|Born||24 February 1955|
Lorette, Loire, France
|Formula One World Championship career|
|Years Active||1980-1991, 1993|
|Team(s)||McLaren, Renault, Ferrari, Williams|
|First Grand Prix||1980 Argentine Grand Prix|
|Entries||202 (199 starts)|
|Career Points||768.5 (798.5)|
|Drivers' Championships||4 (1985, 1986, 1989, 1993)|
|Final Grand Prix||1993 Australian Grand Prix|
Alain Marie Pascal Prost, (born 24 February 1955 in Lorette, Loire) is a retired French racing driver. A four-time Formula One Drivers' Champion, Prost has won more titles than any driver except for Juan Manuel Fangio (five championships), Michael Schumacher (seven championships) and Sebastian Vettel (equal with four championships). From 1987 until 2001 Prost held the record for most Grand Prix victories. In 1997, Prost took over the French Ligier team, running it as Prost Grand Prix until it went bankrupt in 2002. Prost employed a smooth, relaxed style behind the wheel, deliberately modeling himself on personal heroes like Jackie Stewart and Jim Clark. He was nicknamed "The Professor" for his intellectual approach to competition.
Born near the town of Saint-Chamond, Prost originally considered entering numerous sports, including professional football and gym instruction, but discovered karting at the age of 14. He won several karting championships in his teens, before he left school in 1974 to become a full-time racer. he supported himself by tuning engines and becoming a kart distributor. His prize for winning the 1975 French senior karting championship was a season in French Formula Renault, a category in which he won the title and all but one race in 1976.
Prost then went on to win the 1977 Formula Renault European championship before moving up to Formula Three in 1978. In 1979 he won both the French and European F3 championships, by which time he was wanted by several Formula One teams. After carefully considering his options, he chose to sign with McLaren for 1980. He surprised the British team by declining their offer of a race seat in a third car at the final race of the 1979 season at Watkins Glen — reasoning that it would benefit neither him or the team.
Prost began his career with McLaren (being run by Teddy Mayer) in 1980 alongside Ulsterman John Watson. On his debut in Buenos Aires he finished in sixth place earning one point, something achieved by only a handful of drivers. Prost added four more points to his tally during the season, scoring points at Interlagos, Brands Hatch and Zandvoort. Prost finished the year 15th in the drivers' championship, equalling points with former world champion Emerson Fittipaldi. Despite the encouraging debut season, Prost had several accidents, breaking his wrist during practice at Kyalami and suffering a concussion during practice at Watkins Glen. At the end of the season, despite having two years remaining on his contract, he left McLaren and signed with Renault. Prost has said that he left because of the large number of breakages on the car and because he felt the team blamed him for some of the accidents.
Prost was partnered with fellow Frenchman René Arnoux for 1981. Motor sports author Nigel Roebuck reports that there were problems between Prost and Arnoux from the start of the season, Prost being immediately quicker than his more experienced teammate. He did not finish the first two Grands Prix, due to collisions with Andrea de Cesaris in Long Beach and Siegfried Stohr in Jacarepaguá, but scored his first podium finish in Argentina. He retired in the next four races before winning his first Formula One race at his home Grand Prix in France, finishing two seconds ahead of his old teammate John Watson. For Prost, his debut victory was memorable mostly for the change it made in his mindset. "Before, you thought you could do it," he said. "Now you know you can." Prost won two more races during the season, took his first pole position in Germany and finished on the podium every time he completed a race distance. He finished fifth in the drivers' championship, seven points behind champion Nelson Piquet.
Prost won the first two Grands Prix of the 1982 season in South Africa, where Prost recovered from losing a wheel, and Brazil. He finished in the points on four other occasions, but did not win again. Despite retiring from seven races, Prost improved on his drivers' championship position, finishing in fourth, but with nine fewer points than the previous year. His relationship with Arnoux deteriorated further after the French Grand Prix. Prost believes that Arnoux, who won the race, went back on a pre-race agreement to support Prost during the race. His relationship with the French media was also poor. He has since commented that "When I went to Renault the journalists wrote good things about me, but by 1982 I had become the bad guy. I think, to be honest, I had made the mistake of winning! The French don't really like winners."
