Formula 1's greatest drivers. Number 5: Alain Prost - BBC Sport
Four-time world champion Alain Prost tells of the day that everything changed in his relationship with his arch-rival Ayrton Senna, six months ahead of the. There are tribute poems to Ayrton Senna, Gilles Villeneuve and Mario Andretti, Bernd Maylander, Alan van der .. Together with Prost they won all but one race in their championship bout. . I have forged relationships with many great people . Oct 9, It was Prost who beat Senna on equal terms more than anyone else The relationship between the two men, always cool, was tolerable for.
France Last GP win: Germany Races started: It was Prost's outstanding talent against which the great Brazilian measured himself. It was Prost's deceptive speed that pushed Senna to such heights. It was Prost who beat Senna on equal terms more than anyone else - his career win ratio is actually slightly higher. If Senna was the greatest racing driver of all time, as many believe, Prost got closer to him than any contemporary. Where Senna was all-action, high-octane attack, Prost was understatement itself.
Out on the track, he hardly ever seemed to be trying.
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He used so little of the road; the car was hardly ever out of shape, his driving silky smooth and ultra-precise. He turned in early on the brakes, exquisitely balancing the car to the apex, allowing him to get on the power early and come off the corner like a rocket. And it was all done with an apparent ease and economy of effort that made you think anyone could do it.
The stopwatch, though, told a different story. John Watson, Keke Rosberg, Jean Alesi, Damon Hill - all former team-mates who were left shaking their heads in admiration at how Prost took their car to limits beyond their reach.
Even Nigel Mansell found him tough to handle when they were at Ferrari together in But it was Prost's incredible rivalry with Senna that has come to define his career. Their battle for supremacy, as McLaren team-mates in and after Prost moved to Ferrari indrove both men to new highs and new lows, and Formula 1 to an intensity it has never reached before or since.
As they waged war on and off the track, both men were visibly out of their comfort zones. They pushed each other to the limit and beyond. It was frightening - and exhilarating - to watch. Alain Prost centre celebrates winning the South African Grand prix in January Only a driver of the very highest calibre could have done this to Senna, and Prost was undoubtedly that. By the time these two mega-talents collided at McLaren inProst was comfortably established as the man to beat in F1.
He already had two world titles and should have had more. His first, won in dominant style in once the challenge of Ferrari and Michele Alboreto faded after mid-season, was long overdue.
Had Renault's reliability not been so lamentable inProst would have cruised to the title, once Ferrari's Gilles Villeneuve was killed early in the year.
Inhe was in a seemingly unbeatable position with four races remaining, only for Renault's challenge to fade in the face of an onslaught by Brabham-BMW and Nelson Piquet, helped by a potent - and controversial - new fuel. And Prost should have won easily following a move to McLaren in He took seven wins; team-mate Niki Lauda five, four of which came after Prost suffered reliability problems while running ahead, the fifth after similar issues forced him to start from the pit lane.
Prost lost out by half a point. The mids was F1's first turbo era, which from '84 came with a fuel limit, and Prost's driving was perfectly tailored to the demands of the time. Time and again, he would start the race unobtrusively, saving fuel and tyres, sitting calmly some way back from the lead, only to turn it on as mid-race approached.
Suddenly, the TV screens would light up with a succession of fastest laps by Prost. Hamilton has Senna 'edge' 30 Oct In his book The Death of Ayrton Senna Richard Williams notes that such complexity of character and technical skill rarely co-exist within a single human being. He seemed propelled by a desire to find more within himself. I feel it is right to slow down, but something inside me, something very strong, pushes me on, makes me try to beat myself.
It is… an enormous desire to go further and further, to travel beyond my own limits. And he was Brazilian, and proud to be so, even though his country was going through a terrible time. After every win he would take his lap of honour waving the Brazilian flag, and it really meant a lot to all layers of society in Brazil.
Watching the tragedy unfold at Imola was year-old Manish Pandey. I wanted to be a fighter pilot, and this was the closest thing to that you could do in sport. Ayrton Senna was my first and only hero. I had a sense that he was special, and watching his career unfold, in real time as it were, I was aware that he was a genuinely great man. Intelligent, fearless, strong, determined — and an outsider who could take on the establishment and win.
