Of those drivers able to extract a remarkable performance from a car unworthy of their talents, Senna must rank alongside Gilles Villeneuve and Tazio Nuvolari. A total and utter faith in his own ability made him apparently fearless; a gift for adapting his style to changing track and car conditions meant he could always give 100 per cent; and then, of course, there was his stunning speed. Incredibly, he displayed all these qualities in his debut year.
Yes, there were a couple of anomalies — team-mate Johnny Cecotto outqualified him at Zolder, and he failed to make the grid in San Marino. But by then he had two sixth Places under his belt already, despite being lumbered with the previous year’s Toleman running on inconsistent Pirellis. Once he had the TG184 and Michelins at his disposal, his star shone brighter still.We all know he was two laps away from winning in Monaco, but there were other flashes of brilliance too — qualifying sixth at Dallas, a track with all the structural integrity of a Ming vase; a third-place finish at Brands Hatch, ahead of a Lotus-Renault and two Ferraris; and qualifying and finishing third in Estoril. What might he have achieved in that amazing first season had he raced for Lotus or — as could so easily have happened — Brabham.
Button is not the next Senna; that would be too much to ask. But, like the early Senna, he appears able to up his game when surrounded by the benchmarks of his era. And that will stand him in good stead for the future. DM