Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost's legendary rivalry and the politics behind it
Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost enjoyed a heated rivalry during the 80's Ayrton Senna was irate with the decision and felt the close relationship. 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. The advice Galisteu gave Senna, the thrice world champion and a suggestion that his relationship with Galisteu itself was preying on his . Less favourably, his ruthlessness on track - most notably in driving Alain Prost off in.
It was their very first meeting that was to set the tone of their relationships down the years. I was coming from Geneva to Frankfurt on a scheduled flight, and Ayrton was due to land half an hour before, so Gerd Kremer of Mercedes asked me if I would bring him to the track. On the way we chatted, and he was very pleasant.
Then we got to the track, and practised the cars. It seemed funny at the time. Then in the race, I took the lead — and he pushed me off the track after half a lap. He drove a great race at Monaco, but in those days — when monocoques were far less stiff than now — it was quite possible to have a poor car in the dry turn out to be very good in the wet. Of course we all rated him, but with the reservation that sometimes a young driver looks quite good, but then joins a top team, and looks ordinary.
With Ayrton, though, it was pretty clear he had a special talent.
For sure Ayrton did well from the beginning, but he showed nothing that was truly exceptional before Monaco. Monaco was the thing: After a single season with Toleman, he joined Lotus-Renault forbrilliantly won the Portuguese Grand Prix again in the rainand was a front runner everywhere. But at Hockenheim, for example, he made a mistake at the Ostkurve, and when Michele Alboreto went to pass, Ayrton swerved left and right to keep him back.
Back then such tactics were not embraced by the F1 community. He had them, he believed in them, and that was it. Looking back, I really think he believed he was always in the right, always telling the truth — and on the track he was exactly the same way. The year before, Lotus had used Honda engines, and Ayrton had established a deep relationship with the Japanese engineers.
As he came to McLaren, so also did Honda.Prost Chases Senna - 1993 British Grand Prix
And one team insider puts it this way: My biggest problem was that I really loved McLaren, and wanted to do everything I could for the team. When I went with Ron Dennis to Japan, to meet the Honda people, I said that Ron should take Ayrton, because he was the more talented driver, and for me the team came first. I did the first run, and he was then due to take it over. I came into the pits, and the mechanics began to change the wheels. I could see Ayrton there, helmet on, pacing around, waiting for me to get out, so I decided to stay in the car just a little longer.
The only problem was at Estoril, at the end of the first lap. Down the pit straight Prost slipstreamed Senna, then ducked right to go by, whereupon Ayrton swerved towards him, putting him maybe six inches from the pit wall.
Alain Prost on Ayrton Senna: 'Between us, we can screw all the others!' | Autoweek
I was right against the pit wall, and I really thought we were going to touch, and have a big crash — with the whole pack right behind us. How many times in his Formula One career was Ayrton sanctioned for that kind of thing?
And, in fact, he did apologise to me for what happened in Portugal. And I think my biggest problem was that I never had the relationship with them that Ayrton did.
From the beginning, it was something I never felt I had under control. It was more a human thing. I worked with Honda again last year — now as a team owner — and it struck me again: I think the Japanese just work differently. In a team, they always favour someone over the rest. At the end of that test I was very happy — but at the next race, one week later, they never put that strategy on my engine.
Ayrton was very quick, and in qualifying he was much better than me — much more committed, just as I think I was when I was the younger driver in the team, against Niki Lauda.
Prost talks of tough bond with Senna 20 years after star's death
And he admitted that I was right in believing that Honda was more for Ayrton than for me. Quite the opposite, in fact. Inthe fragile relationship between Prost and Senna broke apart utterly, and that existing between Alain and McLaren was not a lot better. Ron knew the future of his team was with Honda — and therefore with Senna. But Ron knows my feelings about that period. But at the end of the day, you know, Ron was trying to push his company to the front, and of course I can understand that a little.
Senna and Prost, as usual, qualifieda second and a half clear of the rest, and Ayrton suggested that they not jeopardise their prospects by fighting at the first corner, Tosa, on the opening lap: At the start, Senna led away, and at Tosa Prost duly fell in behind him.
Then, however, the race was stopped, when Gerhard Berger had a serious accident. On the restart, it was Prost who got ahead — but at Tosa Senna snicked by into the lead. No Schumi-style rear gunners here. But of course statistics only mean so much. Which is just as well for Prost as there was so much to appreciate about him other than the numbers.
Prost, nicknamed 'the Professor', is commonly associated with calculation and consistency rather than spectacular racing, which is most probably what John Bisignano was referring to in part. It's less well-recorded that he was bloody quick as well, and that when called upon could go wheel to wheel with rivals as decisively and aggressively as anyone.
As one Australian journalist said, Prost had the head of Stewart and the right foot of Villeneuve.
Prost - six years my junior - was more capable of it than I was. At Monaco in particular, I couldn't believe how he went through traffic'. And how about this from Keke Rosberg, widely considered to be F1's fastest and bravest driver for much of the s, after going up against Prost as team mates at McLaren: As an all-round race driver he's head and shoulders clear of anyone else he's raced againstbecause he's brilliant in every department Prost's F1 career is strewn with attacking drives of the sort we'd more naturally associate with Gilles Villeneuve or Lewis Hamilton than with 'The Professor'.
