Ayrton Senna was one of Formula 1’s shining stars in the modern era, and his ten-year career atop the highest rung of the motorsport ladder was filled with both triumph and tragedy. A new book, Ayrton Senna The Last Night, featuring the photographs of Ercole Colombo, documents the Brazilian driver’s F1 career, from his start with the Toleman Hart team in 1984 to his death at Imola on May 1, 1994.
Its title is a bit misleading, since there’s very little about Senna’s last night within its 160 pages. There’s also very little copy, as editor Giorgio Terruzzi prefers to allow Columbo’s stunning photographs to document the arc of Senna’s career. The highlights are there, such as Senna’s first win at the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix, or his tears of joy at capturing his first World Championship in 1988. The low points are documented, too, such as the Brazilian driver’s disqualification at Suzuka in 1989, and his meeting at Imola in 1994 with Dr. Sid Watkins, following the death of Roland Ratzenberger in qualifying. Watkins reportedly advised his friend, “Let’s leave, let’s go fishing,” but Senna was never one to walk away from a race.
Senna’s death is handled with sensitivity, and Terruzzi omits any photos of his wrecked Williams-Renault. One photo shows the restart of the race on lap six, with Senna leading eventual race-winner Michael Schumacher. The next photo shows the impact left by Senna’s car on the retaining wall outside Tamburello Curve, followed by a very somber podium image of Michael Schumacher, Nicola Larini and Mika Häkkinen.
Though first published in early 2016, the book also ties in to a new exhibit at the Lamborghini Museum in Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy, featuring and assemblage of Senna’s racing cars and a variety of photographs from Columbo. The exhibit, which opened on April 12, runs through October 9, 2017, and is presented alongside the automaker’s permanent collection.
Ayrton Senna The Last Night does skip somewhat haphazardly from one theme to another (and one era to another) in recounting the driver’s career, but for his fans, the quality of the photographs (all in color) outweighs any of the book’s flaws. Priced at $50, it can be purchased from RizzoliUSA.com.