Arnoux left Renault in 1983, and American Eddie Cheever replaced him as Prost's partner. Prost earned a further four victories for Renault during the season and finished second in the drivers' championship, two points behind Nelson Piquet. Piquet and the Brabham team overhauled Prost and Renault in the last few races of the season. Prost, who felt the team had been too conservative in developing the car, found himself increasingly at odds with Renault's management, who made him the scapegoat for failing to win a championship. In addition to that, the French fans recalled the bitter fight that had caused their favourite, Arnoux, to leave the team. Renault fired Prost only two days after the last race of the season. He re-signed for McLaren for the 1984 season within days and moved his family home to Switzerland.
The Frenchman joined double world champion Niki Lauda at McLaren (now being run by Ron Dennis) in 1984, driving the McLaren MP4/2 using TAG-Porsche engines. He 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 came from the Monaco Grand Prix, where Prost had been leading, albeit with Ayrton Senna and Stefan Bellof closing on him rapidly, when officials stopped the race at half distance due to heavy rain, which was controversial as the red flag was produced as Senna overtook Prost. Under Formula One regulations, Prost received only half of the nine points normally awarded for a victory.
In 1985 Prost became the first French Formula One World Champion. He won five of the sixteen Grands Prix during the season. He had also won the San Marino Grand Prix, but was disqualified after his car was found to be 2 kg underweight in post-race scrutineering. Prost finished 20 points ahead of his closest rival, Michele Alboreto. Prost's performance in 1985 earned him the Légion d'honneur distinction in France.
Niki Lauda retired for good at the end of 1985, and was replaced at McLaren by 1982 Champion Keke Rosberg for 1986. Prost successfully defended his title, despite his car struggling against the Honda-powered Williams cars driven by Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell, possibly due to the in-fighting at Williams. Until the latter stages of the final race of the 1986 season, the Australian Grand Prix, Prost appeared set to finish second in the Championship, behind Mansell. Prost had the same amount of wins as Piquet, but he had four second places to Piquet's three, thus placing him second before the final race. While running third behind Piquet and Prost (all he needed to win the title), Mansell suffered a tyre failure at high speed, and crashed out. The Williams team called his teammate Piquet in to change tyres as a safety precaution, handing the race victory — and Championship — to Prost, who had already pitted. Another memorable race that year for Prost was at the San Marino Grand Prix. He was cruising to victory when his car began to run out of fuel three corners from the chequered flag. Frantically weaving the car back and forth to slosh the last drops of fuel into the pickup, he managed to keep it running just long enough to creep over the line and win the race. It happened again at the German Grand Prix: while running in fourth position, Prost's car ran out of fuel on the finishing straight of the last lap. Instead of retiring, Prost got out of his car and tried to push it to the finish, to great applause from the crowd. The finish line was too far, though, and he never reached it. He was classified sixth in the race, as the seventh-placed car was a lap behind.
Prost continued with McLaren for 1987 with new teammate Stefan Johansson and the new Steve Nichols designed MP4/3. The TAG Porsche engines however were no longer as dominanted as they had been, now outclassed by the Honda engines used by the Williams team. Prost still challenged Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell almost until the end, winning three races and breaking Jackie Stewart's record for race victories by winning for the 28th time at the Portuguese Grand Prix. Prost considers the Brazilian Grand Prix as his best and most rewarding race ever. The Williams-Hondas had been dominant during qualifying, and Prost started fifth on the grid. He had worked on his race set-up, and with everyone else going for a high-downforce set-up, the Frenchman went the other way. The set-up meant less tyre wear, thanks to slower speeds in the corners while going fast down the straights. Only one stop was necessary, and Prost won the race by 40 seconds. Prost finished the 1987 season in fourth place, 30 points behind champion Nelson Piquet.
