Examining the all-new McLaren Senna, the most extreme car ever made by the British marque, in the words of the legendary F1 driver Ayrton Senna

The straight-talking, smooth-driving Brazilian F1 superstar is widely considered as one of the best the sport has ever seen. During the late eighties and early nineties when Ayrton Senna was at his peak, it was in a McLaren that he won three world championships and became the near-mythical hero that he is today.

Now, McLaren has unveiled a supercar named after him. What would Senna make of it if he were he alive today? We examine the supercar through some of the most famous quotes of the star driver.

“Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose”

Believe these words for Senna ended up on the podium in 80 of the 162 F1 races he participated in during his career. The McLaren named after him goes after the jugular as well. It is part of the Ultimate Series, the first of which was the P1 followed by the GTR version of the P1 and now this. Bruno Senna, Ayrton’s nephew, was reportedly roped into the development of the car. The supreme confidence of McLaren loyalists is such that even while the Senna was still under development, months before anyone saw what the car would look like, all 500 units of this limited-edition car were already sold. With McLaren, seldom are there any doubting Thomases.“Fear is exciting”

If there is ever a machine purpose-built to instill unholy amounts of fear into you, this is it. The 4-litre V8 engine that sits between the two carbon fibre seats produces 800Nm of torque and 789hp of power. Not a lot of horses, you might add. And you’re right. But remember that by stripping away even basic creature comforts like air-conditioning, McLaren has effectively reduced the weight of the supercar to measly 1,198kgs. We’re now looking at a similar power-to-weight ratio as the LaFerrari.

“Racing, competing, it’s in my blood. I have been doing it all my life.”

What is true about Senna’s life, is true about McLaren’s as well. It was a brand that was born on the track. Bruce McLaren built and raced his first McLaren F1 at the 1965 Monaco Grand Prix. Since then, the marque has been one of Formula One’s most successful teams. In 1988, with Ron Dennis at the helm, McLaren embarked on a project to build its maiden road-legal supercar. By 1993, it debuted a car that was officially homogenized for the street called it F1 in a nod to its racing heritage. Since then, there’s been no looking back for McLaren Automotive. This Senna, like all the previous McLaren road cars, takes the best technology from Formula One and trickles it down to its supercars.“If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver.”

McLaren is billing their latest wunderkind as “the ultimate road-legal track car”. To make the Senna a proper racing car, McLaren has innovated. They’ve kitted it with bespoke Pirelli P Zero center-locking lightweight wheels that can blitz a track and have also added a new generation of smaller and lighter carbon ceramic brake discs which are believed to be four times more thermally efficient than conventional carbon discs. A shout-out to the aerodynamics of the car too which is what makes this machine possibly faster around a track than the P1.

Step into a Senna and you’ll notice that to recreate a “cockpit”, the Start button is located on the roof as are the buttons to release the top-hinged doors. Switch the car into “race mode” and the chassis drops nearly two inches resulting in a machine that hunkers down with sinister purpose. The movable flaps inside the air intakes on both sides of the front bumper will increase or decrease grip, as the need arises, to keep it balanced. The large rear spoiler is nearly four feet off the ground and creates the necessary downforce keep the supercar from lifting off.

“I have no idols”

If only Senna were alive to see the McLaren named after him, he might have changed his mind after all.