Alain Prost vs Keke Rosberg

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Alain Prost vs Keke Rosberg

Earlier this week we had one pair of team mates from the eighties, now here’s another: 1986 McLaren duo Alain Prost and Keke Rosberg.

That was Rosberg’s final year in Formula 1 and while he endured a win-less season struggling to get the most out of the MP4-2C, Prost clinched his second championship title.

Rosberg spent the previous four seasons with Williams. The team signed him after Alan Jones suddenly announced his retirement late in 1981.

Rosberg joined the world championship-winning outfit having previously driven for minor teams. He won the title in his first year with the team, coming out on top in the turbulent 1982 season after a single win at Dijon.

Over the following seasons he added more wins but as Williams made the switch from Cosworth to Honda turbo power Rosberg found his car was first reliable but short on power, then powerful but lacking reliability.

With the benefit of hindsight, he left the team at exactly the wrong moment, just as the Honda engine was coming good.

Prost came close to succeeding Rosberg as champion in 1983. But his warnings to Renault that they were falling behind in the development race fell on deaf ears, and Nelson Piquet grabbed the championship from him at the final round.

After switching to McLaren, Prost fell short again in 1984. This time by the narrowest-ever margin of half a point, to team mate Niki Lauda. He finally delivered his first title the following year.

While Rosberg arrived at and left McLaren within a year, Ayrton Senna proved a tougher challenge for Prost, beating him to the 1988 title. Prost turned the tables the following year, but controversially collided with Senna at Suzuka to seal his third title.

Prost moved on to Ferrari in 1990 and was in the running for the title once again – until Senna took the opportunity to remove him from the race and the championship at Suzuka.

After a dire 1991 Prost was dropped by the team and spent a year on the sidelines waiting to get a drive for Williams. He won on his return in 1993, wrapped up a fourth title with the dominant FW15C, and then retired for good.

Which of these drivers should go through to the next round of the Champion of Champions? Vote for which you think was best below and explain who you voted for and why in the comments.

Alain Prost Keke Rosberg
Alain Prost, Williams, 1993 Keke Rosberg, Williams, 1983
Titles 1985, 1986, 1989, 1993 1982
Second in title year/s Michele Alboreto, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Ayrton Senna Didier Pironi
Teams McLaren, Renault, Ferrari, Williams Theodore, ATS, Wolf, Fittipaldi, Williams, McLaren
Notable team mates Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell Jacques Laffite, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost
Starts 199 114
Wins 51 (25.63%) 5 (4.39%)
Poles 33 (16.58%) 5 (4.39%)
Modern points per start1 12.48 5.22
% car failures2 16.58 38.60
Modern points per finish3 14.96 8.50
Notes Lost ’83 title by two points and ’84 title by half a point Four years with minor teams before sudden promotion to Williams
Controversial clash with Senna sealed third title Won more races in 1985 than title-winning 1982 campaign
Returned from sabbatical to clinch fourth title with Williams Retired after winless 1986 with McLaren
Bio Alain Prost Keke Rosberg

1 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of races they started
2 The percentage of races in which they were not classified due to a mechanical failure
3 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of starts in which they did not suffer a race-ending mechanical failure

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Alain Prost (95%)
  • Keke Rosberg (5%)

Total Voters: 601

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114 comments on Alain Prost vs Keke Rosberg

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  1. smifaye (@smifaye) said on 5th January 2011, 10:59

    For me Alain Prost just has to take this one. He was a really intelligent driver and to come back after a year out and win the title was pretty great!

    To take on Aryton Senna and beat him is a mean feat.

    • Suomi Oi Suomi said on 5th January 2011, 12:03

      To take on Aryton Senna and beat him is a mean feat.

      He NEVER beat Senna in 1989. Prost was a political animal & very close to the then FISA prez Jean-Marie Balestre.

      In 1993 he drove a car which he himself described as a mini concorde i.e. the FW15C.

      • smifaye (@smifaye) said on 5th January 2011, 12:11

        Woah! I think the facts speak for themselves Suomi.

        And in regards to the FW15C, you still have to be a hell of a driver to win in a great car, we have seen what almost happened to Red Bull this year, having quite clearly the fastest car.

      • David-A (@david-a) said on 5th January 2011, 12:12

        Yes he did beat Senna in 1989. Accept it.

        • frood19 (@frood19) said on 5th January 2011, 12:20

          and he got more points than senna in 1988. but that’s a subject probably best left for a later round.

          • frood19 (@frood19) said on 5th January 2011, 12:23

            and another interesting point: rosberg was officially the fastest driver ever because of that lap round silverstone in 1983 (the first 160mph lap, and the only one until montoya broke it at monza in 2004?). by all accounts it was a truly incredible pole.

            still prost wins this round at a canter

        • Marco said on 5th January 2011, 15:59

          Prost beat Senna only because Ayrton had more mechanical failures… The Frenchman was very rarely ahead of the Brazilian because of his own pace… So that makes a difference, at least for me… But back to this duel – Prost wins, but Rosberg wasn t slow, especially in 1985…

      • A Singh said on 5th January 2011, 20:44

        Had Senna not wiped out Prost at Suzuka would Prost still not have beaten Senna?

