The day Senna, Brundle and Bellof made their F1 debuts

On this day in 1984, the Brazilian Grand Prix was the opening round of that year’s Formula 1 World Championship and was remarkable for the quintet of rookie drivers making their debuts. It marked the maiden grand prix starts for Stefan Bellof, Ayrton Senna and Martin Brundle – as well as the less heralded Philippe Alliot and Francois Hesnault.

Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B
Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B
1/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

Martin Brundle, Tyrrell 012
Martin Brundle, Tyrrell 012
2/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

Stefan Bellof, Tyrrell 012 Ford
Stefan Bellof, Tyrrell 012 Ford
3/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B
Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B
4/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B
Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B
5/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B Hart
Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B Hart
6/20

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B Hart
Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B Hart
7/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B Hart
Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B Hart
8/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B Hart
Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B Hart
9/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B Hart
Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B Hart
10/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B
Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B
11/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

Martin Brundle, Tyrrell 012 Ford
Martin Brundle, Tyrrell 012 Ford
12/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Stefan Bellof, Tyrrell 012 Ford
Stefan Bellof, Tyrrell 012 Ford
13/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Martin Brundle, Tyrrell 012 Ford
Martin Brundle, Tyrrell 012 Ford
14/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Stefan Bellof, Tyrrell 012 Ford, with Martin Brundle
Stefan Bellof, Tyrrell 012 Ford, with Martin Brundle
15/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

François Hesnault, Ligier JS23 Renault
François Hesnault, Ligier JS23 Renault
16/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

François Hesnault, Ligier JS23 Renault
François Hesnault, Ligier JS23 Renault
17/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Philippe Alliot, RAM 02 Hart
Philippe Alliot, RAM 02 Hart
18/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Philippe Alliot and Jonathan Palmer, RAM 02, 8th
Philippe Alliot and Jonathan Palmer, RAM 02, 8th
19/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

Philippe Alliot, RAM 02 Hart
Philippe Alliot, RAM 02 Hart
20/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

(Click on the arrows on the images above to scroll through them)

Of the bunch, Senna qualified highest – the future three-time world champion taking 17th on the grid, albeit over 5s off the pole time, but ahead of Toleman-Hart teammate Johnny Cecotto. 

Brundle, whom Senna had beaten to the 1983 British Formula 3 title, would line up two places behind in 19th in his normally aspirated Tyrrell-Ford. Hesnault was 20th in his Ligier-Renault, with Bellof 23rd in the second Tyrrell, and Alliot beating RAM-Hart teammate Jonathan Palmer to the final spot on the 26-car grid – although he was over 9s away from the fastest qualifying time.

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Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B

Ayrton Senna, Toleman TG183B

Photo by: Sutton Images

In the race, Senna was the first to drop out, his debut lasting only eight laps before suffering a turbo failure. Bellof made it little further, out on lap 11, with Alliot (dead battery) and Hesnault (overheating) retiring after 24 and 25 laps respectively.

Brundle – who would go on to score nine podium finishes in a lengthy F1 career – was the only rookie to see the chequered flag, finishing fifth on the road. However, the Tyrrells would later be disqualified from the entire championship for various technical infringements, including the use of lead shot in a water tank as ballast during races.

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Tragically, Bellof would lose his life in a Porsche Group C sportscar crash at Spa-Francorchamps a year later, an accident Brundle witnessed from the pitlane.

“Bellof was wild, but he wasn't the crasher that some people seem to remember him as,” Brundle told Autosport. “I was about to jump in the Jag and saw that accident up at Eau Rouge as it happened. His accident was clearly a big one, but it didn't look horrific.

Stefan Bellof, Thierry Boutsen, Porsche 956

Stefan Bellof, Thierry Boutsen, Porsche 956

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“I didn't look at it and think that my F1 team-mate was dead, but at that time in sportscar racing there was ‘what's going to happen next?’ feeling. It was the same feeling that we all had over the Imola weekend in 1994 [when Senna was killed] and the weeks that followed.

“There was obviously a lot more energy involved than was apparent from where I was standing. From what I understand, he didn't stand a chance.”

 

Hesnault, who went on to race for Brabham, was most notable for being entered in a third Renault to carry an on-board camera in the 1985 German Grand Prix. F1 journeyman Alliot amassed over 100 starts (but scored only seven points) for RAM, Ligier and Larrousse, although he once subbed for the banned Mika Hakkinen at McLaren in the 1994 Hungarian GP. 

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