Visualising God at 300km an hour: Senna

Watching cars go round and round has never been a favourite pastime – I get enough of that in Sydney traffic – but as in every facet of human existence, there are personal stories embedded that make even Formula 1 racing interesting.

Asif Kapadia’s new documentary, Senna, tells one of these stories and while there is a fair bit of round and round, there is also an interesting investigation into the life, talent and faith of one of the sport’s most revered figures, Ayrton Senna.

The Brazilian Senna was a superbly talented, and some would say, a dangerous risk taker who had 41 wins and three World Championships which earned him the reputation of being one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all times.

He was well-known for his religious convictions which seemed to heighten for him as he raced.

“Somehow I got closer to God and this was very important to me. I visualized and saw God who is a part of me,” Senna said after one race. When reflecting on his love of racing, Senna says, “I think God gave me this chance.”

Frenchman Alain Prost, one of Senna’s key rivals, held an equally strong belief: that Senna’s personal companionship with the Deity made him a hazard to other drivers.

In one confrontation between the two, Prost says, “Ayrton thinks he can’t get hurt.” Senna responds, “Just because I believe in God does not mean I’m immortal. I know I can get hurt.”

The documentary shows the fulfilment of these words when Senna is killed in a crash  in 1994 at the age of 34, while leading the field at the San Marino Grand Prix. The crash was caused by a mechanical fault and a camera strapped to his car continued to film throughout the tragedy.

Many people from all walks of life talk about the experience of feeling close to God when engaged in an activity that they sense to be their very specific calling and gifting. I once hear a rugby league winger say he felt he was born to score tries. As strange as it seems, maybe Senna was born to drive, and there was no other way to die.

Senna is showing now at Palace Leichhardt – check guides for other cinema times.