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Australian GP in Prost's History - a Championship Winning Puncture
The Australian GP in Melbourne is the season's starting event. However, it was the season ending Grand Prix in Prost's time, and it was held in Adelaide instead. Prost, as a driver, has competed in 7 Australian Grands Prix, and won two of them. The first victory is of particular importance, to Alain himself and to Nigel Mansell, to McLaren-Porsche and Williams-Honda. Prost won the 1986 World Championship from the Williams drivers (Mansell and Piquet) against all odds. Alain was trailing the Williams drivers in the championship table. If he were to keep his World Champion title he needed to win the race, and Mansell must not be in top four. Alain qualified fourth behind the Williams drivers and teammate Keke Rosberg. McLaren knew that to beat Williams they had to use minimum fuel. Rosberg, 1982 World Champion, was leading the race while Alain had reached second place. Guess what happened, Alain caught a kerb and punctured his right front tyre! Immediately he had to pit for new tyres and this dropped him back to fourth. This is the most important pitstop for Prost in his career, but not because it cost him the championship. It BROUGHT him the championship! The Goodyear engineers now examined Prost's tyres and concluded that without the puncture their tyres should be able to last the whole race. As a result, none of the first three, Rosberg, Piquet and Mansell, all racing on Goodyear, were going to pit. Rosberg was leading by a wide gap but he was thinking how he could help Prost win the championship. Yet there was nothing he could do. He blew a tyre. He blew a Goodyear tyre which was said to be able to last for the whole race! Rosberg did not even know he had blown a tyre until he was told that Mansell suffered the same fate. Just overtaken by Prost, Mansell blew a tyre! Piquet was in the lead but everybody knew that his Goodyear tyres could not last any longer. "Come in the pit now! NOW!" was all Piquet could hear. A deafening order. Piquet pitted and Prost took the lead. With 2 laps to go Prost's fuel gauge read zero. Could he make it to the chequered flag ahead of Piquet? Could he? He made it! He crossed the finish line 4 seconds ahead of Nelson Piquet. He was World Champion the 2nd time. He defended his title successfully; he was the first one to do so in 26 years. You may have a question in your mind. Why did the Goodyear engineers say their tyres could last the whole race? How could they make such a big mistake? The answer is simple. What might last the whole race was PROST's tyres, not Goodyear's tyres. Prost had preserved his tyres well to finish the race. Rosberg and Mansell had not. This single race has a heavy influence on F1 history. Honda understood that no driver could beat Prost and therefore they seeked cooperation with McLaren. This led to the McLaren-Honda domination for two full seasons in 1988 and 1989. Yet, no one will relate Prost's success with Honda. He broke the GP-winning record before he ever raced in a Honda-powered car. Prost's name only bears Honda's defeat. This was not what the Honda people were going to forget.
Brazilian GP in Prost's History - The Most Emotional Victory of Prost
Prost has won six Brazilian GP, 5 times in Rio de Janeiro. But the most emotional victory was the 6th one in Interlagos, 1990. Prost brought the #1 tag to Ferrari. His seat in McLaren was taken by Gerhard Berger, who had problem fitting into the new car since McLaren was used to build small cockpits for Prost and Senna. Yet, the McLaren cars were clearly superior. Senna won the United States GP in which both Ferraris broke down. The second race was in Brazil. The starting grid saw Senna and Berger of McLaren in the front row, Boutsen and Patrese of Williams in the second, and Mansell and Prost of Ferrari in the third. Green. Patrese had a slow start. Mansell passed him and moved over to the left. Prost smartly flicked to the right emerging from behind. It was now a fair gear-shifting battle between the Ferraris. Prost beat Mansell to enter the first left in 4th place behind Senna, Berger and Boutsen. What a brilliant start! Boutsen passed Berger on lap 8 and Prost did the same at the same place on lap 17. Boutsen pitted for tyres but his brakes failed. He almost ran into a mechanic who, in running away for his life, dropped the tyre damaging the Williams' nose-cone. It took them ages to replace it. You just can't imagine how many screws the Williams used to fix the nose-cone! McLaren did this for Senna at least 20 times faster in Suzuka'89... and they would do this again SOON just as fast... Senna was more than 10 seconds ahead of Prost when he came to lap Satoru Nakajima. But he hit Nakajima and damaged the front wing. Senna, being Senna, of course blamed Nakajima for the incident. "I followed him through three corners and then he seemed to open the door as if to let me through. As I went inside him he came across me and my nose was lost against his rear wheel." Nakajima explained: "I saw the blue flag indicating a car wanted to lap me and moved over, but I ran onto a dirty patch and started to slide. I couldn't hold the car and I slid back just as Senna was starting to go inside." Senna had no one to blame but himself. He made a wrong judgement. It was a particularly sharp corner. He simply passed at the wrong place. It was always wrong to assume the guy in front could "let" you pass. It was always wrong to allow others to control your own fate. Prost was now in the lead and was running faster than everybody, Senna with a new nose included. Patrese's engine blew. And Berger was thus 2nd. Senna finished 3rd. He hadn't yet won a Brazilian GP when Prost went on to take his sixth. Prost threw his fists up after winning his first GP in Dijon'81. Prost jumped up and down in delights for winning the 86 World Championship. Never had he shed a tear. But now Prost burst into tears when he took off his helmet. He had worked for McLaren for six years in a row and yet he was betrayed. The win told him that his move to Ferrari was a right decision.