Despite Nelson Piquet winning the Drivers' Championship and Williams winning the Constructors' Championship, Honda decided not to supply the team with their engines due to their refusal to hire a Japanese driver, and instead supplied the McLaren team for 1988. Prost had convinced Ron Dennis to sign Senna to a three-year contract, which played a role in luring Honda. However, this began the rivalry that pushed two of the sport's greatest drivers to unprecedented heights of success and controversy. McLaren-Honda dominated the season, winning 15 out of 16 races. Prost finished first or second in every race other than his two retirements at Silverstone and Monza. He won seven and outscored his new teammate Ayrton Senna by 11 points, despite Senna winning one more race than Prost. However, only the 11 best results from the season counted toward the championship total, and this gave Senna the title by three points. Prost went on to be a proponent of essentially the 90's scoring system – all results counting to the final results with the winner scoring 10, not 9, points.
McLaren's domination continued throughout 1989, and the Prost-Senna struggle for supremacy put them on a collision course. Mutual admiration turned to all-out hatred, with the Frenchman accusing his Brazilian teammate of "dangerous driving" and of receiving more than a fair share of attention from both McLaren and Honda. Prost was accused of being in the pocket of FISA's French president Jean-Marie Balestre. Their embittered season ended as many pundits had feared. In the Japanese Grand Prix at the end of lap 46, Senna made his move at the chicane. Prost turned into his teammate's path. The two interlocked McLarens slid up the chicane escape road. Prost, thinking the World Championship was over, climbed out of his car. To separate the cars, the marshals pushed Senna's McLaren backwards onto the track. This left it in a dangerous position, so they pushed it forwards again. As they did so, Senna bump-started the engine. He drove through the chicane and rejoined. The nose of his car was damaged and he had to pit, but he rejoined only five seconds behind Alessandro Nannini. On lap 50, Ayrton sliced past Nannini at the chicane to take the lead and won the race. But it was Nannini who appeared on the top step of the podium. Race officials had excluded Senna for missing the chicane. McLaren appealed the decision, but the FIA Court of Appeal not only upheld the decision but fined Senna US$100,000 and gave him a suspended six-month ban. Thus Prost clinched his third driving title in controversial circumstances.
However, Prost had the firm belief that Honda and Ron Dennis viewed Senna as the future of the team. Prost recalled that by Monza he had one car with maybe four or five mechanics, while his teammate had two cars and 20 people around him. As a result, Prost announced in July 1989 that he would depart from McLaren and the Frenchman quickly joined his new employers: Ferrari.
The Frenchman replaced Gerhard Berger at Ferrari and was partnered with Britain's Nigel Mansell for 1990. As reigning world champion, Prost took over as the team's lead driver and was said to have played on Mansell's inferiority complex. Mansell recalls one incident where at the 1990 British Grand Prix, the car he drove didn't handle the same as in the previous race where he had taken pole position, and later found out from team mechanics that Prost saw Mansell as having a superior car and had them swapped without Mansell knowing.
Prost won five races for Ferrari that year, in Brazil, Mexico, France, Britain and Spain. Notable among these was the Mexican Grand Prix, where he won after starting in 13th position. In both the Mexican and Spanish races, he led Mansell to Ferrari 1–2 finishes. The championship once again came to the penultimate round of the season in Japan with Prost trailing his McLaren adversary, Ayrton Senna, by nine points. As in 1989, a controversial collision between the two settled the race. At the first corner Senna, as he later admitted, intentionally drove his race car into Prost's, taking them both out of the race and sealing the title in his favour. "What he did was disgusting," Prost said. "He is a man without value." Prost finished the season seven points behind Senna, and his Ferrari team were runners-up to McLaren.
In 1991, Mansell left Ferrari, due to his unstable relationship with Prost, and joined his previous employers, Williams. Mansell's replacement was Frenchman Jean Alesi, who had been impressive during the previous two years at Tyrrell. Ferrari had entered a downturn, partially as their famous V12 engine was no longer competitive against the smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient V10s of their competitors. The Ferrari chassis, despite a major revision by the French Grand Prix was also not up to the level of the McLaren and the Williams models.
