We’re delighted to announce the completion of a new piece by celebrated photo-realist artist Kevin McNicholas. Kevin is passionate about detail, the subject and its place in F1 history. As an introduction to his latest work, we look at the life and times of legend Ayrton Senna (21st March 1960-1st May 1994)
‘Monaco is the track where pole position is more important than in all of the others. Overtaking is practically impossible and the slightest errors get severely punished.’
Image source. https://www.ayrtonsenna.com.br/en/legado/frases/ with Google Translation.
As a driver Senna and his car became one, tackling each corner with skilful precision. Some said he was a man without fear, overcoming any barrier in his pursuit to be on the podium of every race.
Considered to be one of the greatest sportsmen in history, his talent and determination created a magical performance for his fans. His legend goes beyond Formula 1 with 41 victories, 65 pole positions and 3 world championships everyone knows the name Ayrton Senna, whether they are a Formula 1 fan or not. He immortalised himself, not only because of his 10 years of racing excellence, but also due to his untimely death at the peak of his career at 34 years of age.
As the anniversary of his tragic loss approaches, artist Kevin McNicholas has been reminiscing over what he feels are the greatest moments of his career and why Senna is such an idol in his life.
Monaco Grand Prix 1984
Aryton arrived in F1 (1984) with a glowing reputation from his time in the junior categories in Britain. He backed that up quickly with drives for the unfancied and uncompetitive Toleman team and could have won in only his fifth grand prix.
In an early example of his mastery of racing in the wet, something he would become famous for during his career, Senna was hunting down race leader Prost when the race was red flagged, due to the treacherous and dangerous conditions after just 31 laps.
In the four laps before the stoppage Senna had turned Prost’s 21s lead into an advantage of just seven, and while he didn’t get the winner’s trophy that day, he had firmly announced his arrival on the grand stage.
European Grand Prix 1993
The European Grand Prix at Donington in 1993 is still regarded as having one of the greatest opening laps of any race in F1 history.
The race began in a torrential downpour. Senna was positioned fourth on the grid, but at the start was briefly shuffled down to fifth, as Michael Schumacher squeezed him across the track, into the pit exit.
Senna instantly re-passed the Benetton exiting Redgate, then swept around the outside of Karl Wendlinger’s Sauber at the bottom of the Craner Curves to complete a pass for third place into the Old Hairpin.
In the very next braking zone, he slithered up the inside of Damon Hill’s Williams McLaren car, leaving just race leader Prost to overcome.
At the Melbourne Hairpin, Senna launched his attack, diving to the inside of Prost to take the lead. One hour and fifty minutes later, he crossed the line to win Donington’s only world championship F1 race by 1m23s ahead of Hill, with the rest – including Prost – at least one lap down.
In light of Senna’s sublime performance on the opening lap, this was later recognised and remembered as ‘the Lap of the Gods’
As a man, Senna was deeply religious, with constant references about how he found God when in the car. He is said to have read the Bible on the morning of that fateful race. He was also a philosophical man, who saw his race craft as a way to find himself.
He was just so unbelievably competitive. He was a great driver, but he had good, human values and was incredibly principled.
Team Owner Sir Frank Williams, who worked with him during that ill-fated, short stint with Williams, put it best when he said: “he was an even greater man outside of the car than he was in it.”
Kevin chose to paint this portrait of Ayrton Senna as he wanted to pay tribute to his favourite driver in his own unique way. He also wanted to take this opportunity to test his skills as an artist, to see if he could capture Senna’s likeness.
‘I begin my paintings by choosing an image that appeals to me, then change some aspects of it, so I am not slavishly following it. I then draw a grid on a canvas panel and pencil in my revised image. Once I’m happy with that, I then re-draw everything in permanent ink.’
‘I like to maintain the canvas texture across the entire panel, so thin layers of paint are gradually built up. In a day I can spend hours doing some painting, then the next day is spent putting right the things that I’m not happy with. My style is with a lot of detail, so each painting takes a long time to complete, usually around 1,200 hours. The Ayrton portrait I am currently working on was started in October 2020.’
Undeniably, Kevin has done his subject justice, honouring the man and the moment in this incredible painting.