    • Hedge (@hedge) said on 6th January 2011, 12:50

      I’ve had to vote Prost on this one much to my displeasure. But the fact is he was far superior to Rosberg. I have very little respect for Prost mainly because of the fear Senna seemed to invoke in him and the fact that he wouldn’t stand up to Senna in the same machinery in 1993. He’s always come across a being a bit gutless and I’ll look forward to voting him off in round two.

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 9th January 2011, 21:37

      Quite a devastating poll. Prost could have won 6 if not 7 titles, Rosberg was lucky to have one.

  2. Scottie (@scottie) said on 5th January 2011, 11:01

    It was a no-brainer for me… Prost hands-down!

  3. sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 5th January 2011, 11:03

    This one isn’t going to be a particularly difficult decision – Prost gets my vote.

    I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Alain which partially sways my vote I suppose!

    Keke may have had only 5 wins but his car control was phenomenal. Unfortunately though this can’t counter the 4 world championships and numerous displays of brilliance from Prost throughout his career. One of the most underrated champions.

  4. Unforunately for Keke, who seems like a great bloke, I gave Alain this one hands down!

    Prost won 4 championships, and should have won more! Held his own against Ayrton Senna…

    Keke just cannot compare unfortunately.

  5. RIISE (@riise) said on 5th January 2011, 11:08

    This is easy, Keke goes down for me as possibly the most un-deserving champions ever. 1 win on his way to the title is not champion worthy. If Prost wasn’t blighted by reliability issues that title would’ve been his.

    Prost on the other hand should’ve had more titles, a master at his craft and is in my eyes 2nd to Michael Schumacher as the greatest driver ever. His consistency was incredible and raced/beat some of the true greats of F1. Plus the comeback 4th title was incredible.

    • Although I agree with most that you’ve said. I wouldn’t call Keke an undeserving champion. He was the most consistent over the season, played to the points system, and won, where the other’s in the season did not capitalise (although personally I think, Gilles Villeneuve would have won it.)

      Keke took advantage of the situation. There are no undeserving WDC’s.

      • Dan Thorn (@dan-thorn) said on 5th January 2011, 12:11

        Agreed with Ben. Keke’s drives in later years showed that he was every bit as good as the top drivers of the day. Even teamed against Prost his pace was good, but he didn’t necessarily have the car management skills needed in the fuel restricted era.

      • Hotbottoms said on 5th January 2011, 12:35

        I agree. The driver who gets most points during a season wins the championship. Counting wins at the end of the season to determine which driver should’ve win the championship is pure nonsense – if that’s what people want, rules should state so. However, when Bernie proposed that almost no one agreed with him.

        I respect Rosberg for finishing 5th in the final race of 1982, because that’s all he needed in order to win the championship. If Hamilton would’ve been as smart in 2007, he would’ve won the championship easily. Besides, no driver won more than two races that year.

        Still, I have to choose Alain Prost (well, I “choose” him, I’m too lazy to register). He’s four time champion and this pairing is pure cruelty

        • DVC (@dvc) said on 5th January 2011, 13:42

          “The driver who gets most points during a season wins the championship.”

          Not always.

          • Hotbottoms said on 5th January 2011, 14:18

            I know that all GP’s weren’t counted in the final standings during 1950-1980 and 1985-1990, but they were when Rosberg won his championship. And in general, my point was that rules state who wins the championship.

    • are you going to try the same argument when Mike Hawthorn comes up? (1 win does equal a championship). Because that would be seriously unfair to Hawthorn if you did.

      • not to mention its also seriously unfair on Keke…….

      • David-A (@david-a) said on 5th January 2011, 22:12

        I guess he might not since Mike still had 5 second place finishes and a third, which makes me assume that he had great speed to match his consistency.

        Keke on the other hand only got on the podium 5 times in a season with six more races than Hawthorn’s, which makes me think that Mike Hawthorn performed better in his championship winning year than K. Rosberg.

    • kowalsky (@kowalsky) said on 5th January 2011, 13:15

      keke was the most spectacular. You also have to remember that in 1982 the rest of the field, didn’t get too many win either, and keke didn’t have the fastest car. So undeserving was not.
      Prost on the other hand, was in a diferent league. One of the greats without a doubt.
      Prost wins this one hands down, eventhough i must admit, rosberg captured my imagination, prost didn’t.

    • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 5th January 2011, 19:08

      Prost on the other hand should’ve had more titles, a master at his craft and is in my eyes 2nd to Michael Schumacher as the greatest driver ever.

      …and if you rank them by total wins, that’s exactly how they rank, with Senna in third.

      • RIISE (@riise) said on 5th January 2011, 19:38

        Yeah, I remember when Schumacher was 1 race away from matching Prost’s record of 51 wins I remember Prost saying that he could get 60 or even 70 wins, I guess he wasn’t predicting what come after…

  6. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 5th January 2011, 11:11

    This is the first one that’s truly difficult for me, largely because I don’t know that much about Rosberg. But I’m going to go with prost, largely because of his approach to driving. He was very smooth and very precise and he didn’t really get that emotional behind the wheel.

