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'If I Was With Senna, We Would Have Had Problems' - Tommy Byrne On Fascinating F1 Career

'If I Was With Senna, We Would Have Had Problems' - Tommy Byrne On Fascinating F1 Career
Eoin Harrington
By Eoin Harrington
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Ireland and Formula 1 have an interesting relationship. There have been some serious success stories over the years, none more so than the Jordan team, but successful drivers have been few and far between. One of the most fascinating case studies in the history of Irish involvement in F1 is that of Tommy Byrne.

Drogheda man Byrne was the guest on this week's official Formula 1 podcast this week, and told the story of his regrets from his brief time in the sport.

Irishman Tommy Byrne recalls tough time in Formula 1

Tommy Byrne has now been the subject of a feature-length documentary and a biography book (the excellent Crashed and Byrned: The Greatest Racing Driver You Never Saw), and for good reason.

His raw ability has been described as being on a par with the legendary Ayrton Senna, with Eddie Jordan once saying, "Forget Senna, forget Schumacher, Tommy Byrne was the best of them all." Speaking on this week's F1: Beyond the Grid podcast, Byrne responded to that comment, saying that he regretted the pressure it put on him.

He also said that he regrets never having had the chance to race against either Senna or Schumacher.

That quote caused me a lot of trouble! It caused me a lot of trouble because obviously I didn't say it but obviously it's been used now over and over again with the book and the movie.

Yeah, I might have been cocky at the time but now, definitely not. For sure, if I was with Senna, if we were together on track at the same time, yes there would be a problem, we would have both had problems. But it never happened. We never got to do it.

The same with Schumacher. We would have had a great team, but then I watched Schumacher's documentary and he worked hard.


Byrne's partying lifestyle is well-documented, and his focus on Schumacher's work ethic suggests that he recognises the effect the partying had on his career.


Nonetheless, it sounds from the podcast as though Tommy Byrne was set up to fail upon arrival in Formula 1. He had a contract with the immensely successful McLaren team before he made his debut in 1982 with Theodore - and Byrne suggests that the McLaren team boss Ron Dennis held him back from having a longer time in the sport.

The problem when I got into Formula 1 was 'wrong car, wrong time'. It's very simple and unfortunately there was nothing available at the time and I had a terrible time in Formula 1 because I was told that I couldn't drive.

I just did not have a good time in Formula 1.

You get one chance. I knew that there was a contract available with McLaren and Ron Dennis. They had an option on my service - I don't even know where the contract is but I know I signed it, Murray Taylor sent me to see him.

I know they had an option on my services. I know before I drove for Theodore they had to ask Ron could I do it. He said, 'we would advise not to, sign one year if you have to but other than that, don't. That's our advice to you.'

Well, was there anything for me with McLaren for the next few years? He said, 'no'.

I wasn't really in the position to wait, I had to take it. You always think you're gonna do a better job than the last guy, which was Jan Lammers. I would have gotten a better job if they had been a little nicer to me, but it turns out that they didn't even want me in the team in the first place.

Something happened a little further down the line, I think money might have exchanged hands to get me in that car. If I had known that, then I would definitely have said no.

Tommy Byrne only lasted five races with Theodore at the end of the 1982 season, failing to qualify for three of them, and failing to score points in the other two. It was a sad way for his career to go, when he was clearly held in such high regard by very esteemed peers.


Nonetheless, and despite the disappointment of how his career seemed doomed before it began, Tommy Byrne has no doubts about his ability all these years later.

I was quick enough that I beat all of those European guys. Give me a car and I could do it. I could learn tracks quick and I could adapt. I just had that belief in myself that I was better than everybody else and I was the best.

SEE ALSO: Formula 1 Fans Irate As Director Wants Sprint Races To Be The Norm

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