Considered one of the greatest drivers in the history of Formula 1, Alain Prost with his 4 world titles was the protagonist of some of the most electrifying rivalries in the 1980s and 1990s. Unforgettable duels with Lauda, Mansell and
who wrote some of the most exciting pages of racing.
The beginnings in the minor formulas
Born in 1955 in France, Prost began his career in karts at the age of 14; in 1973 he won both the French Junior Championship that the World Junior while in 1974 he was French champion of the Elite. He switched to single-seaters in 1976 and immediately won the Formula Renault championship, imposing himself in all but one race. The year 1978 saw Prost compete in Formula 3, and in 1979 he won both the French and European championships. His talent is so crystal clear that Jackie Stewart calls him“the new Jacky Ickx.” In 1980 came his F1 debut with McLaren, immediately Prost began to score points, the car’s lack of competitiveness, however, made him accept an offer from Renault where he arrived in 1981. It was the year of consecration and he won the first career success that earned him the nickname“Little Napoleon.” The season ended with two more wins and a fifth place in the final standings. In 1982 and 1983 Prost confirmed that he was a star of the first magnitude and again with Renault won a total of six grand prixs that placed him fourth and second in the world championship, respectively.
The big break at McLaren and the dualism with Lauda. Prost World Champion in McLaren in 1985 and 1986
In 1984 Prost returned to McLaren and set up an epic challenge with
. The Austrian wins the title in extremis by half a point. In ’85, the roles were reversed, the numerous reliability problems affecting Lauda paving the way for Prost’s first World Championship. A duality made of great mutual respect, as Lauda himself emphasized, “He is the most complete driver I have ever met.” The following seasons saw Prost confirm himself as champion in 1986 and finish fourth in 1987.
The legendary rivalry with Senna. Prost World Champion in McLaren in 1989
When McLaren hired Ayrton Senna in 1988, one of the most passionate rivalries in F1 history began. The two champions are at polar opposites in terms of style and approach to races, which both faced with a knife between their teeth. The first round went to Senna, who won the F1 World Championship in 1988. The duel between the two stars of the wheel reached its climax in the 1989 Japanese GP, when deliberate contact handed the title to Prost. Despite furious quarrels, Senna admitted, “We were pushing each other to give it our all.” That same year Prost decided to make a change of scenery and left the Woking stable.
Ferrari experience and the controversial dismissal
In 1990 Prost accepted Ferrari’s challenge, the stellar Mansell – Prost pair was formed. Alain managed to win five races and finish second in the championship, but the relationship with the Maranello team was less solid than the results would suggest. The climax was reached in late 1991 when Prost, at the wheel of an underperforming car, was dismissed from Ferrari because of a statement in which he compared the Maranello red car to a truck, an inevitable dismissal by then DS Cesare Fiorio. Prost found himself out of F1 despite being in the prime of his career, a transition that cost him a one-year sabbatical in 1992, spent between Ligier F1 testing and TV commentary for TF1.
Prost World Champion in Williams in 1993
After this interlude he returned in 1993 to his true passion, winning his fourth world title with Williams and retiring permanently as a Formula 1 driver.
Unmistakable record and driving style
With 51 wins, 106 podiums and 4 World Titles with two different teams Prost holds several records. His fluid and effective style between corners earned him the nickname “Professor.” He studied setup, tires and trajectories thoroughly before each race at a time when much room was still left for flair and improvisation. While Senna, perhaps more talented and instinctive, drove with his heart he minimized mistakes. McLaren boss Ron Dennis said, “Their combination of talent made us unbeatable.”
The bet of the Prost Grand Prix stable.
From driver to team manager was a short step and Prost decided to embark on a new adventure, He took over the Ligier to which he immediately changed its name and here was Prost Grand Prix, which made its F1 debut in 1997. An ambitious project with about 100 million annual budget. Despite some podiums, and talented drivers such as Truli, Panis, Alesi, Heidfeld just to name a few, they lacked victories. Prost He had to sell the team in 2001, but with no regrets: “It was a wonderful entrepreneurial adventure.”
The interlude of ice racing
In addition to Formula 1, Prost has always loved driving, one of his passions being ice racing. The challenge of dominating powerful race cars on circuits with nonexistent grip represented a new test for him.
He then participated in the Andros Trophy championship in 2003, and was second behind Yvan Muller, was third the following year and second again in 2005. 2006 saw Prost again on the bottom step of the podium in the final standings, and finally in 2007 Alain became champion of the series, repeating himself again in 2008. After a string of second places in the following years 2009, 2010 and 2011 in 2012 he wins the category for the third time.
His adaptability and smooth driving enabled him to excel even in low-grip conditions thanks to the driving sensitivity typical of champions. For Prost this digression represented an intriguing challenge, The context was profoundly different from that of single-seaters but he found new stimuli there. A further demonstration of his versatility as a driver even outside the Formula 1 circus.
Prost’s contribution to technological development in F1
In addition to his talent as a driver, an often underestimated aspect of Prost is his contribution to technological innovation in F1. From the very beginning, thanks to his scientific mindset, he actively collaborated with engineers to improve cars and strategies. His ability to give precise feedback allowed him to refine solutions that were revolutionary for the time, such as electronics and aerodynamics. Prost understood the importance of taking care of every detail: from weight balance to fuel consumption. A perfectionism that allowed McLaren to dominate the 1980s. He also gave decisive input at Ferrari to evolve the car that enabled him to seize second place in the final championship standings in 1990
The complex relationship with the media
Despite his undisputed talent, Prost often had a controversial relationship with the press. His coolness and rationality ill matched the expectations of a passionate champion. Especially compared to Senna’s greater instinctiveness. However, over time the depth of the character emerged. Prost put practicality before bombastic proclamations. He believed in painstaking work, not words. A profile that collides with the French stereotype: genial, methodical, disinclined to extemporaneity. A diversity of approach that has sometimes been misunderstood.
Personal life and passions
Married twice and the father of four children, Prost has always protected his private life from the spotlight. Passionate about tennis, skiing and sailing, he cultivated these passions away from the racetracks after retirement.
Despite his playboy fame when he was a pilot, away from the racetracks he devoted himself mostly to his family, away from gossip and socialites. A choice of discretion that shines through in his words,“I am a family man, this matters more than any victory.”
Alain Prost will remain in history not only for his 4 World Championships but also for his meticulousness in preparing car and race and his scientific approach to driving. A character who, in spite of this measured approach, always found the strength to give his best when engaged to the bitter end against opponents such as Lauda, Mansell and Senna. A strength of spirit and fierce competitiveness that perhaps ill matched the nickname “Professor”
In conclusion, Prost’s career has been outstanding both in terms of sporting achievement and innovative approach. His legacy goes beyond numbers: he is a model of great technical ability, rationality and foresight. A champion who was able to win on the track and successfully reinvent himself outside F1.