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

  1. Antranik (@antranik) said on 5th January 2011, 11:48

    Even though Rosberg is one of my absolute favorite drivers of all time, Prost was a better driver/champion, so I voted for him. It was hard for me to vote against Rosberg though…

  2. Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 5th January 2011, 11:56

    This has to be the easiest yet. I’m surprised Rosberg even got any votes.

  3. RBAlonso (@rbalonso) said on 5th January 2011, 12:03

    I am one of the strongest Senna fans and that’s what makes this decision easy. Prost was a master of the controlled race, thinking of all variables and getting his car to the finish. In different circumstances Prost could be 9 time Champion. Rosberg, like several other champions admittedly, was in the right place at the right time. Had Pironi not had his accident, Villeneuve survived and the unbelievable unreliability of Piquet’s Brabham been solved then Rosberg would probably not be champion. Pironi missed the final 5 races and only lost the championship by five points.

    On pure skill alone the vote must go to Prost, he proved that outright speed is not always the only attribute required to a World Champion. The fact that he had 10 times the victories should sway anyone unsure of the era.

  4. zabelchip (@zabelchip) said on 5th January 2011, 12:04

    Prost won all his titles with a World Champion, or a future World Champion, in the other car. And when he lost the title to his team mate it was with the narrowest margin.Half a point to Lauda, and he even beat Senna on points.

    When I started watching F1 in 1993 I didn’t like him. I was a young Senna fan. I still rate Senna, but now I rate Prost even higher. If just because he was a lot cleaner on the racetrack, making it possible to overtake.

  5. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 5th January 2011, 12:10

    Prost was the dominant force of the 80’s and was 2.5 points away from winning 5 WDC’s in a decade, a feat which only Fangio and MSC have managed. If you take into account the narrow defeat in 90, he could have ended up with no fewer than 7 WDC’s if the cards fell the other way, simply amazing. His skill behind the wheel, blending precision and cunning racecraft with blistering speed when necessary means that he is one of the very best men to have driven a racing car. The more I read about him the more I am impressed by him, and his reputation as the evil whinger in the Senna/Prost rivalry is thoroughly undeserved (coming from an loyal Senna fan).

    Keke on the other hand is a bit of a one trick pony, he had flamboyance behind the wheel (and on his upper lip) but not much else. He took advantage of (many) other drivers misfortunes to take the 82 WDC, and even though I would never say a WDC was undeserving, he was pretty darn lucky in the end.

    Prost takes this hands down.

  6. Leftie (@leftie) said on 5th January 2011, 12:22

    Alain Prost obviously

  7. vjanik said on 5th January 2011, 12:23

    Keke is not even mentioned in Prost’s “notable team mates” section. that speaks for itself. how can keke even be in the running for the champion of champions? in my oppinion, from all the champions he would not be far from the bottom in fact.

    • Hotbottoms said on 5th January 2011, 12:53

      How can Keke be in the running for the Champion of Champions? Let me think, hmm, oh yes, he’s a champion.

  8. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 5th January 2011, 12:26

    One way battle for Alain Prost.

  9. Damon said on 5th January 2011, 12:35

    There’s a site on the Internet that argues the case that Prost is the greatest ever. It’s got lots of stats and is very interesting. It’s convinced me that maybe he is the greatest

    • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 5th January 2011, 13:06

      The more I read about Prost the more I am convinced of his genius, and even though= it would be daft to say he is underrated, he is often forgotten when people start taking about the best driver of all time. He may not be the greatest when compared with a Clark or a Senna, but he could well be the most complete racing driver ever.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th January 2011, 21:18

      Got a link for that Damon?

  10. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 5th January 2011, 12:53

    Being a Finn it’s hard to vote against Keke, but clearly Prost wins this round. However, based on pure entertainment value, Rosberg should win this. The overtaking moves he managed to pull off, the incredibly difficult races he won (International Trophy at Silverstone 78, Monaco 83, Dallas 84 etc).

    And to me Keke is one of the most deserving champions of all time. Why? Because he won his championship in a much inferior car. Not many drivers managed to win their championship in a car that didn’t win the constructor’s title as well. Saying that the title was gifted to him is in my opinion completely wrong. Eleven drivers managed to win a race that year – that’s more than twice as many as 2010. 1982 was probably THE craziest season ever in F1.

  11. Tango (@tango) said on 5th January 2011, 12:54

    I guess that if Prost wins the contest, it is because this website is mostly French.

    That’s a nice picture of Prost BTW

  12. Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 5th January 2011, 12:58

    Prost – by an even bigger margin than Clark over Surtees.

    What an interesting pairing would’ve been: Keke Rosberg vs Jenson Button or Denny Hulme.

  13. Andrew White said on 5th January 2011, 13:00

    You can make arguments that flatter Rosberg and put down Prost, but to tip the scales towards Rosberg? The stats speak for themselves; not only has Prost won four titles, but he’s been runner up four times as well, one time actually scoring more points but ending up 3 behind due to best 11 results rule, and then 0.5, 2 and 7 points behind. Balestre can’t fix that much success, and Rosberg just can’t match it.

  14. Bleu (@bleu) said on 5th January 2011, 13:30

    Being Finnish I rate Rosberg high, but no way he was better than Prost, who belongs in top five in my books.

  15. jihelle (@jihelle) said on 5th January 2011, 13:40

    It’s kind of lopsided. Of course Prost but why pairing Rosberg, a very good driver by the way, against him ? Looks like the odds are for a Schumacher/Senna/Prost gran finale with Lauda/Stewart/Clark as outsiders… But is that really surprising ?

    • Tango (@tango) said on 5th January 2011, 14:06

      I don’t know about that: Where do you put Alonso? After all he did beat Schumacher when the latter was still at its prime! And what about Hamilton vs Alonso, he did make Alonso very uncomfortable during its prime when he was only a rookie! So on this basis the three should be closely matched (and on relative stats, still are)

      But I guess Hamilton would probably lose a straight fight vs Shcumacher in the pole. It really is a case of against who you are pitted really ! And that’s all the fun of Keith’s approach.

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