Interview: Bianca Senna, Inspiring Change Through Ayrton Senna And TAG Heuer
Cars & motorsport

Interview: Bianca Senna, Inspiring Change Through Ayrton Senna And TAG Heuer

Ayrton Senna is a well-known name to many people on this planet. He is arguably the most famous and consequential Brazilian ever. And, as one of the most renowned Formula One champions, he has been the face of TAG Heuer’s "Don't Crack Under Pressure" campaign since 1991. We recently met with his niece Bianca Senna, to talk about her uncle, the Senna brand, and TAG Heuer.

By Viviana Shanks

Born in Portugal and growing up with a father that devoted many a Sunday to F1, I am no stranger to the legend that is Ayrton Senna. So, when the chance to interview his niece came along, I couldn't say no.

Ambitious and Fearless 

Born in March 1960, Ayrton always aimed for perfection and to be the best version of himself. He is considered by many to be the most significant Formula One driver of all time, and for good reasons. Senna was extremely talented behind the wheel (even more so on wet racetracks), he knew how to treat the car, and proposed multiple safety changes to tracks and cars.

After he tragically passed away during a race in 1994, his family started a charity in his memory to help the children of Brazil. The Ayrton Senna Institute aims to inspire the new generation to become the best of themselves through hard work and development of their talents.

A timeless collaboration 

As part of the Senna Brand and TAG Heuer collaboration, the brand has launched two dedicated timepieces to celebrate the life and legacy of the driver and face of their "Don't Crack Under Pressure" campaign.

These two new timepieces take inspiration from the design of the driver's favorite TAG Heuer watch. The new TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019, limited to 65 pieces, comes with a completely matte black ceramic case coupled with a ceramic bezel and the name "SENNA" in yellow, a nod to the Brazilian flag.  

For the diehard Senna fans, TAG Heuer also launched a TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16, similar to the piece Ayrton wore on the campaign poster. However, both pieces are meant for Ayrton Senna's fans, as both have his iconic helmet on the back of the watch.

We met with Bianca Senna, Head of Communication for the Senna Brand and niece of Ayrton Senna, to discuss her uncle and the TAG Heuer connection.

Tête-à-tête with Bianca 

From the moment I met Bianca, I was starstruck, and we naturally started speaking in our native language, Portuguese. She is extremely polite and speaks with such conviction that she could convince anyone to help the Senna Foundation. Naturally, for my first question, I asked about the legacy her uncle left behind and how they shared it. 

Viviana: Ayrton left such a legacy in the world of Formula 1. Very similar to Lewis Hamilton, his reach extends far beyond F1. Some even speculated he would run for President of Brazil one day. What's his legacy for you?

Bianca: He was much more than a Formula 1 driver. His story transcended the titles he had. What is unique about Ayrton was his values, he is still inspiring people even today. His motto was, to become the best of yourself, you have to have a lot of determination and guts to get where and what you want.

(Bianca Continues) All these values and attitudes are timeless. Our goal as a brand is to inspire people to be their best. His story and experiences show how much you can do and how much you have. We want to show people that each of us has the inner strength to get things done. I think in today's world, everyone thinks things are easy. But no, they are not. The new generations think these things are owed to them, that they can easily become president thanks to YouTube. At the end of the day, life is, unfortunately, not that easy.

(Bianca) We need examples of people who worked extremely hard to achieve what they want and people who reach for their dreams. This is what we strive to do, in different ways, with products and the Senna brand experiences. Besides that, we have a social side that aims to inspire people through education. At the moment in Brazil, we have 53 million children in school, 90% of whom are in public schools. Unfortunately, the public-school system is of very poor quality in Brazil. So, we started working to develop the potential of new generations 25 years ago, right after the accident (1994, Imola).

(Bianca) We really want to transform Brazilian education so that new, young Sennas can emerge. Not Sennas in the sense of being a race car driver or a successful sportsman, but full-fledged people who have the chance to chase after their dream, to be their best version of themselves. The Ayrton brand works in different ways to inspire people to share their values, to use their full potential, and to aspire them to be their best.

Viviana: I was extremely young when Senna died, but thanks to my father, I still knew who he was. More recently, my husband introduced me to a couple of documentaries about Senna's life. They triggered my curiosity, and I have to ask Bianca, when did you realize the importance of Senna?

Bianca: I was 14 years old when he passed away. So, to me, he was my uncle. I didn't have much of an idea of how big he was to people. It was more when I started working for the family, and especially for the Senna brand, that I began to see how much he inspired people. Even today, 25 years later, people have an emotional connection with him, and it's is very strong. Recent research shows that 90-95% of people in Brazil know him. He is still the first personality in Brazil today. It’s massive. You can see that big brands such as TAG Heuer, Heineken, and McLaren are also inspired. They want to be part of this brand, to be near the inspiration Ayrton started through the brand and share in his legacy.

Viviana: As previously mentioned, Ayrton's legacy transcends motorsport. But what is his legacy in the world of watches?

Bianca: I think watches and motorsports have always been very closely linked together, from the very beginning. Especially with TAG Heuer, which came from the need to have a higher accuracy when timing cars. And Ayrton, being a driver, he was always racing against time. And with amplified precision. I think it's a perfect representation of that — this tireless pursuit of crossing the line. 

Viviana: In all the photos I have ever seen of Senna, he always sported a beautiful TAG Heuer. Following his passing, I wondered, what happened to his watches?

Bianca: We still have them all. We have an Ayrton memorial (in São Paulo), and my grandmother, Ayrton's mother, takes care of his things. We have all the watches in our collection. And obviously, we keep them with great affection and attention.

Viviana: Finally, I wanted to know how the Senna Foundation continues Ayrton's mission today?

Bianca: Our job is to develop the potential of the new generations in Brazil through school and primary education. In the last 25 years, we've been working and reached 26 million children and trained over 300,000 teachers. Annually we reach around a million and a half to two million children. We also train around 60,000 teachers a year, which is more than all the teaching schools in Brazil train in one year. The scale of the work is significant because the magnitude of our problem is enormous. Fortunately, we have a lot of people willing to help. We are also developing educational technologies that can solve the education issues, and, at the same time, can be replicated throughout Brazil.

(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)

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