I recently watched this incredibly in-depth and moving documentary by director Asif Kapadia and found myself thinking about it for days afterwards. Now I'm interested in F1 and fast cars, but I am convinced that even the average person who cannot tell the difference between NASCAR and F1 and go-karting will find it hard to resist the beautiful and tragic story of the late great racing driver Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian rose to fame in the 1980s, the glory days of F1 where restrictions on the cars were nothing compared to today's standards, and coupled with relatively primitive technology (manual gearboxes, no traction control etc.), made race driving insanely dangerous, and not to mention extremely thrilling to watch. These men were piloting cars with over 1000 horsepower around wet race tracks with slick tires, and the men became separated from the boys pretty quickly. Senna, despite his boyishness, immediately stood out as something special. He was fearless, and determined to become a champion, even if that meant running his own team-mate off the road or worse. But despite his intense desire to win, he was rational, well-spoken to an almost poetic degree, and had genuine humanity about himself, making him very difficult to dislike. Though many traditionalists did dislike him, making him a bit of a maverick, as he was willing to sacrifice anything to win. The thing I could not shake though, is that there is something glimmering in his eye, something beautiful yet tragic, as if he knew deep down inside that his passion was going to kill him too young. On a number of occasions, we are given an opportunity to just watch Senna either sitting in his car or elsewhere thinking, pondering. And it is in these moments that I found I really became a fan of his. You can tell he wants to be the champion so badly and that he is burning bridges to do so and he knows it is wrong, yet he continues on. He knows that if anything were to happen to him, it would emotionally destroy his family, his friends, his home country of Brazil, and indeed the whole F1 community, and yet he goes on. And I think that is what stuck with me well after it ended, just this feeling that despite the dangers or the banality of piloting a car around a circuit, it was important to him and to many, many people in a way that is indescribable. So despite how you feel about auto-racing, I highly recommend this film as an "in" to how and why people are passionate about this type of sporting event (and it is a sport, and the drivers truly are athletes). And if nothing else, you'll know about an inspiring person named Ayrton Senna.
Here is the trailer:
And watch this excellent segment from the BBC's Top Gear last year. The end gives me goosebumps: