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Ayrton Senna Special: Extra 1: Veto 1 (1986)

  • Published on 13 Apr 2019 19:00
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  • By: Fergal Walsh

For the extra story 'Veto 1' we go back to the end of 1985. We pick up the story during the Grand Prix of South Africa, the race that many drivers wanted to boycott. For this report, we called in the help of a Brazilian journalist, Ernesto Rodrigues. 

At first, an extension of the duo Elio de Angelis and Ayrton Senna seemed to be possible. Yet de Angelis decided, after a while in South Africa, to choose eggs for his money. In this case, Elio pointed the finger at Peter Warr, the team owner of Lotus. Elio was annoyed by a manoeuvre of Ayrton on the track. De Angelis even pushed his teammate when he returned to the pit lane. Ayrton didn't want to fight and their relationship dwindled to a low point. Ayrton walked to the other side of the garage and made it clear with gestures that he was disappointed. De Angelis, the fine Italian man, became a thing of the past for Lotus.

From the British media, pressure was put on for a British driver at Lotus. Peter Warr went looking for this British driver. Whereas in the past Nigel Mansell was the only British driver and Lotus had not appointed a British driver in 1985, the contacts with John Player Special proved to be difficult. The iconic sponsor was eager to see a British driver with their colours in 1986. Warr decided to approach Derek Warwick. Warwick was very popular with the British media and, according to the insiders, had no problem with driving as a 'second driver' at Lotus. The Brit had already gained experience in the Renault factory team in the past.

Renault would also provide the Lotus team with engines for 1986. For Warr this was a win-win situation. A driver with experience and a British driver to keep the public and the media cherished. Around Christmas, Warwick and Lotus closed the deal. Warwick was close to a deal with Williams in 1985. Frank Williams was interested in him as a teammate of Nelson Piquet. In the end, the deal would turn out to be off because Nigel Mansell was suddenly in shape and faster than Keke Rosberg from the Belgian Grand Prix onwards. 

Peter Warr decided to put Derek Warwick in the second Lotus for the 1986 season. He called Ayrton Senna and told him the following: "Ayrton, we found the perfect driver for the second car. Warwick is experienced, a great guy and is at peace with a place as a second driver", it remained quiet on the other side of the line. Ayrton said after a short break the following: "I'm not very happy Peter, I'll think about it and I'll come back to it later. Five days later the time had come: "I don't want a Warwick in my team Peter", said the Brazilian.

Warr asked Senna his reason: "I don't want it", the Brazilian replied. Bob Dance, head engineer at Lotus at the time wanted to say the following: "Ayrton just didn't care. He had a goal in mind and that was what mattered." Gerard Ducarouge wasn't worried about the situation at the time: "I had no doubt that Ayrton would get the best results for Lotus." 

Warwick later told documentary maker Mario Muth the following: "At the time, I was still one of the most valued British drivers, a driver who was wanted by teams. I was already talking to Lotus and I had a contract. I was going to be a teammate of Ayrton Senna. We would both get the number one status. I was very impressed, I was going to be a teammate of a young Brazilian driver. He was super fast and a driver I wanted to be a teammate of." 

Warwick tells how he saw the situation with Senna as a teammate. "I wanted to prove myself. Until then, I hadn't really had any problems with my teammates. I was always faster. I signed my contract." Warwick then came up against a surprise: "I was invited to Lotus at the end of December. I thought it was about signing a contract as he got my signature money. When I arrived I felt that something was not right. Everyone seemed ashamed. I was called to the office, I sat down and was told: "We're sorry, but you won't be a driver with us." I said, wait a minute: "It's December, all the seats have been taken. I asked for an explanation and they gave it to me. Ayrton was of the opinion that I would have too much influence on the team. A British driver in a British team with a British main sponsor wouldn't work. Especially when the Lotus team had to work with two 'number one cars'. Ayrton wanted the spare car to be 100% self-sufficient. He also wanted to be number one in the team. He more or less wanted to choose his own number two." 

Warwick then saw room for negotiation: "I told Lotus that I wanted to drive on the basis of a 'number two' status. But Ayrton didn't want me in the team. I think he didn't want me in the team because he saw me as a threat. He was the young driver who had to come through. He wanted to keep the momentum. I'm not saying I'd be faster than Ayrton Senna, I'm just saying Ayrton thought I'd be a problem for him. So I was without a seat. The British press was behind me and the same press sawed off Ayrton up to his ankles. It all went by Ayrton, he was fooled at that moment.

"Ayrton only had to take care of himself. If you mention the name Ayrton Senna in my house, my wife will not speak to you. She has the feeling that I have been wronged. I have a different view on it. I have the feeling that if you want to be successful in your life, you want to be a legend, that you have to be selfish. Ayrton realized that Lotus could not guarantee two number one cars. He was right and if he wanted the best for Ayrton Senna, he had to dump Derek Warwick. I look back now with the idea that I don't blame him for that. He did it for himself and not what was best for me. I think that was a big decision for him too."

Senna, after his 'veto' over Warwick, put forward a Brazilian driver. A friend and Formula 3 champion Mauricio Gugelmin was the best option in his opinion. Lotus ended up with John Crichton-Stuart-7th Marquess of Bute, or Johnny Dumfries. The British driver was not convincing and with only three points scored had little share in the Lotus year of 1986. Yet this move can be seen as one of the best decisions Ayrton has made. The Brazilian would show in his later career that he could not work on an equal basis. Ayrton gave himself 'priority' at the beginning of his Formula 1 career. And rightly so, because with his big finger on the button, Lotus eventually drove to two third places in the battle for the constructors' championship.


Ayrton Senna Special: Part 1 - Ayrton and karting - The early years
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 2 - Ayrton and karting - International

Ayrton Senna Special: Part 3 - Ayrton and karting - The tough trip in Buenos Aires
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 4 - Ayrton and karting - The last race
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 5 - Ayrton in Europe - Formula Ford 1600 and the battle with Rick Morris

Ayrton Senna Special: Part 6 - Ayrton in Europe - A glorious year in Formula Ford 200
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 7 - Ayrton in British Formula 3 - Senna in a class of his own
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 8 - Ayrton in British Formula 3 - First signs of pressure and dirt game 
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 9 - Ayrton in British Formula 3 - Shame at Oulton Park and another title
Ayrton Senna Special Exclusive Interview: Allen Berg: Ayrton drove against the British system
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 10 - Ayrton as a test driver - The first experience in a Formula 1 car
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 11 - Ayrton as a test driver - A selection of different teams
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 12 - Ayrton at Toleman - Why the choice for Toleman was the right one
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 13 - Ayrton at Toleman - Monaco Grand Prix - Stefan was faster
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 14 - Ayrton at Toleman - Monaco Grand Prix - Post-race
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 15 - Ayrton at Toleman - Competitive in a new car with two podiums
Ayrton Senna Special: Technical Analysis 1: The Toleman TG183 (1984)
Ayrton Senna Special: Teammate 1: Johnny Cecotto
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 16 - Ayrton at Lotus - Facial Paralysis
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 17 - Ayrton at Lotus - Masterclass in Estoril
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 18 - Ayrton at Lotus - An unfortunate first half of the season
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 19 - Ayrton at Lotus - Many podiums and a victory at Spa-Francorchamps
Ayrton Senna Special: Technical Analysis 2: The Lotus 972
Ayrton Senna Special: Teammate 2: Elio 'The Gentleman'

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