Alain Prost came to Williams as a three time World Champion, and left as the holder of four titles, one fewer than the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio, and winner of a then record 51 Grands Prix.
Prost first announced himself on the world stage when in 1973 he won the Karting World Championship. A European Formula Renault Championship followed in 1976, and he then took the 1979 European Formula 3 crown, in a season during which he won the prestigious Monaco Formula 3 race on Grand Prix weekend. This brought him to the attention of McLaren’s Teddy Mayer, who promptly signed him up for the 1980 Formula 1 season.
Alain Prost’s Formula 1 debut
After a promising start with a sixth place on his debut, things began to deteriorate following a series of mechanical failures, resulting in Prost and McLaren parting ways, and allowing Alain to join French team Renault.
His first win quickly followed in the turbocharged Renault, as did his second and third, but when a disagreement with Rene Arnoux about team orders (something that would become all too familiar to Prost and his team-mates) began an eventual breakdown in their relationship, Prost found himself out of a job at the end of 1983.
Back he went to McLaren, now headed by the ambitious Ron Dennis, partnering Niki Lauda for 1984.
Alain Prost won on his debut in the McLaren-TAG, and a season long battle was to ensue, with Lauda prevailing by a single point.
This good natured rivalry was to follow into 1985, only this time, Prost was to emerge successful taking his first World Formula 1 Title, and Lauda was to head for retirement.
In 1986, Prost found himself partnered with former Williams World Champion Keke Rosberg, and spent the whole season keeping out of trouble and stacking up the points while the two Williams drivers Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet were squabbling with each other. Despite the Williams being the quicker car, Prost’s calculated, measured approach took him to his second World Drivers Championship, back-to-back with the first.
Prost vs Senna
1988 brought a whole new chapter to Alain Prost’s career, and it’s the era for which he is predominantly remembered. While he remained with the McLaren team he was joined by Ayrton Senna, a young man determined to assert himself as not only the number one driver in the team, but he wanted to be number one in the world.
And so he would be, Senna taking the World Drivers Championship in the final race at Suzuka. While the relationship between the two had bristled throughout 1988 they had remained largely on good terms. That would all change at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1989, where, in another dispute about team orders, Prost accused Senna of ignoring a pre-race agreement they’d made.
Their relationship having deteriorated significantly by the Japanese Grand Prix, and Prost having already decided to leave the team at the end of the year to join Ferrari, the two team-mates would collide, handing Prost the championship in the most controversial of circumstances.
Prost & Ferrari
And so off he went to the Scuderia where he was once again locked in battle with Senna going into the final race at Suzuka. This time it was Senna’s turn to instigate a collision resulting in both drivers retiring and the Championship heading back to McLaren with Senna.
A fruitless 1991 with Ferrari followed before he was given the heave-ho for bad-mouthing the car, leading to his sabbatical and his subsequent invitation to drive for Williams in 1993.
13 pole positions, 7 wins and two world titles followed before he decided to hang up his overalls for good.