photo by Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images)

“So Ayrton said, ‘That’s fine. I’ll do the first five races, and that’s it.’ And so that’s how the million per race happened. He didn’t say, ‘I want a million per race,’ he just said ‘I’ll just do the first five races.

“So that’s what happened, the first contract was signed for five races, and a million a race. But we put a provision in the contract. Ayrton said, ‘But I’m not coming unless the money is in my bank account by the Wednesday before each race,” recalled Jakobi.

The time when Ayrton Senna did not get the money on Wednesday

Now, McLaren had to be on their toes to keep up with the contract. It was financially straining and the first hiccups came ahead of the fourth race, the San Marino GP. Ayrton Senna made sure he made the Woking outfit realize his worth.

Jakobi had to confirm through fax or a call that McLaren deposited the money in the account. This time around, there was no amount credited, and Ayrton was adamant that he would not be driving that weekend.

Ayrton Senna of Brazil sits aboard the #12 Camel Team Lotus Honda Lotus 99T Honda RA166E V6 turbo during practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix on 11th April 1987 at the Autodromo Internacional Nelson Piquet Jacarepagua circuit near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Simon Bruty/Getty Images)

The team claimed it was a banking error, “Anyway, lo and behold, the money pitched up on Thursday morning rather than Wednesday,” recalled Jakobi. “So I called Ayrton’s office in Sao Paulo, and they couldn’t find him. He gone off with some girl somewhere.”

“He wasn’t in his apartment, he wasn’t in the office, and they couldn’t find him. And they found him Thursday lunchtime. So he jumped on the plane. Ayrton got to the track late on Friday morning, got into the car halfway through first practice,” shared Jakobi.

The second contract hiccup between McLaren and Senna

The second hiccup was way past the five-race mark. Ron Dennis had given his personal guarantee to Senna regarding the payment this time around. Once again the money didn’t come in time and Senna did not leave his home.

“We said Ayrton was not coming, because the money didn’t arrive by Wednesday. We prepared all sorts of drafts to terminate the contract, and so various drafts were circulating around,” recalled Jakobi.


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Ayrton Senna, Grand Prix of South-Africa, Kyalami, 01 March 1992. (Photo by Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images)

Ayrton was in Rio and clarified that he would not get back on a plane unless the money is in the account. Jakobi stated Ron gave the Brazilian a personal guarantee to help resolve the last hiccup of the season.

He later moved on to Williams the next year and replaced Alain Prost, which was the last season we witnessed the Brazilian’s brilliance on the grid. He succumbed to an unfortunate accident at the Imola GP.


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The Hero of the Champions continues to live in our hearts to date as some of us sport his poster on the wall, quoting, “If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver, literal goosebumps, may he rest in peace!”


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Ayush Manjunath

586 articles

Ayush Manjunath is a Formula 1 author for EssentiallySports with more than 500 articles to his name. A Law graduate and a current Sports Management student, Ayush also has a certificate from UCLA on Sports, Media and Entertainment Management. He has an undying love for motorsports and lives to see Max Verstappen, George Russell, Charles Leclerc, and Lando Norris battle for the championship one day!