And he had a passion for films. In his spare time, he wrote scripts for romantic comedies but he never lost his devotion to Formula One, and when his wife, Natascha Wharton, then the head of development at Working Title, heard that the producer James Gay-Rees was interested in making a documentary about Senna, she put them together.
Gay-Rees had grown up hearing about Senna because his father used to work for John Player Special, sponsor of the Lotus team that Senna drove for.
Formula 1's greatest drivers. Number 5: Alain Prost
Pandey presented his first treatment to Gay-Rees in Two ingredients were essential: For years the family had been besieged by people wanting to make films about Senna, but they were uniquely impressed by Pandey and Gay-Rees. The Sennas contacted Ecclestone, who owns the entire F1 film archive, asking him to help. The call was made very early on: The final version is 90 minutes, about the length of a grand prix race.
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It is not a complete biography of Senna, more a mosaic of his life. In my experience, very few deaths — even dying of old age — are timely. Senna is a treat. He liked to hold something back, which was anathema to Senna.
He thought Senna was ruthless and dangerous, and could not compete with his total commitment and unwavering focus. It was an uneasy position for Pandey and Kapadia — talking to a four-times world champion for a film about a three-times world champion. On his desk Prost had a series of books: The Great Challenge — five encyclopedias about the best drivers from five different eras: Clark, Stewart, Lauda, Senna and Schumacher. There is not one called Prost.
The rivalry between Senna and Prost was legendary. But Prost was keen to draw attention to the fact that at the fateful Imola weekend, where, now retired from racing, he was commenting for French television, he and Senna had had a rapprochement.
He had an older sister, Viviane, and a younger brother, Leonardo, and his parents, Neyde Senna and Milton da Silva, were very well off. His father owned a successful metalworks company making components for cars, and also had a cattle ranch. Oddly, Ayrton was a clumsy child — slow to walk and not very coordinated — but showed great early ability around cars of any sort. In he took part in the karting world championship at Le Mans, where he met the karting legend Terry Fullerton.
There is a touching bit of footage in the film where he is asked in which driver he got most satisfaction from racing against. In Senna married Lilian Vasconcelos Souza and moved to England to participate in the Formula Ford championships, the lower echelon of motor racing that is the normal route into Formula One.
In his first ever race in the Formula Ford class he finished fifth; two weeks later he won. He won the title that year and people really started talking about him with awe, particularly when he won races in the rain.
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But Senna was magnificent in the rain, and he became famous for it. In he moved up into Formula Fordwinning his first race by 14 seconds and taking the British and European titles, then won the British Formula Three championship the following year.
Despite the unwieldy car, he scored his first championship points in only his second race, but it was at Monaco, in the sixth race of the season, that his spectacular talent really showed itself.
It rained, and Senna caught Prost, but the race was abandoned for safety reasons. Senna might as well have won in the minds of the public. The following year,he bought himself out of Toleman which later became Benetton and joined Lotus, for which he won his first grand prix, at Estoril, Portugal. In black overalls, in a black car with a John Player Special logo on the side, he looked pretty cool. He spent three years with Lotus but there was no way to win the championship in that car and it was Prost in his McLaren who won in and McLaren was the place to be, and, for Senna, Prost was the driver to beat.
When circumstances finally prevailed for Ron Dennis, the famously dry and chilly supremo of McLaren, to sign Senna for the season, it seemed a perfect partnership. Senna and Prost were very different characters, both in and out of the car. Prost was seemingly laidback and self-effacing; Senna was intense and had huge self-belief. By Monte Carlo, Prost realised he was in trouble. It was almost supernatural. In qualifying he had already attained pole position 'and I was going faster and faster.
One lap after the other, quicker and quicker — suddenly I was nearly two seconds faster than anybody else, including my teammate with the same car.
Senna got out of his car and walked straight back to his apartment nearby. He went on to win six of the next eight races, and if he won in Japan, the championship would be his.
But he stalled on the grid, found himself back in 16th place, then made an amazing recovery and, by lap 27, was overtaking Prost. It started to rain and the race was his. Later he claimed he had seen God in this race. Do you feel like a world champion, he was asked afterwards.
And he replied, 'I just feel peace. There was war between the McLaren teammates; they were not speaking to each other. At the deciding race in Japan, the positions were reversed: Prost led until lap 47 when Senna tried to dive through the chicane, and both of them came off.