Monday, 19 September 2005 19:51
Alain Prost (Alain Marie Pascal Prost)
Alain Prost began his career with Team McLaren, but conflicts of opinion made the French driver to break his two year deal and find a seat in Renault.
In 1984 he joined Niki Lauda at McLaren to drive the brilliant McLaren MP4/2, but lost the world championship to Lauda in the final race by half a point, despite winning seven races to Lauda's five. (The half point was scored when the Monaco Grand Prix was stopped at half distance, meaning the top six drivers would only receive half scores. Prost won and took 4.5 points.)
In 1985, using TAG-Porsche engines, he was the First French Formula One World Champion, and repeated as World Champion in 1986 despite driving a car that was underpowered compared to those of his top rivals. In fact it appeared up to the latter stages of the final race of the 1986 season, in Australia, that Prost was going to finish third in the Championship, behind Nigel Mansell and Mansell's teammate Nelson Piquet, however Mansell dramatically blew a tire at high speed, while leading, and the Williams team called Piquet in for a pit stop to change tires as a safety precaution, thus handing the race victory -- and Championship -- to Prost, who had already pitted earlier.
In 1987, in spite of driving an obsolete McLaren-TAG he managed to challenge Piquet and Mansell almost until the end, winning three races and notably breaking Jackie Stewart's record by claiming his 28th Grand Prix victory.
Prost and Senna
With Senna came the powerful Honda engines and a poisonous brew of conflicting personalities. The rivalry between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna is widely considered the most exciting between two sportsmen, and the most bitter as well, and although luminaries such as Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet and Ricardo Patrese were part of this era in Formula 1, it was these two drivers ahead of a star studded field.
In 1988 an intense rivalry began between the two drivers for the supremacy in the only top team of the season. The warring between the drivers peaked at Estoril when Senna swerved purposely to attempt to squeeze Prost against a pit wall. The ill will between the drivers worsened after that point. Prost's 7 wins with the Honda powered McLaren MP4/4 were not enough as his brilliant teammate won eight and the World Championship, making 15 McLaren race wins out of 16 races in the 1988 season.
1989 was Prost's year. He took the new McLaren MP4/5 to four wins, while Senna seemed to take unnecessary risks on the track, sometimes in the name of religion. Prost responded with the comment "Ayrton has a small problem, he thinks he can't kill himself because he believes in God and I think that is very dangerous for other drivers". The roughness of the rivalry was shown late in the year at Suzuka. Prost was at an advantage because if neither driver finished, he would be crowned world champion. The two McLarens collided at a Suzuka chicane when Prost shut the door on a pass attempt by Senna. Prost walked away and Senna returned to the track by illegally receiving a push start from the race marshalls -- a maneuver that resulted in a disqualification after the checkered flag.
In 1990, again at Suzuka the two drivers came together yet again, as Prost (now in a Ferrari) held his line and Senna hit him. Senna admitted the move was premeditated as Senna's lead in the World Championship meant he was crowned World Champion.
As a result, Prost's Ferrari quickly overtook Senna at the start of the race. Senna then threw his car into Prost's while entering the first and medium speed corner. Both ended on the gravel pit, and thus Senna clinched the title thanks to his pre-existent points advantage. Later Senna confirmed the action, claiming that it was not fair that the FIA did not change the Pole position, nor the way Prost won the last championship.
In 1991, Ferrari was not on pace. After vocal public criticism of the Italian F1 icon, Prost was fired before the season ended.
In 1993, Prost clinched his fourth - and final - title, but in a year where he was regularly challenged by Ayrton Senna in an inferior car and vastly less experienced team-mate Damon Hill, many felt his heart was no longer in it.
Shortly before the Portuguese Grand Prix in October 1993 Alain Prost announced he would not defend his world title and instead opted to retire as the most successful driver in the sport's history - a record which stood for almost a decade.
A few days later it was announced that Senna would replace Prost as the lead driver in the Williams team, and despite strenuous attempts by team boss Ron Dennis to lure him back to McLaren for 1994, Prost's final race took place on November 7, 1993.
Prost Grand Prix
After Prost Grand Prix
Throughout his career Prost also earned a set of nicknames; "The Professor" and "The Calculator" (owing to his smooth driving style - which strongly contrasted with more dramatic drivers such as Senna, and his carefully considered approach to race tactics), "The King of Rio" (Prost won six times in Brazil; five in Rio de Janeiro) and "Fast Son of a Bitch" (Coined by Niki Lauda).
Outside of racing cars, Prost is a road cycling enthusiast, and has helped design bicycle frames for the French framebuilder Cyfac. Prost now lives with his wife, Anne-Marie, and two sons Nicolas and Sacha in Nyon, Switzerland.
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