F1’s Forgotten genius
Prost won seven GPs to Lauda’s five, but
the Austrian did just enough to take the
’ 84 title by half a point. However, in ’ 85,
the pace gap between them stretched.
Lauda endured a lot of bad luck, fell out
with Dennis, and ultimately decided to
retire at season’s end. Meanwhile, despite
strong competition from Ferrari, Williams
and Lotus, Prost won five races (a sixth
was lost because his car was underweight
at Imola) and he became France’s first, and
so far only, F1 World Champion. He’d also
established himself as The Man at McLaren.
“Alain wasn’t overtly tough,” says
Watson. “You see some drivers elbowing
everyone and everybody out of the way.
I think he won people over because he
was outstanding in a racecar, a very nice
In 1986, the TAG Porsche engines in
their third season were neither as powerful,
nor fuel efficient as the Hondas powering
the Williams cars of Nelson Piquet and
Nigel Mansell. However, Prost earned four
wins, scored well elsewhere, and kept
himself in the title hunt right down to the
finale in Adelaide. When Mansell retired
with a spectacular tire failure and Piquet
made a precautionary pit stop, Prost
surprised even himself by winning the
race and becoming the first F1 driver to
successfully defend his title since Jack
Brabham a quarter century earlier. It was
one of those rare occasions in F1 history
when the title fell to a driver equipped
with a car that was less than the best.
Barnard has a simple explanation for that.
“Alain was always thinking about the
endgame, and he was brilliant on tires,” he
says. “The others would race off in the first
10 laps as he smoothly drove around in
fourth or fifth. They’d all wreck their tires,
and about halfway through the race, he’d
be in front, disappearing into the distance.
All because he had a superb feeling for
In 1988 (MAIN), the Prost-Senna
relationship was civilized and productive.
By the end of ’ 89, it had turned
obstructive (TOP RIGHT, Suzuka)
and by ’ 90 – now that they were in
opposing teams – utterly destructive
(RIGHT, Suzuka again). But it was this
rivalry that kept Formula 1 front and
center as a global must-see event.
In 1982, no driver
won more than two
GPs, but Prost
(leading here) and
René Arnoux often
RE30Bs broke down.
(RIGHT) Williams duo
Nelson Piquet and
Nigel Mansell pose
with Prost before the
’ 86 title showdown