And Senna two years later spoke of discovering in that session an intensity in driving his McLaren as if on rails through the tunnel of barriers. In his own words it was “well beyond my conscious understanding;” rather like an out of body experience.
“Monaco 1988. On that day, I said to myself, ‘That was the maximum for me; no room for anything more,'” Senna admitted. “I never really reached that feeling again.”
The feeling perturbed even Senna and he decided to park for the rest of the day. His pole, of course, was long since untouchable. In more than one sense.
“Senna’s team-mate,” who Jenks mentioned, and who finished up 1.4sec off the Brazilian, just so happened to be the great Alain Prost. And to offer a little more context, Prost was some 1.2sec up on the next guy, Gerhard Berger in a Ferrari.
The qualifying effort comes with poignancy though, as he couldn’t convert it to race victory. Having dominated on Sunday too, Senna put his car into the barrier with 12 laps left after an error which will be forever shrouded in mystery.
Then McLaren team coordinator Jo Ramírez and veteran F1 journalist Gerald Donaldson discuss Senna’s lap on the video above. They also explore more generally Senna’s qualifying brilliance as well as his bittersweet race the following day.
“Alain and I were looking at the timesheets at the other end of the truck,” Ramírez recalled of qualifying, “and I could see Ayrton sitting there listening to what we were saying, and he [Prost] said to me, ‘he is f***ing quick!’
“And I look at Ayrton and Ayrton is sitting there with a big smile and he winked to me!”
As Ramírez mentions too, the revered lap very nearly never happened in the first place, and woudn’t have done if boss Ron Dennis had got his way…
You can also watch our podcast with Jo Ramírez below from late last year wherein he talks us through his long and varied career.