F1 Throwback: When Ayrton Senna Failed to Qualify for a Grand Prix

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May 5, 2020 6:39 pm

When F1 fans think of Ayrton Senna, everyone remembers him for being a champion and a legend of the sport. So, they will be hugely surprised to learn that he had his bad days as well.

Apparently, the Brazilian failed to qualify for one particular race weekend. The seeds of his difficult weekend were sown at the last race in Belgium. So, he had a mountain to climb at the 1984 San Marino Grand Prix for the Toleman team. Suffice to say, his failure to qualify cannot be held against him, as the Toleman was a terrible car.

The team’s TF183B was past its prime, but the team was forced to use it as the TF184 was still in the works. To make matters worse, the team’s Pirelli tyres were the weakest, compare to the Michelins and the Goodyear tyres.

The TG184 would only break cover by the French GP, so Senna had to suffer for a while longer. After much debate about the Pirellis, Toleman announced that they would not be running on Friday.

So, Ayrton Senna and teammate Johnny Cecotto sat on the sidelines on the first day. With Friday out of question, all their effort had to be pumped into Saturday for qualifying.

How did things pan out for Ayrton Senna?

Unfortunately, it appear that the universe conspired against the poor Toleman team. Saturday dawned with mixed weather conditions, but Senna sat in a comfortable 20th quickest in the second free practice session. All went well and the track was drying rapidly, so track evolution would be very high.

But then, Murphy’s Law struck, courtesy a fuel pressure problem for Ayrton Senna. The poor Brazilian was left stranded on track and incapable of returning to the pits. His 1m41.585 lap time ended up being 13.068 seconds slower than pole position man Nelson Piquet’s Brabham.

The only silver lining was that Toleman terminated Pirelli’s contract and the TF184 cam with Michelin tyres. From that point onwards, Formula One saw a different Ayrton Senna, the true Ayrton Senna. Despite a hiccup in France, he showed his true colours at the next event in Monaco.

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