ec: Your friendship with Ayrton Senna was well known. How did you become friends and was there something even in FF that made him stand out?
KS: I first met Ayrton at Brands Hatch in March 1981. I had taken lots of photos of him at the opening Formula Ford race at Thruxton, as I was working for a Brazilian magazine that wanted images of Brazilian drivers racing in England. I was shy back then, so never introduced myself. But at Brands Hatch, Ayrton approached me and enquired if I was a professional photographer. When I said I was, he said he needed photos of him racing sent to Brazil on a regular basis. On that day, he won his first race and I got some great photos of him celebrating on the podium late in the evening. From then on, I continued working with him, taking photographs, writing his press releases, answering his fan mail and handling his PR work for three years.
In the early days, we had both a professional relationship and a personal friendship. I would often stay at the house he shared with fellow Brazilian driver Mauricio Gugelmin and talk about music, movies, cars, women and Brazil. In return, he would stay at my house when he raced at Oulton Park. I celebrated with him when he won his junior formulae championships and he invited me to Brazil for his first F1 race, paying for the airfare and the hotel.
He was very professional and focused from the outset, and knew exactly what he had to do to make it into F1. Fundamentally though, it was his undoubted talent that made him stand out. He was on the pace instantly in pretty much anything he sat in.
ec: Senna seemed ahead of the game early on, how did those early press releases start up? It was rare to see one about a driver at the top, let alone the first step of the ladder.
KS: Ayrton was acutely aware of the importance of self-promotion. He was keen to have his PR in English, as he figured that to gain the attention of those that count--the F1 team owners and managers--the majority would be English-speaking. He asked me to write them.
We would send these releases to all the F1 team managers and 30 international motorsport magazines to keep them informed of how Senna was performing. He also had them translated and sent to Brazil, as it was important for his Brazilian sponsors and their media to be aware of his rising fortunes.
It was from these releases that I began receiving phone calls from Bernie Ecclestone, Peter Warr and Frank Williams enquiring about this young Brazilian. To be honest, I was too young and inexperienced to know how to handle them, so I passed them onto Ayrton. But it was clear the releases had achieved the desired result.
ec: F1 used to move along at slow pace where even a two- or three-year-old car could still win races. When did you see the pace develop and who would you credit?
KS: I disagree. Certainly there have been cars like the Lotus 72 or the McLaren M23 in the '70s that raced with great success for many seasons. But it's wrong to think the cars remained unchanged from season to season, or even race to race. Formula One has always been about relentless development--the drive to provide the most powerful engine or the most efficient aerodynamic package. The McLaren M23 Denny Hulme debuted in 1973 was a very different beast under the skin from the one Hunt and Mass drove in 1977. Going back through our archive from the late David Phipps, it's clear that developments in the 1960s and 1970s were brought on-stream with as much, if not more, regularity than now. Look at Lotus' four-wheel-drive car of the late '60s or their turbine car of 1971, Tyrrell's six-wheeled car from 1976, the tall wings from the late '60s developed almost from session to session, experiments with brakes, suspensions, fuel tanks and so on. There was greater freedom within the rules then to be radical, so new ideas were tried more frequently, something I think is sadly missing in F1 now.