Senna's five greatest races

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Ayrton Senna's five greatest races picked by BBC F1 team

Ayrton Senna is one of the most talented Formula 1 drivers in the history of the sport.

The Brazilian competed in 162 races, winning 41 of them and going on to claim three world titles.

On Sunday 1 May 1994, Senna died when his Williams crashed at the Tamburello corner during the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. He was 34.

On the 20th anniversary of the Brazilian's death, some of the BBC F1 team have chosen five of Senna's greatest races.

The 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo

BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard: "Monaco 1984 was when Ayrton Senna first proved he had something really special.

"It was very wet, and some great drivers crashed out. Those conditions are a known leveller and Senna was for the first time able to show the commitment, determination and single-mindedness he became famous for.

"He didn't win - the race was stopped early, just as Senna was about to catch leader Alain Prost. But what right did a Toleman have to be challenging for the lead of a grand prix? In those conditions, Senna made the difference.

"It was a feisty, aggressive, skilled, fearless, exceptional performance, which laid the foundations for every other race in which he was to go on to demonstrate those attributes."

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The 1988 Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka

BBC F1 analyst and former Toyota F1 driver Allan McNish: "For me, it was his focus that was the key thing. Senna was totally and utterly focused that he was going to win that race, whatever happened.

"Stalling on the line, he was quite fortunate that it was a big long downhill into Turn One, so he was able to bump-start the car. But after that it was the concentration and focus of getting back the huge gap to Prost and winning the race.

"The damp and greasy conditions undoubtedly played into his favour. I can't remember where he'd dropped down to [14th], but he'd downed six or seven cars by the end of the second lap and was up to fourth after about four or five laps, and that just showed the ruthlessness of the overtaking, which was his trademark.

"It would have been easy - and a lot of people have done that at Suzuka when championships come down to the wire - to lose their head and not get it back on track. And it's a trick as a driver, when you've made a mistake - and a big one like that - to be able to put it to the back of your mind and be able to get on the with the job.

"You can easily over-compensate and let it affect you for the rest of the race but as soon as he got to Turn One it was about a recovery drive.

"It gave him the title. A masterful display of overtaking, of driving in damp conditions on slicks and commitment and focus that allowed him to come back from what could very easily have been a podium position rather than a win."

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The 1991 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos

BBC F1 pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie: "Ayrton Senna loved his home country and took every opportunity to go back to Brazil. Winning there meant more to him than any other grand prix, but he had to wait until 1991 for it to happen. But when it did, what a story.

"Senna led most of the race, but ran into gearbox trouble in the closing stages and Williams' Riccardo Patrese began to close. By the final two laps, with light rain falling, Senna's McLaren was stuck in sixth gear, a huge handicap around the twists and turns of Interlagos.

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Classic F1 - Brazilian Grand Prix 1991

"Senna held on to win the race, but at huge physical cost. As the celebratory sambas broke out in the grandstands, their hero had stopped on track, needing medical help.

"He was so exhausted, and in such pain from cramp in his shoulders, that he could not get out of the car. When he finally made it to the podium, he could barely stand, and he was in agony as he tried to lift the trophy.

"But he managed it, using all the noise and energy from his adoring fans to raise the cup briefly above his aching shoulders.

"It's not often you can feel such strong emotion through a TV screen but I defy anyone to watch it and not feel what it meant to a nation - and its favourite son - that day."

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The 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix, Estoril

BBC F1 pit-lane reporter Tom Clarkson: "It's hard to find a more emphatic victory in the history of Formula 1. In appallingly wet conditions, and in only his second race for Lotus, Senna pulverised the field to take his first grand prix win.

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Classic F1 - Portuguese Grand Prix 1985

"He lapped everyone except the Ferrari of second-placed Michele Alboreto, whom he still beat by more than a minute.

"In the words of BBC commentator James Hunt: 'It was the race in which we witnessed the arrival of Ayrton Senna, a truly staggering talent.'"

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The 1993 European Grand Prix, Donington

BBC chief F1 writer Andrew Benson: "It was an awful day to be outside watching a motor race. Grey Leicestershire skies, insistent rain, thermometer barely nudging 10C.

"Standing at the Donington chicane, there was the usual tension ahead of the start of the 1993 European Grand Prix but no-one could have predicted what was about to unfold.

"The revs rise, the circuit public address system is drowned out. Snatches of commentary, a sense of something special unfolding, excitement starting to bubble.

"We can't yet see it, but already we're beginning to be aware that Ayrton Senna, from fourth on the grid, fifth into the first corner, was writing his latest indelible chapter in F1 history.

"Michael Schumacher's Benetton was dispatched exiting Turn One. Around the outside of Karl Wendlinger's Sauber through the Craner Curves. Inside Damon Hill's Williams into McLean's.

"As the cars burst into view at the chicane, Senna's orange and white McLaren, yellow helmet leaning purposely forward, was already right behind leader Alain Prost's Williams, intent on a way by.

"They dip out of sight over the crest, Senna already darting to the inside, the race surrendering to his unmatched talent.

"For the rest of the afternoon, he drove away, his genius in full flow, making the rest look sub-standard. Again. And we were there, never to forget."

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