Ayrton Senna v. Alain Prost

As rivals Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg battle it out for the 2016 F1 Championship, how will they be remembered after their careers?  The fierce competitiveness of F1 drivers renders rivalries almost unavoidable, but few have matched the ferocity and ruthlessness of that of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

After the shocking death of Ayrton Senna in 1994, Alain Prost said that a part of himself died alongside him "because our careers had been so bound together. I know some people thought I wasn't sincere, but I meant it." So entangled were the lives and careers of two of the most revered and successful Formula 1 drivers in history, that the mention of one evokes thoughts of the other.

Philip Boeckman

Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost's relationship will go down as one of the fiercest rivalries in Formula 1's history, laced with politics, collisions and mind games.

In 1988, Senna joined McLaren and subsequently was teamed up with defending world champion racer Alain Prost. Since bursting onto the F1 scene, Senna had proved to be the thorn in Prost's side, who up until then had managed to glide from victory to victory, achieving an almost untouchable career trajectory.

The two had almost opposite styles both on and off the track. Senna with his ferocity and impulsiveness, often described as being reckless on the track, putting not only himself but other drivers in danger. He had a palpable fear of losing, and his frantic ambition and drive was clear for all to see, with some believing it was bordering on insanity.

Prost meanwhile projected an external image of being calculated and calm. His ruthlessness, while by no means any inferior to his team mate's, was masked by a slick sheen of confidence and coolness. He didn't lose his temper like Senna and was considered to have a more straight-forward and rational approach to life on and off the track. 

Philip Boeckman

The rivalry came to a head at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix, when a collision between the drivers resulted in Prost winning the 1989 Driver's Championship. This win, however, was not without controversy. After the collision which drove both cars off the track, Prost abandoned his vehicle, but in a shock turn of events, Senna restarted his and carried rejoined the race, eventually winning. This victory was short lived, after Prost challenged the win, eventually having Senna disqualified from the race for having cut through the chicane to rejoin the race. Questions were later asked about whether it had been a decision made my FISA President, Jean Marie Balestre, in order to secure a championship victory for his fellow frenchman Prost.

Only a year on, the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix threw up similar circumstances, with both drivers once again involving themselves in a collision which would this time ensure that it was Senna who would take home the Championship title. It was disputed the Senna had caused the collision intentionally, in order to guarantee his victory. He initially denied these accusations, but it later became apparent that the crash had been intentional. The following season, Prost signed a deal to join Ferrari, leaving McLaren.

Philip Boeckman

The team change did not do anything to quell the competition between the two champion drivers, and their rivalry remained strong right until Prost's retirement in 1993. Prost has spoken about their relationship once he retired, and that the two enjoyed phone calls frequently, and that once he was no longer racing, the rivalry disappeared. 

This huge, controversial rivalry has remained one of the most memorable in Formula 1 history, and arguably spurred both drivers on to become two of the best that F1 racing has ever seen. In years to come, once the rivalry has subsided,  it remains to be seen how both the careers of Hamilton & Rosberg are remembered, and whether each will be entangled in the other's legacy.

 

 

 

 

Philip Boeckman

Huge fan of @F1 and Motor Racing in general. I blog about anything and everything from the world of Formula 1