Prost won no races, for the first time since his debut in 1980, and got onto the podium only five times. He publicly criticised the team, at the 1991 Japanese Grand Prix he famously described his car's handling worse than "a truck", and was fired prior to the end of the season, right before the Australian Grand Prix. Prost was replaced by Italian driver Gianni Morbidelli for the final race of the 1991 season. He ended the season in 5th place with 34 points.
Prost took a sabbatical during 1992. He performed pre-season testing for Ligier early in the year, but later turned down an offer to drive for the team. During the test he used Ligier diver Erik Comas' helmet to avoid media scrutiny. Negotiations for the drive continued right up until the eve of the season-opening South African Grand Prix. Throughout the year Prost commented on races for the French TV-channel Télévison Française 1.
Prost returned from his sabbatical in 1993 to race for the Williams team, replacing the outgoing champion Nigel Mansell who was going to the CART series. His team mate was test driver Damon Hill. The Frenchman had a clause in his contract which prevented rival Ayrton Senna from joining the team that year. The Williams FW15C would prove to be the best car of the season, allowing Prost and Hill to dominate, although they would be challenged by Senna and the young Benetton driver Michael Schumacher. Prost won on his debut for the team in South Africa, followed by wins in three of the next five Grands Prix. Prost and Hill scored a 1–2 in France, with Prost winning the next two Grand Prix at Silverstone and Hockenheim.
Shortly before the Portuguese Grand Prix in October 1993, Prost announced that he would not defend his world title, as the clause in the Frenchman's contract preventing Senna from joining did not extend to 1994, allowing him to join Williams for the upcoming season. Prost instead decided to retire as the driver with the record for most Grand Prix victories, which stood for almost a decade. He finished second in the race, which was enough to secure his fourth World Drivers’ Championship. On the podium in Adelaide, the final race of the season and Prost's last race, he and Senna embraced, and it was as if now they were no longer rivals, they saw no reason for any more hostility.
During 1994 and 1995, Prost once again worked as TV pundit for the French TV channel TF1. He also worked for Renault as a PR man. In 1994 prost was a pallbearer at the funeral of Ayrton Senna who had died at the year's San Marino Grand Prix. When Senna died, Prost stated that "a part of himself had died also", because their careers had been so bound together. Prost alos rejoined his former Mclaren team as a technical advisor. He tested several times for the team between 1994 and 1996.
On 13 February 1997, Prost bought the Ligier team from Flavio Briatore and renamed it "Prost Grand Prix". The day after he bought the team, Prost signed a three-year deal with French car manufacturer Peugeot, who would supply the team with engines from 1998 until 2000. Prost Grand Prix finished sixth in the constructors' championship in its first season, with 21 points. Prost became the president of Prost Grand Prix at the start of 1998, with the team scoring a single point during the season, courtesy of Jarno Trulli finishing sixth in Belgium.
2000 proved to be yet another disastrous season, with the AP03 proving to be unreliable and ill handling. Newly hired technical director Alan Jenkins was fired midway through the year. Prost restructured the team, hiring Joan Villadelprat as the managing director and replacing Jenkins with Henri Durand. 2001 saw some much needed optimism for the team as Ferrari agreed to be the team's engine supplier for the season, however the money ran out at the start of the 2002 season and Prost was out of business, leaving debts of around $30 million.
Prost used a helmet design based on the three colours of the French flag, blue, white and red. It also featured his name along the side. During his early career Prost used a basic design of a blue helmet with a white 180° flipped Y and red lines in the lower branch of the flipped Y and in the upper branch, surrounding the top. During Prost's time at Renault, he added more blue details, most notably around the rear of his helmet.
Prost's helmet changed in 1985, his helmet now had the blue detail around the front, surrounding the visor (with also a blue stripe on the side region, making the white area become a P) and a white ring with red lines surrounding the top (forming a white circle with a blue half in the rear of the top). Prost kept a similar design while at Ferrari and Williams.
Complete Formula One ResultsEdit
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)
- ‡ Race was stopped with less than 75% of laps completed, half points awarded.