Is Prost overlooked?
5th September 2010, 22:54 at 10:54 pm #128021
Interestingly, I was just looking at the BBC website and the various driver profiles that they have. Most of the drivers on the grid were asked ‘Prost or Senna?’. A couple of drivers said both were great, but not a single driver on the grid stated that Prost was, in their mind, the better of the two. Even Button, who I was sure would say Prost (given various comparisons between the two) said Senna.
I know that many regard Senna as being the greater of the two drivers for various reasons but I was amazed that not a single driver on the grid chose Prost. Is Prost’s immense talent overlooked because of Senna? I never got to see either of them race, but I would be interested to hear from those who did and why he deserves to be remembered at least on a par with Senna5th September 2010, 23:14 at 11:14 pm #144104
I’d say he’s very overlooked. Prost was like a super-Button, great racecraft, never doing more than was enough. Maybe he didn’t have the raw speed or aggression of Senna, but that’s not the only things that make a great F1 driver.
But then I never saw either race either.5th September 2010, 23:27 at 11:27 pm #144105
In a word, Yes.
(Theoretically) 12 and a half points from being a Septuple world champion. Only missed out on winning in 1988 due to only the best 11 results being counted.
Was the master of Monaco until Senna came on the scene. Came the closest to winning a WDC for the Scuderia before Schumacher.
Also, perhaps unfairly tainted by the flop that was Prost Grand Prix6th September 2010, 0:42 at 12:42 am #144106
Alain Prost is the best underrated driver of all time. I don’t think he was tainted by Prost GP – it doesn’t really change what he achieved as a driver. But he is overlooked compared to Senna because of Senna’s death (like it or not, it’s true). I would guess that had Senna survived to finish his F1 career (with Ferrari?), there would probably be a more fair comparison. That said, had Senna survived, he probably would’ve won title/s with Williams and/or Ferrari, so he’d still end up being ranked higher than Prost. Prost loses out either way.6th September 2010, 7:35 at 7:35 am #144107
Being French, I guess it would come as no surprise that I consider Prost as being overlooked in the “greatests of the greats” club. BUT: I followed Prost in his F3 days, then Formula One and he was utterly unspectacular. Very clean driving, not a wheel wrong, waiting in the wings for other drivers’ mistakes. Very much Lauda style (also very overlooked). In a match with Senna, Mansell, even Piquet or Rosberg, it was difficult to root for Alain. It’s somewhat like Lauda/Hunt. Lauda was a “better” pilot in the sense that he could manage a race and a championship but when it came to gutsy driving and show, he was no match for Hunt. And it’s also true that if Prost GP would have been more succesful (and that’s an understatement), people would remember him in a different way. That said, I would not put Senna ahead of Prost. They were two very different beasts, both in their driving style and lifestyle. And Alain came out of a very dangerous period in F1 without breaking a single bone, in itself an achievement.6th September 2010, 8:17 at 8:17 am #144108
Prost is overlooked. I think he suffers a bit because he lacks the flamboyance of Keke Rosberg or Gilles Villenueve or the wow factor of Senna.
Even an ardent Senna fan like me has to concede that Prost was a driver of huge skill, who was more than a match for Lauda, Mansell, Piquet, Senna and whoever else he raced against. He was without question the greatest driver of the 80’s. The 4 world championships he won and a number of memorables drives ensure that he will go down as one of the greatest ment to have ever driven a racing car. His overall record is second to none. The thing that amazes me when I read about him is always the praise that is heaped on him by engineers. His ability to develop a car and give accurate feedback to engineers was probably better than any driver…well…ever.
For us to fail to acknowledge him as a legend because he often won at the slowest speed possible or in an unspectacular manner does him a great disservice….6th September 2010, 8:37 at 8:37 am #144109
Actually I believe Chandhok’s hero is Alain Prost but you’re right most drivers and people idolize Senna (even me to an extent despite not always liking him much).
I think it’s because of Senna. Senna won three titles in shorter time, Senna made it so you were either a Prost or Senna fan, Prost left Mclaren after saying it was impossible to work with Ayrton and so possibly appeared ‘weaker’ esp when Senna was willing to take crazy risks sometimes, ’89 happened, ’90 it was awful but seen as some kind of justice story so that it was harsh but right and showed Senna’s passion, Senna died and by comparison when it came to driving styles Prost appeared boring.
We may say ‘shut up’ whenevern the show in F1 is mentioned but it is important esp when it comes to drivers as just look at how many fans Kobayashi already had and how loved Sato was. I think us fans lvoe to be on the edge of our seat and Senna was much more unpredictable.
Senna was the quicker of the two but Prost was the better I believe and yet he doesn’t get half the credit he deserves.6th September 2010, 10:15 at 10:15 am #144110
Alain Prost’s career as a driver is inevitably compared to Ayrton Senna, and therein lies the problem. Evaluating Prost vs Senna generally isn’t a fair fight – Senna the legend beats Prost the man everytime. Senna didn’t get the chance to lose his edge, start an unsuccessful GP team, grow old or make idiotic comments from the sidelines. Had it not been for Imola 1994, he may well have gone on to taint his standing in all of these ways and more besides – just as Prost has done.
Another factor that counts against Prost is his driving style – bold, dramatic and exciting drivers like Senna or Gilles Villeneuve are usually remembered with warmth and affection. Drivers who win races through stealth and cunning are often not. But Prost was very good indeed, certainly as good as (and possibly better than) Senna. The speed was there, but Prost often decided not to employ it.
Prost’s early F1 career speaks volumes about his level of competitiveness. He made his debut in 1980 for a McLaren team which was on its last legs before the Ron Dennis takeover and immediately impressed. Prost was then a title contender in every single year of the 10 years that followed (1981-1990). Prost outshone most of his team mates in F1 and they were no mean bunch, including John Watson, Rene Arnoux, Niki Lauda, Keke Rosberg, Nigel Mansell and Jean Alesi.
