One of the star attractions of this year's AUTOSPORT International motorsports show in Birmingham, England, is a display dedicated to triple Formula 1 World Champion Ayrton Senna, and among the cars on that stand is the legendary McLaren-Honda MP4/4 that utterly dominated the 1988 campaign.
Its designer, Steve Nichols, paid a visit to the central stage on the second day of the show and shared his memories of that car, its drivers Senna and Alain Prost, and gave a fascinating account into working with both.
"Generally, everybody knows Senna was a fantastic racing car driver and had all the qualities it took to be one. He was extremely competitive; very bright with a very good memory; very sensitive so he knew exactly what the car was doing; and he was very articulate so he could communicate that to the engineer.
"That was perhaps the most important thing, you could develop that engineer-to-driver relationship and with that you could sort the car out and make it go very quickly.
"Senna was very sensitive to minute setup changes, sometimes on the grid he would be asking me for a quarter of a PSI just before the start – which was an imperceptible change so almost more of a mental thing, but it gave him confidence so we did it for him.
"He was very good at development. Working with the engine, say, so if we had him go out and do a long run for reliability testing, he'd get bored so he'd be doing lots of engine setting changes, different boosts, different revs, etc. Afterward, he could relay to you the lap times and fuel economy rates and all sorts of information straight out of his head without really trying.
"He was quite happy to spend hours with you after running the car in the evenings and he would want to consider every single blank on the setup sheet. You couldn't fill anything in advance because he would want to consider what every little thing would do at every corner on the circuit. He maybe would not even change anything at the end of all of that, but he would consider every single little thing to see if there was any kind of advantage that could be gained.
"Ayrton was very emotional. He was a very warm person with a Latin personality. But he would always work assiduously to get the job done and I was always aware from the beginning that he put extra pressure on me and everybody at McLaren, because we were dealing with a legend.
"I was conscious of the fact that I didn't want to mess anything up for him and his World Championship. But he never got at all excited or agitated with me – we always did the best we could and it always worked out really well. He was very good to the people who worked with him.
"I know that Senna could be sharp with the press and had some run-ins with them, but for the people around him and the team that made him go fast, he was always really good. He was very appreciative; he would make sure that he thanked you and gave you credit for the work that you were doing so, in that respect, he was really fantastic to work with."