The coin flip between Ron Dennis and Ayrton Senna to settle McLaren contract ‘deadlock’

Sam Cooper
Ayrton Senna and Ron Dennis

Ayrton Senna and Ron Dennis experienced their best years together in the late 80s and early 90s.

Ron Dennis has recalled how he relied on a coin toss to decide how much Ayrton Senna would be paid whilst driving for McLaren.

Senna arrived at McLaren in 1988 and as one of the biggest talents on the grid, naturally wanted to be financially rewarded but no nonsense Dennis was not going to sign the cheque easily.

Ron Dennis reveals crucial coin toss with Ayrton Senna

The figure in question was a quarter of a million dollars over a three-year deal but that could have been even more expensive had luck not been on Dennis said.

“I’d never trivialise money,” he told the BBC. “The problem is he was extremely determined and I was very determined. He wanted to drive McLaren, I wanted him to drive for McLaren and we were absolutely deadlocked.

“I actually said, knowing he was quite religious. I said ‘do you believe in chance? Do you believe that there are greater forces in this world and mankind?’ And he said ‘of course, there’s God.’ I said ‘well let God decide, let’s flip a coin.’ And he didn’t really understand.

“I had to draw a picture of a head and a tail to make quite sure that when this coin came to rest, that there was no dispute and all he did was laugh. We both laughed.

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“I normally bet with the drivers, more for humour than anything else. It’s a great breaker of tensions in relationships to bring some humour and bring some frivolity.”

Senna would go on to lose his life the year after he left Dennis’ team and as to whether he would cope if a driver died whilst driving for him, Dennis was not sure what his reaction would have been.

“That’s a very good question,” he said. “I can’t give you an honest answer other than to say I constantly reflected on it. Would I stop if a driver lost his life in one of my cars?

“I think the circumstances would have been irrelevant. There are things that you feel responsible for and there’s things that you aren’t responsible for. I mean, tyre failure is a classic example, where the accident can be pretty devastating but I was just so lucky, I never found myself in that position.

“But it wasn’t just luck, we were extremely mindful in the company that the drivers need to survive accidents but also to be uninjured.”

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