- February 24, 1955
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Alain Prost is the four-time Formula One champion and one of the best F1 drivers of the 20th century. During his career, he earned the nickname “The Professor“ because of his intelligent approach to racing.
He was famous, not only for his long and successful Formula One career but for his personal, controversial relations with the team managers and highly publicized and sometimes brutal rivalry with Ayrton Senna.
Outstanding results before his Formula One debut
Alain Marie Pascal Prost was born in February 1955, in Lorette, Loire, in central France. Prost started with go carts when he was 14 years old. By his 18th birthday, he took the French and European titles. The next step was the French Formula Renault and in his first season Prost immediately took the championship title. Driving Renault-powered Martini MK17, he won 12 out of 13 races in the season of 1976.
In 1977, he was the champ again, this time in European Formula Renault Challenge. In the following years, Prost advanced to the French and European Formula Three championships, before joining the McLaren Formula One team in 1980, alongside John Watson.
He was not just an ordinary young driver
From the very beginning of his career, it was obvious that Prost is not just another young driver. He scored a point in his first Formula One race, which is something achieved by only a few drivers in the history of Formula One. It was the 1980 Argentine Grand Prix at the Autodromo Municipal Ciudad de Buenos Aires. The winner was Alan Jones, who became the world champion at the end of the season, whilst Prost took sixth place and one point.
Later in the season, Prost collected more points at Interlagos (Brazil), Brands Hatch (GB) and Zandvoort (Netherlands), finishing 15th in his first Formula One season. During the 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.
First F1 victory at the home Grand Prix in France
In 1981, Prost did not finish the first two Grands Prix due to collisions with Andrea de Cesaris in Long Beach (USA) and Didier Pironi at Jacarepagua (Brazil), but scored his first podium finish at Buenos Aires. He also did not finish in the next four races, and then won his first Formula One race at his home Grand Prix in France.
At the fast Dijon circuit, Prost won ahead of his former team-mate John Watson and Brabham's Nelson Piquet. Prost's team-mate Rene Arnoux was fourth. Prost was much faster than his older team-mate during the whole season and with two more victories (Zandvoort and Monza) he finished 5th in the championship. The 1981 championship classification was very narrow and Prost had just 7 points less than the champion Nelson Piquet. In the constructors' standings, Renault was third, behind Williams and Brabham.
Despite good F1 results, Alain Prost left Renault
Every further season with Renault was more and more successful, so in 1982, Prost finished 4th in the championship and he was runner-up behind Nelson Piquet in 1983. Well, it may have been a success when looking at the numbers, but neither Prost nor Renault management were satisfied, so they parted ways at the end of the season 1983.
During 1982, Prost won the first two Grand Prix races in South Africa and Brazil, while in 1983 he took four victories (France, Belgium, GB and Austria) but lost the title in the last race to Nelson Piquet.
Lost the title by half a point
The Frenchman returned to McLaren ran by Ron Dennis, and joined the double world champion Niki Lauda. The season of 1984 for Prost was one of the most incredible in history, and he finished with just half a point gap behind the victor. He lost the world championship to Lauda in the final race of the season in Portugal, despite winning seven races to Lauda's five.
The half point came from the Monaco Grand Prix where Prost had been leading, when the Clerk of the Course Jacky Ickx stopped the race at half distance due to heavy rain, which was controversial as Ickx displayed the red flag without consulting the race officials. Under Formula One regulations, Prost received only half of the nine points normally awarded for a victory.
In 1985, Prost finally took the championship trophy with McLaren
And finally, the season 1985 was perfect for Alain. Five victories were enough for his first world title and he became the first French Formula One World Champion. Prost was the winner in Brazil (Jacarepagua), Monaco, Great Britain (Silverstone), Austria (Österreichring) and Italy (Monza). His main rival was Michele Alboreto, but the final gap was 20 points, after Alboreto's four retirements in the last four races. McLaren's duo Prost - Lauda also took the 1985 Manufacturer's title.
Repeated success against Piquet and Mansell
The season 1986 was much more exciting, with three drivers in a three-point gap at the end. Prost was the champ again, defending his title against the Honda-powered Williams of Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell. Prost scored four victories in San Marino, Monaco, Austria and Australia. The championship culminated in a points battle at the final race, the 1986 Australian Grand Prix. After Mansell's tyre blew up, Piquet, in the lead at the time of the incident, was brought into pits to prevent the same happening to his tyres. This enabled Prost to take the lead and the race victory which secured him enough points for the second consecutive Drivers' Championship title. Prost's team-mate was Keke Rosberg and they finished 2nd in the Manufacturers' standings.
The Brazilians were better in 1987 and 1988
In the following two seasons, two Brazilians took world titles - Nelson Piquet in 1987 and Ayrton Senna in 1988. Season 1988 again was marked by the big rivalry between the McLaren team-mates - experienced 33-year old Prost and rising star Senna. McLaren-Honda dominated the season, winning 15 out of 16 races.
Prost won seven races and in total outscored his new team-mate Senna by 11 points, despite Senna winning one race more than Prost. But, Prost was a victim of bad pointing system, because only the 11 best results from the season counted toward the championship total and this gave Senna the victory by three points.
