Alain Prost vs Niki Lauda

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Alain Prost vs Niki Lauda

The second Champion of Champions quarter-final features two drivers who were team mates at McLaren for two years.

During their time together Niki Lauda won his final championship title in 1984 and Alain Prost claimed his first the following year.

These are also both drivers took time out of the sport and made successful comebacks.

It looked like Lauda had quit for good when he told Bernie Ecclestone he was leaving Brabham as practice began at Montreal in 1979. He had already agreed terms to continue driving for the team, and his change of mind potentially cost him two years in cars capable of winning the championship.

Ron Dennis convinced Lauda to make a comeback with McLaren in 1982. He won twice in his first year back and once McLaren arranged a deal to use Porsche turbo power he was on his way to world title number three.

It came after a season-long battle with Prost which Lauda won by the smallest-ever margin of half a point. The following season Lauda was dogged by unreliability and retired for good.

Prost’s 1992 sabbatical and 1993 comeback was characteristic of his approach to the sport. He bided his time until the seat he wanted at Williams became available. When he got his hands on the car he emulated Lauda by winning a title on his return.

And both can also talk about championship near-misses. Lauda’s terrible crash at the Nurburgring in 1976 arguably cost him the title that year.

And 1984 wasn’t Prost’s first or last taste of missing out on the title by a small margin: he lost to Nelson Piquet by two points the previous season and was runner-up to Ayrton Senna in 1988 and 1990

So these are two champions with a lot in common. But which of these drivers should go through to the Champion of Champions semi-finals?

Vote for which you think was best below and explain who you voted for and why in the comments.

Alain Prost Niki Lauda
Alain Prost Niki Lauda
Titles 1985, 1986, 1989, 1993 1975. 1977, 1984
Second in title year/s Michele Alboreto, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Ayrton Senna Emerson Fittipaldi, Jody Scheckter, Alain Prost
Teams McLaren, Renault, Ferrari, Williams March, BRM, Ferrari, Brabham, McLaren
Notable team mates Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell Carlos Reutemann, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost
Starts 199 171
Wins 51 (25.63%) 25 (14.62%)
Poles 33 (16.58%) 24 (14.04%)
Modern points per start1 12.48 7.85
% car failures2 16.58 34.50
Modern points per finish3 14.96 11.99
Notes Lost ’83 title by two points and ’84 title by half a point Badly burned in 1976 crash, withdrew from title-deciding race in heavy rain
Controversial clash with Senna sealed third title Clinched second title for Ferrari in 1977 then left team
Returned from sabbatical to clinch fourth title with Williams Ended two-year retirement to return to McLaren and win third title
Bio Alain Prost Niki Lauda

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

Round two

Round one

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Alain Prost (79%)
  • Niki Lauda (22%)

Total Voters: 630

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Read the F1 Fanatic Champion of Champions introduction for more information and remember to check back tomorrow for the next round.

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Images ?? Honda (Prost), Gary Faulkenberry (Lauda)

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78 comments on Alain Prost vs Niki Lauda

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  1. Larcem said on 26th January 2011, 13:09

    hardest one yet for me. They are both legendary!

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 26th January 2011, 13:50

      I prefer and have more respect for Lauda, but I had to vote Prost.

      • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 26th January 2011, 14:01

        That’s exactly what I think! Lauda is an inspiration, but Prost is an unsung hero – perhaps the most underrated driver ever.

        • Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 26th January 2011, 14:59

          As a 3 times WDC I’d hardly call him underrated!!

          • Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 26th January 2011, 15:00

            So as a 4 times champion even less so…!!

            (Keith, any signs of an edit button any time soon??)

          • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 26th January 2011, 15:31

            I know, but hardly anyone ever ranks him in the top drivers of all time, do they? When you’re talking about the greats, people normally mention Fangio, Clark, Senna and Schumacher. Prost is like the villain of the 80s, and I don’t think that’s right.

          • Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 26th January 2011, 18:29

            Can’t say I’ve ever really noticed…perhaps because when I think of Senna I automatically think of Prost as being his arch-rival (which to me suggests equal).

            That said I only really started watching F1 in 1991 as a 10 year old so don’t really have too many memories of those early (for me) years.

