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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rivals Gone, but New Rules Challenge Senna

SAO PAULO -- Ayrton Senna has no illusions about the task facing him in winning a fourth world drivers' championship following Michael Schumacher's unexpected victory for Benetton in the season-opening Brazilian Grand Prix.

The gifted Brazilian, who moved from McLaren to Williams during the winter, is universally recognized as the best driver, with arguably the best engine and car.

Now that Frenchman Alain Prost has retired and Nigel Mansell left Formula One two years ago for the IndyCar circuit, Senna should be able to drive away with another championship.

But Formula One's new package of radical regulations should make it tougher for Senna to excel.

"It is not a surprise to me that other teams are so much closer to us now," said Senna after spinning off 15 laps from the end on Sunday while running second. Senna's crash allowed Schumacher to finish a lap clear of second-placed Briton Damon Hill, who, like Senna, drives for Williams.

"I think it will be a very close fight every time we race from now on.

"We have a reliable car and so do Benetton. In terms of speed I think we are very close. They are very competitive."

The Benetton team's heavy program of pre-season testing and slick work at the two scheduled fuel-and-tire stops helped Schumacher win, the first since the banning of high technology driver aids.

Most observers felt the new regulations helped to create a more exciting, competitive if unpredictable show with several teams and drivers, who in previous years have been among the also-rans, enjoying a chance to shine.

These included Ferrari, for whom Jean Alesi finished third behind Hill, the Italian team clearly enjoying the advantage refuelling gave them with their thirsty and heavier V12 engines.

Rubens Barrichello, in a Jordan, was fourth on his home circuit -- the best result of his career.

His team's delight was equaled by that in the Tyrrell garage where Japan's Ukyo Katayama celebrated scoring his first world championship points in fifth place.

But it was not all joy for Jordan. Their other driver Eddie Irvine was banned from the next F1 race, the pacific Grand Prix on April 17, and fined $10,000 after the stewards had blamed him for a spectacular four-car collision.