Third championship title with McLaren Honda
McLaren's domination continued throughout 1989, and the team again won the constructors' title. The fight between Prost and Senna turned to the greatest of all rivalries in the history of Formula One, many time over the boundaries of fair-play. The title fight was decided in the penultimate race of the season in Japan.
Was there a conspiracy against Senna?
It was a very controversial race which Prost did not finish, but since Senna was disqualified, his points advantage secured him the third F1 championship trophy. Senna even accused FIA and FISA president Jean Maria Balestre for conspiracy. However, Prost won his third title, whilst motorsports fans got the opportunity to watch unforgettable Prost - Senna duels in the following years.
Two years with Scuderia Ferrari
In 1990, McLaren retained Ayrton Senna, partnered by Gerhard Berger. Alain Prost moved to Ferrari to partner Nigel Mansell. Prost scored four victories but Senna and McLaren took double world title. Prost was second for the fourth time in his career.
The season 1991 wasn't good for Prost. Without wins and with five podiums, he finished fifth in the classification. In the previous season, Prost had a conflict with the teammate Nigel Mansell which caused Mansell to leave Ferrari and sign with Williams. Prost's team-mate in 1991 was Gianni Morbidelli. Ferrari was third in the championship, behind Williams's duo Mansell - Patrese and McLaren's victorious duo Senna - Berger. Because of less than expected results, bad team atmosphere and Prost’s accusations to Ferrari, his contract was terminated at the end of 1991, and Prost took the year off to recuperate and rest during the 1992 season.
Seven wins and five podiums for the greatest season and fourth title
In 1993, Prost signed for Williams and when Mansell heard the news, he left to race in the CART series. Rested and in a fast car, Prost managed to win his fourth title. The season was perfect for Prost, with seven victories and five more podiums. Senna was far away in the second place. Together with team-mate Damon Hill, Prost the secured constructors' title for Williams.
After winning his fourth world title, The Professor announced his retirement. During his successful career, he won 51 GP races and 106 podiums and became one of the most successful F1 drivers ever.
However, after the retirement, Prost did return to F1 as a team manager for Prost Grand Prix team which debuted in Formula One in 1997 and participated until 2001. Prost had an idea to form his own team back in 1989, and the idea became reality in 1997, after he had bought the Ligier team from Flavio Briatore and renamed it to Prost Grand Prix.
Prost Grand Prix team competed five seasons in F1
Prost signed a three-year deal with the French car manufacturer Peugeot, who would supply the team with engines from 1998. In the first season, Prost competed with Mugen-Honda engines and Ligier JS45 cars, renamed to Prost JS45. Prost kept one of Ligier's drivers, Olivier Panis, the second driver was the Japanese Shinji Nakano. The team picked up two points on its Grand Prix debut in Australia when Olivier Panis finished fifth. They scored a further 13 points before Panis broke his leg in an accident during the Canadian Grand Prix. He was replaced by Jarno Trulli in seven races. Panis came back at the end of the season to race the final three Grand Prix. Prost GP finished sixth in the constructors' championship in its first season, with 21 points.
It was easier just to drive than to be the team owner
Season 1998 was disappointing: Prost GP scored a single point during the season, when Jarno Trulli finished sixth at Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. For the season of 1999, Prost hired John Barnard as a technical consultant and he helped designing the new Prost AP02 car. Panis and Trulli scored points in three races and the team finished 7th in the championship. The third season with Peugeot's V10 engine was the worst, because Prost GP drivers Jean Alesi and Nick Heidfeld didn't score any points. In the season 2001, Prost GP competed with five drivers (Jean Alesi, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Gaston Mazzacane, Luciano Burti and Tomaš Enge) and Ferrari-powered AP04 car. Only Alesi took some points and the team finished ninth. Financial problems and debts of around $30 million stopped Alain Prost's first team-owner adventure.
Prost spent a decade in ice racing and won three titles
Although retired from Formula One, Prost never completely retired from racing. During the 2000s, he competed one season (2005) in French GT Championship, driving Chrysler Viper GTS-R for Exagon Engineering, but he was most successful in ice racing. He debuted in the famous Andros Trophy ice racing series in 2003, finishing second behind multiple touring car champ Yvan Muller.
In the following years, many former F1 drivers competed in Andros Trophy, but only Prost succeed to win the championship. He was on top of Andros Trophy three times - in 2008 and 2009 driving Toyota Auris, and in 2013 driving Dacia Lodgy.
The Prost story continues in electric racing
In 2012, Prost was named Renault's new international ambassador, representing the company in sports demonstrations and at events organized or attended by Renault. The Renault-connection brought him a new sporting business adventure in 2013. Together with DAMS boss Jean-Paul Driot, Prost participated in a formation of e.dams Formula E Team for the premier season of FIA Formula E Championship.
One of the drivers was Alain's son Nicolas, and the other was the former F1 driver Sebastien Buemi. In the inaugural season (2014-2015), they took the Manufacturers' championship title. For the second season (2015-2016), Renault joined the project and renamed it to Renault e.dams, but Prost and Driot remained the owners. Nico Prost and Seb Buemi continue to drive for the team, winning one more Teams' title, while Buemi also took the Drivers' title. The third consecutive Teams' title followed in the third season.
Photos: wri2.net, prostfan.com, williamsf1.com.