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Alain Prost: The Professor of Formula One

Written by Ilona Datchary, Edited by Mara Simion


Born in Lorette, South of Lyon, France, Alain Prost secured his place in Formula 1 history with four World Championships and 51 race wins, clinching titles in 1985, 1986, 1989, and 1993.


Considered one of the best Formula 1 drivers in history and raced with top-tier teams: McLaren, Renault, Ferrari, and Williams, he had also been teammates and competed with racing icon Ayrton Senna.


Some people know him as the Professor, but why? What came to Alain Prost getting this name? What does it even mean? 


Alain Prost won a Grand Prix in 1988 with his team; Image Credits: Getty Images

In the early years of Alain Prost, before his Formula 1 career, the Prost family didn’t have much money, especially for his racing career considering he was around 14 years old.


Wanting to change things and to be able to race, the Frenchman started finding businesses that involved engines and would sell them to make money. This early hands-on experience provided the groundwork for his in-depth understanding of racing mechanics.


During Alain Prost’s Formula 1 career, everyone knew Prost because he was an amazing driver and had different strategies which ended up helping him win many races and World Championships. 


Alain Prost in his car smiling and waving to the audience; Image Credits: Stoneforest.ru

Prost was known for his skill, how he could conserve his tires throughout the whole race and maintain a good and steady pace. The technique the Frenchman used was that he started races cautiously, taking care of his tires, and then surprised everyone with a burst of speed towards the end.


Prost had unique ways of racing that went against the usual, but his careful thinking and smart approach helped him win 51 Grand Prix races, putting him fifth in the all-time winners list. He was a driver who not only had driving abilities but also had brain skills which made him different and stand out from the others. 


He got his nickname 'The Professor' as his legacy goes beyond mere statistics, encapsulating a blend of skill, intellect, and strategic brilliance that distinguishes him in the history of racing. 


Alain Prost with his rival and teammate, Ayrton Senna; Image Credits: LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC

A defining chapter in his Formula 1 racing years was the feud with the three time World Champion, Ayrton Senna. During the 1988 and 1989 seasons, the two drivers raced for McLaren Honda. Being teammates and rivals added an extra layer of excitement to each Grand Prix.


Their different racing strategies made the duo so interesting, unique, and unexpected. What made it even better was that they respected each other off-track, which showed how admirable the two of them were. 


 A race that sparked a lot of fire and controversy was the 1989 Suzuka Grand Prix. Prost and Senna were teammates and both were close to winning the World Champion. This Grand Prix was very important for the Brazilian driver because if he wanted to be a contender for first place, he would have to finish the race.


Senna was P1 and started first, but not long after, Prost overtook him. In the end, the Frenchman wouldn’t leave any space for his teammate but Senna still tried and as both did not want to give up, they crashed. The Brazilian driver went on to continue the race and won it, but got disqualified. Alain Prost ended up winning the World Championship for that year. 


Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna crashing in the Suzuka 1989 Grand Prix; Image Credits: XPB

Another race which was significantly important was the Adelaide Grand Prix in 1986, where Alain Prost was driving for McLaren with teammate Keke Rosberg. This was the final race of the season and would determine the champion of the season.


Prost was in second place overall with 64 points, behind Nigel Mansell with 70 points and in front of Nelson Piquet, with 63 points. In the beginning, the Frenchman was behind all of them but slowly started catching up. Rosberg was in front and would help Prost to secure the win.


Unfortunately, the Professor hit a curb and got a 17-second pit stop. But thankfully, he had a new set of tires which helped him drive faster. Fortunately, the Frenchman won the race and became a two-time World Champion. 


Alain Prost said, “I always say that my ideal is to get pole with the minimum effort and to win the race at the slowest speed possible.”


This highlighted the efforts and the very strategic brilliance the four time world champion would use for his races. Prost didn’t rely on the speed of the cars at all, he knew he could win even without pushing the car too much just by using his outstanding intellectual capacity. 


Alain Prost signing to fans; Image Credits: Mark McArdle

In conclusion, the Professor, Alain Prost, is undeniably one of the best in Formula 1. His legacy isn't just about numbers; it's about his incredible skills, sharp mind, and smart strategies that make him stand out in the world of racing. 


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