F1’s Forgotten genius
Having had the measure of the quick but
wild Gerhard Berger at Ferrari in 1989
(although Berger somehow emerged with
a better qualifying record), and having
become the tifosi’s new hero, Nigel Mansell
professed to welcoming Le Professeur’s
arrival for 1990. “There’s only one person
I feel I can learn from in the pit lane, and
that person is Alain Prost,” he said.
That sentiment didn’t last long. Prost
had four wins on the board by mid-’ 90,
two of them (Britain and France) at the
expense of Mansell’s more fragile Ferrari
641. The San Marino Grand Prix was
another that should have gone Nigel’s way.
So frustrated was Mansell after his
DNF at Silverstone, he announced he’d
retire at the end of the year and also
In 1979 and ’ 80, working-class hero
René Arnoux was the darling of French
F1 fans. Revered as a tough fighter, he
captured hearts in a manner that his
disciplined and thoughtful teammate
Jean-Pierre Jabouille never did. But
when Alain Prost replaced the injured
J-PJ for ’ 81, René took a long time to
emerge from his compatriot’s shadow.
In their first season together, Arnoux –
believed to be one of the fastest drivers
– outqualified Prost just five times, all on
fast tracks such as the Osterreichring
and Monza. By year’s end, Alain had his
first three GP wins, René had added
zero to the two he’d scored in 1980.
In ’ 82, Arnoux recaptured his pace
and mojo, going 7-9 in qualifying, and
he and Prost – by now embittered
rivals – scored two wins apiece.
Both drivers had their championship
hopes deflated by the pathetic reliability
record of the turbo Renaults over this
period, but Arnoux lived on the ragged
edge and was king of the unforced error,
too, throwing away potential wins all by
himself. Compared with a driver who was
just as quick, but almost mistake-free,
Arnoux invariably came off second-best.
For many Formula 1 fans, Alain
Prost’s career is defined by the
open warfare between himself
and Ayrton Senna that hangs
over the reputation of the
four-time World Champion.
Truth is, Prost had many tough
teammates, and he beat all of
them quite comprehensively.
Arnoux led Prost to a Renault 1-2 in the
’ 82 French GP, much to Alain’s chagrin.
prizes for Mansell
besides three pole
positions, but he
did nail a thrilling
ahead of Senna.
of retiring a healthy car in both the
German and Belgian Grands Prix.
Other than that, Mansell continued to
drive very well, although there were four
tracks where Prost comfortably outpaced
him – Spa, Monza, Jerez and Suzuka.
In terms of qualifying, it was 8-8, which
is a credit to Mansell, because this was
not the McLaren-era Prost who could rely
on Honda power to put him on the front
row, regardless of his deficit to Senna, but
a fully fired-up champion. Plus, Alain was
57lbs lighter than Nigel in an era when
driver weights weren’t equalized by ballast.
Still, Mansell ended the year with
barely half as many points as Prost,
having scored just one win to Alain’s five.
In Nigel’s defense, he suffered seven
“real” DNFs to Prost’s three.