|© AP Images
Racing driver Bruno Senna hopes British cinema audiences are as "touched" as he was when they watch a movie-style documentary about his late uncle and Formula One great Ayrton Senna's life and career this week.
The film, simply called 'Senna', charts the three-time F1 champion's life and decade-long career and will be released in U.K. cinemas on Friday.
Ayrton Senna died in 1994 from fatal head injuries in a crash at Imola, the treacherous track that claimed the life of Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger the previous day.
"He is so alive in people's memories, even people (who) have never seen him (race) before. They have this image of what he did before," Bruno Senna told The Associated Press in a recent telephone interview. "Sometimes people come and talk to me, these little kids, and they say 'He's your uncle.'"
Bruno Senna, who made his F1 debut with the Hispania Racing Team last season and is now a reserve driver for Renault, was a small child when his uncle took the racing world by storm, stunning observers with his qualifying speeds and drawing in fans with his charisma and outspoken manner.
He watched the movie's premiere with racing fans at the Interlagos track in Sao Paulo late last year.
"I had the privilege of watching the movie in a premiere in Brazil, it was interesting seeing it with other people and seeing how they react," Bruno Senna said. "People feel totally touched by it ... with all the extra footage that they found, it (makes) a very special experience for everybody.
"People in the U.K. used to follow Ayrton very closely, so I hope everybody enjoys it as much as I did and it brings them as many memories as it did to me," he added. "The movie is a very strong movie in many ways. It shows Ayrton's personality a little bit, puts forward how he was pushing for everything he believed in."
Ayrton Senna's racing career was often as feisty off the track as it was dashing on it.
He had turbulent relations and fallouts with other F1 drivers, clashed with F1 authorities, and most famously with his own McLaren teammate, the four-time world champion Alain Prost. Prost refused to be interviewed about the film when approached by The AP at last weekend's Monaco Grand Prix.
"He was always trying to fight for what he thought was right," Bruno Senna said. "It was also interesting to get the opportunity to see what he was like off the track, the person who was worried about his own country."
In the same way that football star Diego Maradona crystalized a country's hopes when playing for Argentina and tennis star Novak Djokovic does now for Serbia, Ayrton Senna often felt the aspirations of an entire country on his shoulders.
"During his life, he brought pride for the people (of Brazil), (helped) the people to believe they could be world champions," Bruno Senna said. "They needed that in a country which at the time was very much in need of someone who was a reference, who was a very important role (model)."
Several months after his death, his family founded the Ayrton Senna Institute that provides educational initiatives to help young Brazilians in and out of school.
"(Since) after Ayrton died, the foundation has taken more than 12 million children, and teenagers and given them opportunities to look after themselves through education and sport," Bruno Senna said. "The Brazilians (who) did not have the opportunities to become what they could be, like he (Ayrton) did."
Bruno Senna, 27, was a small child himself when he sat in the cockpit of Senna's McLaren at the Interlagos Grand Prix.
"I managed to (go) to the Brazilian Grand Prix in '93 and '94," he said. "I was very young so it was hard to comprehend everything that was going on. But it was quite special to be there in Interlagos with him. You could really feel how important he was."
Behind Ayrton Senna's charm and flair there was also a driving force, a will to win that was somewhere between fiercely devoted and manic, leading to friction with Prost and other drivers.
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It made for some tremendously heated arguments and, by consequence, even greater viewing for F1 fans.
"The rivalry, let's say, was more open back then. Nowadays the drivers ... we really have to watch what we say and what we do because we are very much held responsible," Bruno Senna said. "People have much more access to information with the internet, and much more quickly as well. Back then you could kind of be free, speak your mind."
However, he thinks his uncle would still have spoken his mind if he had been racing in the modern era.
Bruno Senna has spoken to several of his uncle's rivals from their racing days, and recalls a conversation with Nigel Mansell that encapsulates the Senna character.
"When (Mansell) won his first championship (in 1992) he was on the podium with Ayrton," Bruno recalls. "Everybody had a hard (time) with Ayrton because he was always very ruthless and he always tried to win at pretty much whatever the cost.
"At that moment they were on the podium, and Ayrton poked Mansell and said 'Feels good, doesn't it?' Then Nigel said 'Yeah, feels really, really good' ... and (Ayrton) is like 'Why do you think I'm such a difficult person to be with on the track? Because I really, really want this all the time.'"