Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna – The Duel That the World Lost

Updated on April 10, 2020
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F1 Enthusiast | Michael Schumacher Fan | Grown to Respect Ayrton Senna | Discovering Past Masters in F1 | Amazed by F1 Cars!

Formula 1 cars were and are some of the fastest in the world, with only the Indy cars coming anywhere close. Today we have cars which can potentially go faster than an F1 car on a straight line, but none can match the F1’s pace on a twisting track. Needless to say, the speed aficionados got their dose of adrenalin by watching these F1 races. Over the years, F1 became popular not just because of the speed of the cars but also because of the rivalries that it evoked. The Senna-Schumacher rivalry was one such battle of the giants.

Who Are Schumacher and Senna?

Now this question would have killed a die-hard fan if not fired him or her up to seek retribution on the ones asking the question. F1 is a popular sport, and many would know the two leading names in F1 history, but for those who don’t, here’s a small description.

Michael Schumacher is a German F1 driver who debuted in 1991 and went on to win an unprecedented seven world titles before retiring in 2012. Ayrton Senna, on the other hand, debuted in 1984 and won three world titles before his career was cut short by a fatal accident in 1994. In fact, it was a foregone conclusion that 1994 would have been Senna’s fourth world title, but, sadly, his untimely demise gave Schumacher his first title.

An independent third party view would find more similarities between Senna and Schumacher than differences. Both were ruthless, focused and always going for the win. Perhaps the last point is what created the rivalry.

So, let’s look at the rivalry then.

Senna-Schumacher Rivalry


The Senna-Schumacher rivalry was one which would be spoken with regret than a conclusion; that is because the competition was short-lived and it was between two unlikely competitors—a rookie and a past master.

By 1991, Senna was already a three-time world champion, while Schumacher had only started his career. It was in 1992 that Schumacher would register his first race victory, which was way lesser than Senna’s 35+ victories by that time.

If that was the case, then why do we call it a Senna-Schumacher rivalry?

Senna-Schumacher Rivalry Explained

Well, the reason we called it a rivalry was because of many reasons.

Senna’s main title rival and erst-while teammate, Alain Prost, would retire in 1993. The other prominent world champ on track, Nigel Mansell, would leave F1 in 1992 for Indy car racing. Schumacher, despite being a rookie, competes like crazy with not only Senna but also Alain and Nigel. By the end of 1992, Schumacher earns a name for himself and is clearly way better than the rest on the track. He is almost close in performance to Nigel, Alain and Senna.

So it was an obvious conclusion that Schumacher was the bright spot to continue the rivalry with Senna in the absence of the other prominent names. Senna never witnessed the ruthless performance of Schumacher that won him an unprecedented seven titles, 91 race wins, the most podiums, the most fastest laps, the most pole positions and many more titles to his name. The question, though, was whether the same level of outcome would have been possible if Senna continued beyond 1994?

The question is hypothetical (since Senna died in a crash in 1994), yet taking each one’s career individually, it does offer every ingredient possible to have created a clash of the titans.

Now to the Rivalry

As Captain America would say – nuff said – let’s get on with the rivalry.

1993 Spa [0:16 in English]

Here is one gem when Senna is exiting the pit, and the German on the track goes wide on the grass to claim track position. Senna was closing the doors quite fast, and Schumacher still goes through.

Schumacher is in the yellow-green Benetton car while Senna is exiting the pits in a white-red McLaren car.

1992 Brazilian Grand Prix [at 9:00]

This was a race where Schumacher was stuck behind the third-place Senna for hours and finally finds his way past the world champion. Senna had a problem with the gear, leading him to pit and then retire.

Senna is in the McLaren (white-red car) while Schumacher is in the Bennetton (yellow-green car).

1992 Brazilian Grand Prix Press Conference

Suggestion: Please turn off the audio if you don't understand the language. The subtitle in English is good.

If coming out trumps in the race was not enough, Schumacher went on to complain about Senna’s tactics (hey, come on, he was just a rookie) in the post-race conference where Schumacher finished third. That heckled Senna a lot, and he had one fierce verbal duel with Schumacher later.

Senna is in the McLaren (white-red car) while Schumacher is in the Bennetton (yellow-green car).

Did You Know?

Michael Schumacher finished the 1992 season ahead of Ayrton Senna in the drivers' championship. Michael was third while Ayrton was fourth.

The stats become interesting when we know that Schumacher had debuted only in 1991 and coming into 1992 he had not won a single race. On the other hand, Ayrton was already a three-time world champion by 1992.

1992 French Grand Prix [0:50 – 1:25]

This one must have been a nerve-wracking moment for Schumacher to have hit Senna. Schumacher did admit that it was his mistake, but according to him, Senna came in rapidly and he could do nothing to avoid the crash.

Senna is in the McLaren (white-red car) while Schumacher is in the Bennetton (yellow-green car).

1993 South Africa Grand Prix [7:50]

In the South African Grand Prix, Michael would have felt like a victim where he had a close shave with Senna and spun out. Schumacher eventually stalled his engine and was out of the race.

Senna is in the McLaren (white-red car) while Schumacher is in the Bennetton (yellow-green car).

1994 Duel

This was one of the last duels between Senna and Schumacher. Senna was now in the vastly more powerful yet incredibly unstable Williams car. Schumacher continued with the Benetton. 1994 was that fateful year when Senna would enter eternal bliss and pass on the baton to Schumacher.

Senna is in the McLaren (white-blue car) while Schumacher is in the Bennetton (yellow-green car).

Final Words

Because of the strong careers of both Schumacher and Senna and a brief glimpse of their rivalry, it continued to keep fans hoping for more. Now we know that more of that rivalry would not happen. But for what it was worth, it did cut the ice for ardent fans of both Schumacher’s and Senna’s.

And people like me got twice the richer since we would qualify as fans of both Schumacher and Senna!

© 2019 S K


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