Prost often appears to be the loser in his battle with Senna but that was at least partly due to the fundamental differences in their approach – Senna would approach qualifying with maximum attack, whereas Prost preferred to prepare for the race. Senna was almost certainly the faster driver over a single lap, but the gap was probably smaller than it first appears. And the late 1980s are a world away from F1 2010.
Monaco 1988 is often cited as the prime demonstration of Senna’s advantage over Prost. Senna took pole position with a lap 1.4 seconds faster than his team mate, which seems staggering in today’s money. But McLaren were hugely dominant in ’88 and the field spread was much wider than it is now (1.3 seconds covered the top 10 in 2010, in 1988 it was 4.3 seconds). To put it into context, had Sebastian Vettel been 1.4 seconds slower than Mark Webber in Monaco this year he would have been 10th and nowhere. In 1988 Prost was 2nd with the nearest non-McLaren nearly 2.7 seconds off pole. When the front row of the grid is virtually guaranteed and pole position virtually impossible, why take the risk of trying for the fastest possible lap? Cold pragmatism may be the right course to take, but it doesn’t make for exciting viewing.
In the race Prost and Senna traded fastest laps, despite Senna having a large lead after Prost had been delayed earlier in the race. Senna eventually set the race’s fastest lap but lost concentration and crashed going into the tunnel, gifting Prost the win. It spoke volumes about the differences in approach and the comparison between the two drivers.
Of course, that’s not to suggest Prost was perfect. He was a highly political animal and this didn’t always work to his advantage. He intentionally closed the door on Senna at Suzuka in 1989, although the payback in 1990 was far more dangerous. His lack of pace was sometimes genuine, rather than a strategy option (although all drivers have off days). He was also surprisingly poor in wet weather conditions, pulling out of the 1989 finale and driving an appalling race in Donnington ’93. In the final year of his career, he gave the strong impression of doing just enough as the indisputed number one driver in a hugely superior car to win a fourth title. The fact that his contract for ’93 expressly excluded Senna as a team mate upsets many fans’ notion of fair play – it certainly upset Senna’s.
In essence, Prost was a very fast F1 driver – not as fast as Senna over a lap, perhaps, but the speed was there – but we saw it less and less as his career went on and he favoured stealth and strategy over outright pace. But an all time great, certainly.6th September 2010, 10:44 at 10:44 am #144111
The ironic thing is if you watch the video back you can see Prost was turning in on the racing line. Of course he knew Senna was there, but he was also ahead of Senna into the corner.
I’ve no doubt Prost knew what he was doing, that there would be a crash, but is it more because he knew Senna was Senna and would never back off? Was it more than just a cynical incident and Prost actually set a trap for Senna? Anyone else would have covered off the inside line.6th September 2010, 10:45 at 10:45 am #144112
I watched them both and I have to agree that Prost was very much overlooked in later comparisons in the same way that Piquet was with his 3 titles. This sport is continually evolving and every now and then when a driver achieves 2 or 3 titles the references to an earlier one starts. Senna has had by far the greatest press since he drove and losing his life while driving has only exaggerated this. In the last 60 years drivers of all styles have won and the arguments will always be about style over substance. They were both great drivers with individual merits and faults only Senna won the media battle hands down.6th September 2010, 11:24 at 11:24 am #144113
TimG I agree with most of your comment, just not this bit.
“He was also surprisingly poor in wet weather conditions, pulling out of the 1989 finale and driving an appalling race in Donnington ’93”
Prost was actually in his early career regarded as a very good wet weather driver but after 1982 Prost’s entire outlook on motorsport changed. Didier Pironi ran into the back of him in utterly atrociouos conditions in Hockenheim and suffered career ending injuries only a few weeks after Gilles Villeneuve had been killed. Prost continued to drive but he wanted to be able to win at 90% of the cars potential knowing that how tragically dangerous the sport was.
As for Australia ’89 it was a race that should never have been run, Brundle did a triple 360 spin and continued racing, but because of the visibility he had no idea if he was going the right way down a 150mph straight. The conditions were diabolical. I have admiration for racers willing to risk their lives in motorsport but I can’t fathom how people can criticise drivers for choosing not to race in unreasonably dangerous conditions. Just as Lauda dropped out in Fuji ’76 not because he was poor in the wet but because he didn’t want to die basically.6th September 2010, 11:32 at 11:32 am #144114
Best article I’ve ever read on Prost, I post it whenever a discussion such as this one comes up. Covers the incredible driving brain that Prost had. Definatley worth a while.
Personally my thoughts are this Prost is has a number of things against him in the media battle, he’s generally a bit boring to listen to, especially these days, the scoring system of his day ment he has a few titles less than he would have got, the cheap 93 title and the fact that watching Senna drive is still hypnotic and awe inspiring. Prost drove with his head but that often let him outdrive Senna.6th September 2010, 15:44 at 3:44 pm #144115
That is truly an excellent article. I’d heard that story about Monza 1988 before but couldn’t quite remember the detail about the fuel. Some terrific drives I’ve never heard of, it’s a shame modern F1 doesn’t offer the opportunity for more wins from the back like that (although I think it might have something to do with the two-tyre rule as well).6th September 2010, 18:29 at 6:29 pm #144116
Itchyes, if you want to see wins from the back check out John Watson in the Mclaren when he was in the high teens and low twenties on the grid and finishing on the podium. A problem Mclaren had at the time in quali but out of this world in the race.6th September 2010, 19:12 at 7:12 pm #144117
Actually, Webber says Prost, and Button goes for both.
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