Argentinian GP in Prost's History - A New Star Was Born
Prost has only competed in one Argentinian GP. But this is a very important race. Important to Prost and, important to F1. It was Prost's first race. F1 was not quite the same since then. A star was born. He was destined to conquer the sport. Buenos Aires, January 13, 1980. Prost took Tambay's seat in McLaren and immediately he showed that he was quicker than his "senior" John Watson. In Friday's qualifying he was 8th. Watson was 15th. After Saturday qualifying he was 12th on the grid. I did not witness how Prost drove his first GP. I'll thus tell you the story in the Professor's own words (taken from the English version of his autobiography, Life in the Fast Lane). "It was high summer in the southern hemisphere and the cockpit temperatures were unbearable. Worse still, you could actually see the asphalt starting to melt. The circuit had been patched and repatched - all to no avail. After practice, the foundation blocks of the circuit were showing through, particularly in the corners, where wear-and-tear was at its most pronounced. "... Driving on a circuit that is breaking up is like driving on packed ice. The tyres don't grip, they slip and slide. As a result, the Argentinian Grand Prix was pure Russian roulette. As I said earlier, I knew that I had to take every opportunity to make my presence felt in my first season. This was just such an opportunity. I couldn't compete on equal footing with crack teams like Williams, Ligier, Renault, Ferrari and Brabham; and I realised that their drivers were much more experienced than myself. But I also knew that, on a surface like this, the race would be long and full of incident. My race plan was simple: drive as prudently as possible. "That's exactly what I did. I admit that I went into a double spin at one point during the race, but I doubt very much if anyone remembers it, especially when you take into account how many other incidents there were and how many drivers retired. I came sixth out of seven finishers and notched up my first point in a Formula One world championship." Christopher Hilton added the following in his book "Alain Prost". "No driver had finished in the points on his debut for seven years (Georges Follmer, South Africa, 1973) and none would again for nine years (Johnny Herbert, Brazil; Jean Alesi, Ricard, both 1989). "'Prost just kept persevering and persevering,' (Tony) Jardine (Assistant Manager, McLaren) says. 'He'd already blown Wattie off, he came through sixth, a championship point - fantastic. He did it with ease, you could see it never looked to be a majoy effort, the car looked like it was on rails. Everybody had problems with massive understeer and the heat and the biggest key to it all is that he got out of the car fresh. Others like Pironi were covered in sweat.'" The most important thing is that Prost already demonstrated Prostism. He understood his car and the track, and he did just what he was employed to do - to bring the car home sound and safe and reached the highest possible position. And don't forget, it was only his debut... F1 was full of hope.