            In fact my first F1 memory is Our Nige’ winning the title in ’92 and my second is sadly Senna’s crash in’94.

          • Senna is a hero, he is a legend, the things he said ‘racing is in my blood’ etc… his manor, his passion and to a massive extent his untimely death all contribute to him becoming this figure.

            Prost is hence overshadowed. Not many people remember Ascari, I’d rank him at worst just below Fangio and best above him. Yet because Fangio hs 5 world titles and Ascari doesn’t he is overshadowed. No one really thinks of any as that good since 94 till when schumacher retired. Hakkinen, mostly ignored and will be partially forgotten.

            If Senna was a movie then Prost was a facinating book. I prefer Prost over Senna, but because Senna is a legend, a mythical man almost now, people largely forget who Prost was.

        • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 26th January 2011, 21:27

          Amen to that Damon, Prost doesn’t get enough credit. He would have dominated like Schumacher had he not had such strong competition in the form of Senna, Mansell, Piquet, etc.

          • Pionir (@pionir) said on 27th January 2011, 14:28

            I’d argue he still dominated even in the face of such strong opposition. 4 titles and umpteen times runner up.

      • Prost was exceptional. Senna made less points than him in 88/89 (the only fair way to compare drivers, for me).
        But, I do believe that being beaten in 84 by Lauda is just exceptional. In the same car!
        Vote for Lauda.
        Besides, Prost 93 was kind of of a deception.

        • Damon (@damon) said on 27th January 2011, 10:44

          Lauda should’ve had 4 titles – with the one that he lost in 1976 only because of his horrific crash and then being unable to compete.
          And Lauda beat Prost in McLaren in 1984.

          Apart from that: Lauda 34.50% car failures.
          Come on!!

          Lauda all the way.

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 26th January 2011, 16:47

      Lauda was very very good. But Prost, as shown by statistics, was even better.

  2. Movement (@movement) said on 26th January 2011, 13:13

    They are both fantastic, but Prost clinches it.

  3. rabbit (@rabbit) said on 26th January 2011, 13:13

    Prost . Easy !!!!!

  4. Its Hammer time said on 26th January 2011, 13:17

    An incredibly hard choice. Lauda, because of his recovery after that fire in Germany in 76. He nearly won the championship that year as well

    • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 26th January 2011, 14:03

      I’m going with this. I can’t fault either driver really, as I do think they are some of the greatest that the sport has ever produced.

      However, Lauda coming back to win after what happened to him is one of those stories that is almost too good to be true. it’s said that his burns were not healed and still bleeding/raw while he raced for the remainder of that season, which is simply incredible. He’s inspirational in that respect.

      Prost too is fantastic, and in fact to vote against him is difficult. In many ways, he was the perfect racing driver. His story though is not as remarkable as Lauda’s.

  5. Roberto said on 26th January 2011, 13:18

    Very hard. Lauda beat Prost in 84 by 0.5 point, but that was because the Monaco race was stopped short. Then in 85 Prost beat Lauda. Alain said that Niki was his toughest competitor, because he was very quick and intelligent. He said that the Lauda that raced with him at McLaren wasn’t as fast as the 70’s Lauda. Lauda’s style was racing only what was needed, no less, no more. Prost learned a lot from him.

    • frood1919 said on 27th January 2011, 12:38

      this is a fallacious argument – if that race had gone full distance, prost would probably have finished 3rd behind senna and bellof and therefore would have only got 4 points rather than 4.5.

      • Bengt Johansson said on 4th June 2014, 9:33

        Yeah, but Bellof would be disqualified, so Prost would be 2nd and score 6 pionts.

  6. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 26th January 2011, 13:18

    Not easy. Both real heavy weights in the sport, with great skills and legends behind them. I choose Prost, because I loved his highly intelligent approach to racing.

  7. LuvinF1 (@luvinf1) said on 26th January 2011, 13:21

    There are no “newcomers” in my top eight, and both of these drivers make the cut. But only one is in my top four – Alain Prost.

  8. David-A (@david-a) said on 26th January 2011, 13:22

    Prost wasn’t the most flamboyant of drivers, but to be able to keep up with and beat Senna despite lacking the Brazilian’s raw pace means one thing: he was a genius. Niki Lauda has my utmost respect for his F1 career (even if I don’t like him for all his whinging), and was deeply unfortunate not to win the 1976 title. It’s pretty close, but I go for Prost.