For example, in the South African Grand Prix of while he was leading just after half distance one of Prost's tyres punctured. A subsequent three-quarter lap on a shredded tyre and pit stop lengthy as it was not part of the F1 drill in those days left him in eighth place and a lap down.
But he then got on with it, lapped routinely three seconds and more quicker than anyone else including his team mate Rene Arnoux, now in the lead and he regained first place with nine laps left - only 27 laps after his puncture - which he kept. Then in the Belgian Grand Prix at the classic Spa track he was involved in someone else's accident at the first turn, which crumpled his front wing.
A long delay in the crash, slow lap and a long stop to replace his nose left him way off the back of the field. He then proceeded to smash the lap record repeatedly, and never once touching his turbo boost, to claim the final point for sixth place.
And he did this in a damaged car, his engine mountings bent and suspension damaged in the first corner contretemps.
Prost talks of tough bond with Senna 20 years after star's death - Autoblog
In the words of McLaren designer John Barnard: Lothar Spurzem Then there was as similar performance in Suzuka the following year. This time it was an early puncture that delayed Prost, and it left him so far behind it took him 22 laps of a 53 lap race to even catch the next car ahead. But he again went fast for the sake of it, and made up almost an entire lap on winner Gerhard Berger and set a fastest lap 1.
And there are many examples beyond these, such as plain beating team mate Senna for pace in Mexico, France and elsewhere incoming through the field to win from 13th on the grid in the Mexican race in and hauling an off-colour Williams in qualifying and the race to win in Barcelona in And then there's Imola the same year, when but one round after Senna's famous triumph in wet conditions at Donnington, Prost swarmed all over Senna's McLaren in the damp early stages of the race, before going on to win.
Ayrton Senna was well known for his exceptional car control skills while racing on the limit in wet and slippery conditions. Why not see if you can match those skills by playing Drift Hunters - the best free to play drifting game of Indeed, in a race situation Prost was rarely lacking for pace. This much is demonstrated by his collection of 41 fastest race laps in his career, which was a record until Schumi hoovered that one along with everything else up. Indeed, the man himself never concurred with the 'cruise and collect' persona that continues to be attributed to him.
After winning his first title, inProst commented: Driving "tactical" races is not what I like to do I can race in Kyalami and Adelaide the last two races of the season now, and feel I can just go for it, which is much more natural to me'. And in a line that could have been in response to Bisignano, on tactical races he said: And while Prost is often viewed as having been something of a 'wimp', in fact he was rarely faint of heart in on track battles.
He after all did not flinch when Senna tried to drive him into the pitwall at mph in Estoril in Two years earlier, this time at Montreal, and up against the same rival, Prost showed similar nerve. There once featured a fast right-left-right sweep on the track layout there, with forbidding walls very close by there's now a straight instead.
Prost, having sought for many laps to pass an unaccommodating Senna, nosed ahead there, and decisively claimed the racing line, causing Senna to lift from the throttle and jink his car half onto the grass, and thus cede the place. So, with all of this in place, you may ask why Prost continues to be under rated by posterity?
In my view part of the reason may be related to the way that Prost went about his business, on and off the track. In both cases there was none of the dramatic legend, continuous confrontation and altercation and mystical charisma that charcaterised Senna's existence, and his posthumous mythology, for the most part.
Prost, unlike Senna as well as unlike Mansell and otherstended to generally go about his business with a lack of fuss, certainly when it came to the racing.
Prost's appearance also, somehow, emphasised this difference. Prost was physically short in height, had thick curly hair, a crooked nose and often rather downbeat attire and a complete lack of pretension and self-promotion.
Certainly to look at him it was hard to see an archetypal international superstar. He was never the romantic and charismatic hero that Senna was.
And Prost's willingness to speak frankly on various issues, which often included the FIA's and his own team's shortcomings, led him to be viewed by many as something of a 'whinger' this was a charge Senna often sought to pin on him.
And for some reason a major part of Senna's in my view, deserved passing into folklore has been to trash his rival Prost's reputation at the same time. Unfair, and also unnecessary, in my book. And on track Prost never looked quick. But rather than being seen as a weakness it should be seen as a major part of Prost's genius. Nigel Roebuck once commented: He was quite uncannily smooth. I remember watching qualifying at Monaco one year with Denis Jenkinson, and we talked about who was going to be on pole.
There were various possibilities — and then suddenly they announced that Prost had just shattered the previous best time. Prost took pole and won easily, but anyone in attendance without a stop watch to hand could have reasonably assumed that Prost was the slowest guy out there.
As everyone else rubbed barriers and smashed kerbs Prost, far ahead, looked unhurried and completely smooth and precise. As Jackie Stewart said 'To some, that's boring; to me, it's artistry - and so much more difficult that just throwing a car about'.
Nigel Mansell, having observed Prost at close quarters as his team mate and was usually far behind on track once rather contemptuously described Prost a 'chauffeur', in the sense that he let his car do the work.