Alain Prost is one of the Formula One all time greats and was known as the professor for his style of driving and race craft. The Frenchman was a four time world champion and from 1987 to 2001 held the record for the most number of race wins until Michael Schumacher finally surpassed his total of 51.
Yet Prost is better known for being one if not THE greatest rivalries Formula One has ever seen, with the ate great Ayrton Senna.
Prost recuits Senna for McLaren
Prost persuaded McLaren’s team boss Ron Dennis to sign the young Brazilian talent on a three year contract for the 1988 season. However, Prost was not merely given Senna a leg up in his career he had an ulterior motive.
At the time Honda were the Formula One powerhouses in engine manufacturer having won the previous two seasons constructor titles with Williams. Yet Prost knew the Japanese manufacturer held Senna in high regard from his time at Lotus when Honda supplied the engines.
Keen to continue this association Honda ditched Williams and came over to McLaren and their partnership dominated Formula One winning four consecutive constructor championships in a row.
But Alain Prost had opened pandora’s box and despite beating Senna easily to the drivers championship in 1988, this was the start of a rivalry that would rock the foundations of Formula One and lead to questions being asked over the independence of the FIA.
Senna fined $100,000 and banned
This culminated in 1989 when Senna made a move on Prost at the Japanese GP which was unlikely to stick. Both McLaren cars left the track and Prost believing his race to be over left the car.
However Senna with the help of Marshals restarted his McLaren, made it back to the pits and took on fresh tyres and a new nose cone. Ayrton drove brilliantly to win the race but the Marshalls deemed him to have missed the chicane and disqualified the Brazilian.
Prost then claimed his third drivers’ title by ‘default’ and despite McLaren’s appeal Senna’s DQ was upheld and the Brazilian driver fined $100,000 and suspended for six months by the FIA’s court of appeal.
Alain Prost was to win a fourth title before retiring and now is regarded as one of Formula One’s elder statesman. The Frenchman has spoken this week on the Perez/Verstappen battle and believes the Mexican driver needs to curb his big publicly made claims.
Perez compared to Senna/Prost “pointless”
Recently, Sergio’s father Antonio told Por Esto that Perez’s rivalry with Verstappen “is the new edition of Senna and Prost at McLaren. We have two tigers in the same cage. They think alike, they act alike.”
Prost ridicules the comparison stating, “his entourage isn’t helping him either.”
“When I read a month ago that his father told journalists that his fight with Max was similar to the one I had with Ayrton, it’s pointless and counterproductive.”
Christian Horner agreed when interviewed by Sky F1 following the Spanish GP. When asked whether another Verstappen win was making Perez’s hopes of winning the drivers’ championship even more remote, the Red Bull boss was candid with his advice to Checo who is now 53 points behind his team mate.
Horner says Perez should forget the title
“I think now there is that separation in the points, that may actually take the pressure off him a little and the expectation he’s putting on himself,” Horner mused.
“He needs to let go of that [championship talk] now and just be free to drive.”
Prost believes Perez needs to focus on his immediate team and keep such grandiose claims and thoughts to himself.
“Impossible Mission” to beat Max
“A driver’s game is always to try and tip the balance in his favour, whether it’s the set-up of the car or the contribution of the team. And that’s where Perez is wrong,” Prost said when speaking to L’Equipe.
“He needs to make Max Verstappen doubt him and change Red Bull’s mind about him.
“As we know, Perez is tackling an almost impossible mission. And in order to achieve it, he must above all not shout so loudly about his desire to beat Max.”
Verstappen stands alone says Berger
Former F1 Ferrari driver Gehard Berger echoes the thoughts of Prost and believes the comparison of Verstappen/Perez to Senna/Prost is laughable.
“I recently read that Verstappen and Perez is the repeat of Senna against Prost,” Berger told Kronen Zeitung.
“Yes, Verstappen is in this league and yes Perez is doing his best to stay close to Max. But nevertheless, to me, it looks like Verstappen is going it alone.”
Red Bull reliability better this season
Sergio Perez will start the weekend of the Canadian Grand Prix hoping he will fare better than at last year’s event. On lap eight Checo was forced to retire with gearbox problems.
However, this year Red Bull reliability has been impeccable with the team having fourteen finishes from their cars’ fourteen race starts. Of course a lack of reliability issues plays even further into Verstappen’s hands.
A sixteen lap sprint following a safety car brought out by Tsunoda was the conclusion of last years race. Sainz repeatedly harried Verstappen down the straight between turns 10 and 12 but was foiled in his overtaking attempt each time.
The Dutchman won by just under a second with Lewis Hamilton rounding out the podium places.
Who could ever forget this iconic Sebastian Vettel moment in Canada?! 😂
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 13, 2023