1993 Williams World Champion, and all-too-often thorn in Williams’ side during his time with Renault/McLaren, Alain Prost turns 65 today.
Having made his Formula 1 debut in 1980, the Frenchman won 51 Grand Prix, a then record, and four World Drivers’ titles in the ensuing 13 years making him the fourth most successful F1 driver of all time behind Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and Juan Manuel Fangio.
Nicknamed ‘the professor’ for his calculated approach to driving, Prost would rarely take unnecessary risks to gain track position, preferring to let the race come to him.
This was a devastatingly effective tactic in an era of relatively high attrition that allowed Prost to pick up point after point as those ahead of him tripped up allowing Prost to cruise by to the finish.
His approach to accumulating points too – settling for a safe second rather than risking everything for a win – would contribute to at least half of his world titles, ironically at the expense of Williams.
Prost took the first three of his titles with McLaren (1985, 1986 and 1989), before returning from a year out of the sport after his sacking by Ferrari to replace Nigel Mansell at Williams in 1993, at the behest of Williams’ engine supplier Renault, and taking his fourth and final title.
Upon hearing of his great rival Ayrton Senna‘s appointment to the second Williams for 1994, Prost and Sir Frank Williams agreed to break the Frenchman’s contract and he promptly retired.
He briefly returned to Formula 1 as team owner when he bought out french constructor Ligier, before bankruptcy forced their withdrawal prior to the 2002 season.
He later found fame (or should it be infame??) with a new generation of Formula 1 fans, when he was painted as the villain in the 2010 movie ‘Senna’, wickedly denying the eponymous hero a second F1 title in 1989.
Happy Birthday Alain!