  7. mrgrieves (@mrgrieves) said on 5th January 2011, 11:15

    Im a major fan of Rosberg so i was hard to vote against him. He was such an electrifing driver to watch and his charges during races were legandary. However he is against one of the very best in Prost who will probably be here in the very later stages. Judging them in 1986 as teams mates i also quite unfair i think for two reasons. 1 The cars were limitied to a certain level of Fuel and if you can get a hold of coverage of that season Rosberg did not pay any attention to those rules and oftain ran out of fuel or destroyed the car by pushing to the limit. 2 The sudden mass amount of techonolgy had board Rosberg out of F1 by the end of the season and he couldnt work around how fast eveything changed

    • kowalsky (@kowalsky) said on 5th January 2011, 13:21

      you may not know it, but keke requested all year long, a change in set-up from john barnard, and all he got was “alain is winnig races with this car, so there is nothing wrong with it”. That didn’t help. When at the end of the year, he got what he wanted, he got to the front, but it was too late in the season.
      Another teammate that prost destroyed.

  8. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 5th January 2011, 11:19

    Another KO, and a sad one because I like Rosberg very much, my favorite one-time champion. Yet the Professor is who he is and there are not many who can be compared to him.

  9. JCCJCC (@jccjcc) said on 5th January 2011, 11:22

    Prost has almost many titles as Rosberg has wins (4-5).
    My vote on this goes for Prost.

  10. BaKano (@bakano) said on 5th January 2011, 11:27

    The easiest decision so far … by far!
    Prost of course, as he’s one the best drivers ever to race in F1. Second in statistics to Michael Schumacher, bur ran with far more better opposition than Michael’s.
    He’s also the guy responsible for making a legend out of a Senna in the sense that if Senna wouldn’t run against him, he would never become as focused as he eventually did.
    Also considered by many as the most intelligent racer ever rarelly putting a foot wrong, once an experienced racer.

    I personally still regard Prost as the best ever, so even easier without the other reasons :-)

  11. NickV (@nickv) said on 5th January 2011, 11:28

    Prost could have and perhaps should have been a 6 time champion had he won in 83 and 84, where after watching the reviews online I can say he was best driver those two years overall.

    Rosberg lucked into his title after Villeneuves death and Pironis career ending injuries when he was way out infront in title race. However, he was a spectacular driver to watch and a real fighter, particularly on street circuits. But Prost has to be the better all round driver.

  12. ukk (@ukk) said on 5th January 2011, 11:38

    2 votes for Keke: guess this is Nico and dad ;-P

  13. LosD (@losd) said on 5th January 2011, 11:41

    Rosberg. Prost’s collaboration with Jean-Marie Balestre to try and cheat Senna of his win was completely unacceptable, and taints any WCC Prost had while Balastre was in office (= them all).

    • RBAlonso (@rbalonso) said on 5th January 2011, 12:10

      I think this is a little harsh, there is no way that Prost won his championships down to Balestre. Later in his career with Senna that argument carries more weight but, at the beginning of it Prost won because of his ability to drive the car smoothly, quickly and safely. Look at the number of retirements around Prost’s championship years and before and it is clear that his skill was a) almost unique and b) worked. His last title came because of a fear to race Senna and that would probably be as good a reason as any to vote against him against a really top driver. Unfortunately no matter what stats and skill Rosberg had, he is not one of them.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 5th January 2011, 12:16

      Come on, this Senna idolisation is a bit tiring. Prost was simply every bit as good as the Brazilian. That’s why they won 1 title each in 1988 and 1989.

      • kowalsky (@kowalsky) said on 5th January 2011, 14:01

        i agree he was as good as senna. But eventhough it’s not the time to talk about senna yet, let’s do it.
        Senna was not a political animal, he was braver, and more spectacular. He was better in the wet, and the best in a qualifying lap.
        Prost was fired from renault in 1983, because he screwed gerard larrouse’s wife. Yes you read it right. larrouse being his boss at the renault team.
        Fast he was, good as well, but not a very nice guy. Better than rosberg, that’s for sure.

  14. Boon (@boon) said on 5th January 2011, 11:46

    I’m very aware that Prost had more titles, competed with perhaps the best driver of all time and came out on top several times, and contributed huge amounts to the sport. I understand that in the context of this competition, it seems a no brainer.

    Keke Rosberg wasn’t the better driver, and even his title year was marred by a overwhelming feeling it was gifted to him after Ferrari lost both Pironi and then tragically Gilles Villeneuve.

    BUT, to justify this… less and less convincing choice, the way that Keke Rosberg could overtake was just phenomenal. I think this is known as ‘power-oversteer overtaking’, but it just leaves me speechless. And this lasting memory is why I voted for Rosberg. For me, a champion isn’t just made by the titles he earned, but those lasting images of how they went about doing it.

  15. melkurion (@melkurion) said on 5th January 2011, 11:48

    gotta be prost, no other choice possible

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