DRIVERS: ALAIN PROST
Name: Alain Prost
Date of birth: February 24, 1955 - Lorette, Saint-Chamond, France
Originally Prost wanted to be a football player but he became a kart racer in his teens and did well, although he had the reputation of being slightly wild. He then went in for the Volant Elf competition at the Winfield School at Paul Ricard in the autumn of 1975 and emerged with a Formula Renault prize drive for 1976. He immediately showed his class by utterly dominating the French Formula Renault Championship. In 1977 he moved on to dominate the Formula Renault Europe title and in 1978 was put into Formula 3 by Renault. After struggling with a Martini chassis in 1978, he bounced back to win the French and European Formula 3 titles in 1979. At the end of the year he tested for the McLaren team and was signed up for 1980. He scored points in his first two Grands Prix but in qualifying for the third - the South African GP - he suffered a suspension failure and went off, breaking his wrist. This caused him to miss the Long Beach race but he was back in action in Belgium in May. He scored points at the British and Dutch GPs but at the end of the year suffered two further suspension failures (one of them while running third in Canada) and he decided to quit the team to take up an offer of a drive with Renault Sport, leaving the two teams to sort out the legal niceties.
He won again in Holland and Italy and ended the year fifth in the World Championship. He started the 1982 season with two victories but as the season progressed the team suffered a series of reliability problems and he did not win again, although he finished fourth in the World Championship. In 1983 he appeared to have the World Championship in his hands with victories in France, Belgium, Britain and Austria but he ended up losing the title by two points after a late-season charge from Brabham-BMW. Renault blamed Prost and he was fired and he took up the offer of a drive with McLaren - now under new management. As team mate to Niki Lauda he learned the hard way that you need more than just pace to win the World Championship. Despite victories in Brazil, San Marino, Monte Carlo, Germany, Holland, at the Nurburgring and in Portugal he was beaten to the title by half a point by the canny Lauda (who had scored only five wins).
The 1985 season was to bring Prost his first World Championship with five wins in his McLaren-TAG and he followed up in 1986 with an amazing title victory over the two Williams-Hondas of Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet. In 1987 the McLaren-TAG was not very competitive but he won three races nonetheless and finished fourth in the World Championship. The 1988 season was to bring a new relationship with Honda and a new team mate in the form of Ayrton Senna. The pair dominated the World Championship completely, Prost winning seven victories but he was beaten the title by Senna, who scored eight wins.
The McLaren-Honda domination continued in 1989 but the two men soon fell out and the season ended with a controversial collision at Suzuka which gave Prost the title after he drove into Senna at the chicane. Their relationship had become so strained in the course of the year that Prost had decided to move to Ferrari and he led the team's revival in 1990, winning five races and only being beaten to the World Championship when Senna took him off in dubious circumstances at the start of the Japanese GP.
In 1991 Ferrari imploded and before the end of the year Prost had been fired for criticizing the team. It was too late to find a drive for 1992 but organized to return in 1993 with Williams-Renault. The wily campaigner won seven times and took his fourth World Championship and lifted his total of victories to a record-breaking 51. At the end of the year he was forced into retirement when Williams decided to do a deal for 1994 with Ayrton Senna. Prost tested for the McLaren-Peugeot team but decided not to race. He signed up to be a commentator with French television and as a special ambassador for Renault and tried to get Renault to agree to an engine deal. Frustrated, Alain terminated his agreement with Renault and went to work as a consultant for the McLaren Mercedes team. At the same time he began to try to convince Peugeot to join his planned team. This time he was successful and in February 1997 he bought Ligier and announced a three-year deal with Peugeot to run from 1998-2000. He inherited Olivier Panis and Shinji Nakano, Mugen-Honda engines and Bridgestone tires. It was not an easy season but the JS45 proved to be very competitive when the Bridgestone tires were working and Panis was third in the World Championship when the F1 circus went to Canada. Unfortunately he crashed heavily and broke both his legs and had to replaced by Jarno Trulli. The Italian did well, leading the Austrian GP in dominant fashion before his engine failed. Panis returned in September and scored a point on his return.
The first true Prost chassis was not a success. The car was very unreliable and the 1998 season was hugely disappointing. In 1999 the AP02 was not to be a bad car but the Peugeot engine had become too big and too heavy.
The 2000 season was a complete disaster as the Prost-Peugeot relationship broke down and the team struggled to survive. In the end Prost had to sell a shareholding in the team to the Diniz Family. The team used Ferrari engines but the cars were not a great success.
Prost as a team owner was not in the same league as Prost the driver. The team went out of business at the start of 2002. In recent months Prost has returned to competition as a driver in ice races.