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Alain Prost career in pictures

The driver who epitomized Formula 1 for a decade. A calm, clinical and brilliant master of his profession. Alain Prost ended his 202-race grand prix career with four World Championships, 51 wins, 33 pole positions and 41 fastest laps.

At the start of his career he wasn’t as fast as Gilles Villeneuve (but who was?) and by the end he wasn’t as fast as Ayrton Senna (but who was?) but in between times he was as fast as anyone, and the master of race day speed while using less tire life, mechanical life and fuel.

Sadly, the famous biopic Senna – while brilliant as a portrayal of its subject matter – cast Prost into the role of weak and sneaky villain. Ignore those parts. The truth is, Alain Prost is among the greatest F1 drivers the world has ever seen.

Winning the Monaco Formula 3 race in 1979, the year he'd clinch the European and French F3 titles.
Winning the Monaco Formula 3 race in 1979, the year he’d clinch the European and French F3 titles.

 

Scoring a point on his Formula 1 debut with sixth in the McLaren M29B-Cosworth at Buenos Aires.
Scoring a point on his Formula 1 debut with sixth in the McLaren M29B-Cosworth at Buenos Aires.

At the following race he’d finish fifth at Interlagos. However, he was unable to start the third round, Kyalami, after breaking his wrist when his supension collapsed and sent him into the barriers. Gilles Villeneuve (BELOW) sympathized. Friction with Teddy Mayer-run McLaren led Prost to quit at season’s end and join Renault, scoring his first of three grands prix wins that year in his home country, Dijon (BOTTOM). He was joined on the podium by eventual ’81 World Champion Nelson Piquet, and Prost’s former teammate at McLaren, John Watson.

Alain Prost 1982
Prost added just two wins in 1982 but no driver won more than that during a tragic season in which both the brilliant Villeneuve and rookie Ricardo Paletti were killed and the other Ferrari ace, Didier Pironi, saw his F1 career end after smashing his legs in a huge accident.

For Prost, there was major friction with teammate René Arnoux who he leads here (ABOVE) at Kyalami. That was one of Prost’s finest wins; following an early puncture, he drove from the back of the field to win. But the Renaults had endless reliability issues, and it was the normally aspirated Williams-Cosworth of Keke Rosberg that scooped the championship.

1983 France
Renault discovered reliability in 1983, and Prost scored four wins, including here at his home race at Paul Ricard.

However, the Brabham-BMWs discovered prodigious speed mid-season, and Renault couldn’t keep up, and so Prost saw his championship lead whittled away and eventually usurped by Nelson Piquet.

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Niki Lauda and Alain Prost 1984

1984Nurburg

 

At season’s end, Renault fired Prost – although we’re fairly certain it wasn’t because of performance – and Ron Dennis swooped in to sign the little genius at a bargain price. Prost responded by winning seven grands prix for McLaren in his first season and coming within half a point of beating his teammate Niki Lauda to the World Championship. (BOTTOM) Here at the Neue Nurburgring, Prost leads while Ayrton Senna’s Toleman-Hart drills and mounts Keke Rosberg’s Williams (look to the right, behind Arnoux’s Ferrari).

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Prost won his second title in 1986, meters after the finish line, his car ran out of fuel

 

Having lost the ’84 title to the cannier, luckier and slower Lauda, nothing got in Alain’s way in ’85. With the B-spec update of John Barnard’s mighty McLaren MP4/2, Alain won five grands prix – no one else scored more than two – including here at Monza (ABOVE).

The 1986 McLaren MP4/2C was a further step forward but not by enough to match the Williams-Honda FW11s of Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet for power, fuel efficiency or reliability. Yet the Williams drivers robbed each other of enough points and Prost scored four wins resulting in back-to-back World Championships. At Monaco, shown here, Prost was simply brilliant, taking pole, fastest lap and the win in what was probably only the third or fourth fastest chassis/engine combo.

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In 1988, for the second time in his career, seven wins in a season weren’t enough for Alain Prost to clinch the World Championship.

Even Prost’s genius wasn’t enough to halt the Williams-Hondas in ’87, but here at Estoril in the MP4/3, he scored his third win of the year and 28th of his career, which meant he broke Jackie Stewart’s 14-year old record of grand prix victories.

The problem was, his teammate was Ayrton Senna, and the brilliant Brazilian scored eight wins in the Gordon Murray/Steve Nichols-penned McLaren MP4/4. Appropriately though, in Adelaide Prost won the final race of the year and final race of Formula 1’s (first) turbo era.

Internal team conflict with Senna meant Prost was nowhere near his best in 1989, yet four wins (including here at Silverstone) and consistent points scoring brought him his third World Championship in Neil Oatley’s MP4/5. The following season, driving the gorgeous Ferrari 641 of John Barnard / Enrique Scalabroni / Steve Nichols, Prost once more took the title fight to Senna, adding five more wins to his tally.

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Prost signed to join Ferrari in 1990 becoming the first driver signed to the team after the death of team founder Enzo Ferrari in 1988.

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The 1990 Japanese Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on 21 October 1990 at Suzuka. It was the fifteenth and penultimate round of the 1990 Formula One season. It was the 16th Japanese Grand Prix and the 6th held at Suzuka.

The race is best remembered for the first corner collision between World Championship rivals Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna and French driver Alain Prost, the second consecutive year the two had collided at this race with heavy championship repercussions. It immediately put both cars out of the race and secured for Senna his second World Championship, a reversal of fortunes from the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix, where the collision had secured the championship for Prost.

Nichols’ and Jean-Claude Migeot’s attempted 641 update, the 642, was no match for the 1991 pacesetters, the McLaren MP4/6 and Williams FW14, and so the 643 (ABOVE) was brought out mid-season. Elegant and certainly an improvement on its predecessor, it brought Prost and teammate Jean Alesi six podium finishes, but for the first time since 1980, Prost suffered a winless season. He was fired with one race to go for comparing his Ferrari’s handling to that of a truck after finishing fourth at Suzuka.

Prost went on sabbatical in 1992, but signed with Williams-Renault for 1993. He was quite prepared to be teammates with Nigel Mansell again as he had in 1990, but the new World Champion wasn’t so comfortable with the plan and even less comfortable with Sir Frank Williams’ refusal to meet his pay demands. With a rookie teammate (Damon Hill) and with Senna and rising star Michael Schumacher hamstrung by their cars, Prost had a relatively easy drive to seven wins and the World Championship in Adrian Newey’s FW15C, despite some overly harsh moves by race stewards to hamper his efforts…. (BELOW) Here at Hockenheim, Prost scored the 51st and final grand prix win of his career. With Senna’s imminent arrival at Williams, Prost realized he couldn’t take the aggravation of being his teammate once more, and quit for good at season’s end.

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