Ayrton Senna is regarded as the world’s greatest racing driver, whether it be F1 or any other style of racing. A former McLaren director thinks there’s a new Senna driving today.

Giorgio Ascanelli, Toro Rosso director, has recently highlighted similarities in ability between the German prodigy Sebastian Vettel and the late great Ayrton Senna. With public interest in Senna reaching new highs with the current theatrical release of the eponymous documentary, the time is right for an exploration of some similarities between these two racing greats, and to find out whether this heralds another golden age of racing.

Ascanelli’s statement is based on strong experience; he has worked with both drivers in the past –with Vettel during 2007 and 2008 and with Senna during his McLaren career. ‘Perfection’ is the word he uses to describe both drivers’ skills on the track. He goes on to point towards a natural talent in both men that contributes to their success, “With those two it was something else.” Both drivers achieved considerable success in their youth; Senna made his Formula One debut at the tender age of 24, while Vettel won his world title five years younger than the Brazilian. All statistics point to Vettel’s upward rise and many consider him the best driver in the world, with much attention diverting from Alonso to Vettel in recent times. Still only 23 years old, Vettel is surely destined for a fruitful career. However, Formula One is anything but predictable, most famously typified in the tragic death of Senna while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Ayrton Senna was the last driver to die at the wheel of a Formula One car.

Much was made of the rivalry between Senna and the legendary French racing driver Alain Prost. The two were locked in fierce competition during the former’s active years from 1984 to 1994. The two sported very different driving styles. Ayrton Senna drove a risky and fast race, all while Prost’s more philosophical approach gained him the nickname, ‘The Professor’. With competition heating up between Vettel and Fernando Alonso, could we be seeing a return to a historic battleground between two formidable opponents? Alonso, racing for Ferrari as Prost once did, is a two-time World Champion who favors himself against Vettel, even though recent races have put him behind his competitor. Fans –eager to experience the historic bouts between Senna and Prost once again– can relive much of it on the footage from the current documentary. This is a movie for those who want more from cinematic car chases than Bond’s Aston Martin driving skills. The footage – collected from numerous track days – reflects the struggles of the two sportsmen, but also their mutual respect.

Much can be hoped for the coming competitions in 2011 between these latest young giants of Formula One: Vettel and Alonso.