  9. jodrell (@jodrell) said on 26th January 2011, 13:26

    1984, Lauda beats Prost…that and you can’t really beat a chap who’s come back from the dead, can you?

  10. Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 26th January 2011, 13:37

    Lauda has a real grit that can’t be ignored… Prost beat Senna in equal equipment… and that is grit cubed!

    Can someone put that into a mathematical equation for me?

    • Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 26th January 2011, 18:32

      Lauda = g

      Senna = gxgxg (there’s no way that I know of to make the 3 into superscript)

      Prost > Senna


      Prost > Lauda x Lauda x Lauda…

      I think that’s a little biased towards Prost…

  11. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 26th January 2011, 13:38

    As I really think about it I came to realize Lauda has lost this on the Ring in 1976. Before that he has won 4 out of 6 races, and ruled 1975 not just driving ‘like a computer’ but also blatantly quick.

    After that he still managed to be the best in terms of overall standings, concentration and stuff… but I think he lost the edge after the accident. Still his superiority in quick-thinking and being smart, knowing when to push and for how long earned him two more WDC.

    Prost learnt it very well and was quite prolific. Ultimately I think he went beyond of his ‘master.’

    So Prost. And I’m sorry for Lauda.

  12. RIISE (@riise) said on 26th January 2011, 13:44

    Prost for me, should’ve been more than 4 titles.

    • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 26th January 2011, 13:47

      Yeah there was a fifth… that was lost @ Suzuki.

      • RIISE (@riise) said on 26th January 2011, 14:01

        Agreed, i’m not sure why people say it was just revenge from Senna he was way too hot into the final chicane so it was Senna’s own fault. But what he did to Prost a year later was just damn right dangerous and very unsporting.

        Senna in my eyes would’ve been a true great had it not been for that incident.

        I think Prost deserved in some ways the ’84 title, very unlucky.

      • Roberto said on 26th January 2011, 14:03

        and another one was lost at Monaco 84. And yet another one was won by points, but not granted in 88

  13. Rocky (@rocky) said on 26th January 2011, 13:46

    Wanted to Vote Niki but voted Alain both deserving but only one can go on.

  14. Ral (@ral) said on 26th January 2011, 13:46

    Prost. Just. And to be honest, it’s because of a personal preference rather than skill, or talent, or results because I can’t really distinguish between the two on any of these criteria.

  15. Nearly 35 per cent car failures for Lauda, that is surprisingly high! I think he is one of those drivers who is in most people’s top 7 or 8 and he of course beat Prost in ’84 despite winning less races which is very impressive. This of course being after he won two titles against the previous generation of drivers, and had that horrific accident. Pretty unbelievable character.

    However Prost is best remembered for his duels with Senna, and the fact he matched Senna in the same car for two seasons as well as his unbelievable race craft means he gets my vote. He could conceivably have had 8 titles which considering the standard of competition back then to be competitive for such a long period of time speaks volumes about his skill. I’m pretty sure if the modern points allocation had been used in the 80’s he would have had more titles than 4, he was the master of consistency.

    • Sasquatsch (@sasquatsch) said on 26th January 2011, 14:09

      On the contrary. Prosts consistency failed to get him more world titles. Both in 1984 and 1988 Prost got more points than the world champion, but because of his consistency he couldn’t count them all because in those years only the 11 best results counted.

      Both Lauda and Senna won because their best 11 results were better than Prosts, but Prosts results were beter over the whole season. In all years where Prost missed the World Championship, the various points systems over the years do not change the champion. Only allowing all results versus the best eleven results does. See F1 Facts for details.

      • debaser91 said on 26th January 2011, 16:42

        In the modern points system all results count. That was what I was trying to say.

        Therefore if the modern points system was applied to back then (i.e all results rather than 11 best scores) then Prost would have been champion in ’84 and ’88.

    • olivier (@olivier) said on 26th January 2011, 15:48

      True. In 1985 he had technical issues in the first ten races of the season. Then came Zanvoort where we won his last race even after the team gave him the wrong tires.

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