Alain Prost on the death of Ayrton Senna

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Alain Prost, Toyota, Andros Trophy, 2008Alain Prost has distanced himself from the F1 world since the collapse of his F1 team in 2001.

I think it’s a shame the man who is F1’s most prolific champion, besides Michael Schumacher and Juan-Manuel Fangio, and who was one half of F1’s most notorious rivalry, keeps such a low profile these days. So I was pleased so see him blip onto my radar twice in the past week.

His second consecutive Trophee Andros victory for Toyota was not much of a surprise – but his illuminating interview for Motorsport magazine on the subject of Ayrton Senna was.

It’s trailed on the front cover as, “‘On the race he never impressed me’ – Alain Prost’s shock verdict on his nemesis,” but this isn’t Prost sticking the boot into his long-dead rival for old time’s sake. He merely acknowledges what I think many people would agree with – that Senna was incomparably quick in qualifying but Prost could match him on race pace.

What did jump out on me was this quote about Senna’s mental state in the weeks before that fateful race on May 1st, 1994:

We had never talked so much as in those weeks…before, he often didn’t call me, but now he was worried. First, he was a bit deceived by what he found at Williams.
[…]
Second, he was wrong-footed by the car. I had foreseen that and warned him. The car wasn’t as easy to drive as they said. And the layout was odd. I told him that too.
[…]
He was very worried about safety – he asked me several times to raise it with the Grand Prix Drivers Association – and he was convinced that Benetton were cheating.

Much time and ink has been spent guessing why Senna crashed to his death in the San Marino Grand Prix, but only when I read this did I realise how valuable Prost’s insight could be. Of all the F1 drivers, he surely knew his arch-nemesis and former team mate better than anyone else. And he’d driven for Williams the year before Senna.

I don’t think the fact that Senna was uncomfortable in the cockpit is the single reason that explains why he crashed. It always seemed to me to be one of those freak accidents caused by a myriad of unusual circumstances, of which Senna’s discomfort, suspicions about Michael Schumacher, and mental statement may be just three among many different components.

Still it’s good to see Prost in the press and talking about his past again. Perhaps now that he’s making himself available for interview again someone will finally do his excellent career justice with a decent biography. It’s not as if we’re short of books on Senna.

See the March issue of Motorsport for the full interview.

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