Alain Prost celebrates his 67th birthday this thursday (24). The driver, known as “the professor”, won four world titles in the maximum category of motor sports on the planet, besides 51 victories in 13 seasons. Ayrton Senna’s greatest rival in F1 and one of the greatest adversaries of his career, the Frenchman was responsible for waging unforgettable battles with the Brazilian driver on the track, which are remembered to this day.
With so many stories and achievements in the career of this duo, let’s remember five moments that stood out in the Senna vs Prost duels.
1- 1988 Japanese Grand Prix:
It was a special race, considered by many the best of Senna’s career, for being the one in which the Brazilian performed the most overtaking. After getting the pole position on Saturday, Ayrton saw his McLaren-Honda stall at the start, while Prost braked better and took the lead.
Even though he fell several positions, Senna was very fast and overtook many opponents in the first laps. In the middle of the race, a drizzle arrived in Suzuka to make it even more interesting. The most impressive thing happened on lap 51, when Senna got to Prost, and in the middle of the pit lane, overtook him. Prost tried to resist, but it was inevitable to hold the Brazilian at that moment, who finished the race 13 seconds ahead to win his first world title.
2- 1988 French GP:
Racing at home, Prost had 45 points, against Senna’s 33. The Frenchman took pole, but during the race he had to face the attacks of Senna, who made a pit stop three seconds faster and took the position.
But all was not lost for Prost, who was still in the fight for victory. With gearbox problems, Senna was unable to maintain control of the race, and Prost regained the lead on lap 61, winning the race and securing his fourth win of the season. This is one of the Frenchman’s great career displays. Senna finished second, a result that was important to stay in title contention.
3- 1989 Japanese Grand Prix:
This was one of the most historic and controversial races in the category, which guaranteed Prost a world championship after Senna’s disqualification. The decisive event of the weekend began with a dispute for position that ended with the Frenchman touching the Brazilian’s car. As a result, Senna went off the track and broke his front wing.
Even so, Senna returned to the track, as best he could at the time. The fact is that the stewards regarded the Brazilian’s manner of returning to the track as unsportsmanlike and dangerous, and disqualified him after the race was over. It was enough for Jean-Marie Balestre (FIA president) to announce Alain Prost as the newest world champion of 1989.
4- 1993 British GP:
A race in which Prost theoretically would have no difficulties to win because of the quality of his Williams-Renault. But then Senna appeared, and even with a less powerful car he held the Frenchman at the back of McLaren-Ford for several laps.
The images from the onboard camera placed in Prost’s car give us the perfect dimension of how difficult it was for the “professor” to take the Brazilian’s place. Besides achieving a victory that weekend, the Frenchman became the first driver to achieve 50 victories in Formula 1. Senna finished in the top-5, even though he had a breakdown on the final lap.
Aboard the Williams FW15, Prost was outstanding in many races. The car was electronically equipped with active suspension, traction control, ABS brakes, among other components.
5- Australian GP 1993:
It was a race that closed a cycle within the category, to leave everyone with a taste of wanting more. It was Senna’s farewell to McLaren and Prost’s farewell to the category. It was their last weekend fighting battles on the track.
Although the Williams cars were the favorites, Senna took pole, 0.436 seconds ahead of Prost. At the start of the race, Senna held the lead, with Prost close behind ready to take the lead at any sign of error. But Senna drove masterfully and gave McLaren its last victory as a driver for the British team. On the podium, Ayrton stood next to Prost and they were applauded by the crowd that witnessed a historic moment.
It was the end of an important period in the category, which ended with Senna grabbing Prost’s left hand and raising it next to his, as a symbol of respect for everything they had been through together.