San Marino GP in Prost's History - Prost the Calculator
Prost has won 3 San Marino Grands Prix. If not for 1700g underweight (1985), he would have won it 4 times. The 1986 victory remains a classic example of Prost's ability to control the race and his car. The GP itself was eventful with lots of good overtakings. Clean overtakings are rarely seen nowadays. The "success" of some individuals has led to those win-or-die overtakings being accepted in today's F1. This has to be stopped. Ayrton Senna in a Lotus was on pole and alongside him was the Brazilian gentleman, Nelson Piquet of Williams. Nigel Mansell in the other Williams was third in qualifying followed by Prost, Michele Alboreto of Ferrari and Keke Rosberg, Prost's teammate at McLaren. Piquet took the lead from Senna while the McLarens stormed past Mansell for 3rd and 4th place. Prost challenged Senna for 2nd place and with outstanding control of his car he passed Senna on the right round a left chicane. He did it so smoothly that he instantly pulled away from Senna. As if being shocked for being overtaken, Senna left enough room for Rosberg who also went past smoothly for 3rd place. Rosberg now chased Prost for 2nd place. He dived down the inside and was through. Prost made stunning effort to retake his teammate but Keke moved left and right to shut him off. Meanwhile Alboreto was catching Senna fast and overtook him. Senna's engine smoked and was out of contention. Mansell suffered the same fate. Alain gave up the battle with Keke and chose to beat him with pitstop strategy. Prost was the first to pit among the top three and after Piquet and Rosberg pitted Alain was already in front. He made fast laps with fresh rubber in order to stay in front while at the same time keeping his eye on the fuel gauge. Rosberg's McLaren ran out of fuel two laps from the line. What happened to Prost's McLaren then? Let me quote Alain's own words in his autobiography, Life in the Fast Lane. "My own engine started to cough on the last lap, but I shook the car around to extract the last drop of fuel. I came to a standstill just beyond the line." Of course he must possess excellent skill and a large enough lead over Piquet to cross the line first. But what actually gave Alain the victory was his own right decision. "Coming into the race, I tried out two turbo permutations - large turbos, synonymous with power but heavy on fuel, and smaller turbos, which are more versatile and, above all, relatively fuel-efficient. I took the precaution of driving two test laps with two different cars, but I didn't come down on one side or the other until a few minutes before the race. Large or small? I finally opted for the smaller turbos; Rosberg went the other way." Prost was afterall against fuel restriction. "All the time I thought about minimum boost, saving fuel. No, this was not racing but you still have to find a way to win, a way to do it better than the others." It seems to be the perfect way to end the story but, no. As I watched my F1 tapes to recollect my memories of Prost history on the Imola track, I saw too many accidents. Piquet had a bad crash in 1987. Gerhard Berger's Ferrari burst into flames in 1989 and it was too terrible an accident to remember. Senna spun twice in '93 Friday qualifying and needed medical inspection. He arrived at the track only just in time after an overnight flight from Brazil! Michael Andretti almost copied Senna's spin. I can't believe we need Roland Ratzenberger's and Senna's death in '94 to remind us that motorsport can be dangerous. I can't believe that they let the race restart in '94. God almost gave us a yet bigger warning with a flying tyre from Alboreto's car. Good heavens that it didn't kill anybody. Michael Schumacher's self-destructing spin a year or two later then came to mind. I never like the Imola track!
Spanish GP in Prost's History - When there is no pitlane speeding
Prost has won 3 Spanish GPs, twice in Jerez ('88,'90) and once in Barcelona ('93). The 1990 victory was remembered by many Ferrari fans. Why? Because it was Ferrari's second one-two finish in 1990 and, more importantly, it had been Ferrari's last win until Jean Alesi took his maiden victory in Canada'95. Prost did not go to Jerez in good mood. In the Portuguese GP one week before, he started in the front row alongside his teammate Nigel Mansell. No one could believe that Mansell actually squeezed him aside and let the McLarens of Senna and Berger pass easily. Mansell luckily won the race which was halted because of Alex Caffi's very bad crash. Senna was 2nd and Prost struggled to finish third. Senna thus was able to extend his lead to 18 points over Prost with three races left. This was what gave Senna the "option" to run into Prost in order to win the Drivers' Championship. Luckily for Prost, Senna did not find the chance in Spain. Jerez, September 30, 1990. Senna led from pole position but Prost was giving him immense pressure. Prost soon realised that his Ferrari didn't have the decisive speed to overtake and he decided to beat Senna with his trademark pitstop strategy. That means you make very fast laps on fresh rubber when your competitor is still struggling with worn tyres. It only works if you choose the right moment to pit in so you will have a clear track in front of you after changing tyres. And it only works if you are very fast on fresh rubber! Senna pitted one lap after Prost, which means Prost only had one lap to beat the gap. McLaren's pit crew did their usual quick job and Senna started rushing down the pitlane as Mansell and Prost (now flying) were also coming down the pitlane exit. Mansell waved Prost through (oh, thank you, as if no one knew you're running out of grip...) and put himself just in front of Senna as Senna laterally cut into the track from the pitlane exit. Yet Senna overtook Mansell instantly. Mansell was losing grip, remember. Prost was now 2nd behind Nelson Piquet of Benetton. Piquet had chosen hard tyres to avoid a pitstop and was thus leading. However, when Prost's Ferrari appeared in the Benetton's mirror, Piquet could no longer hold on with the little grip and he spun out. Meanwhile Senna pitted the second time; he thought he had problems with his tyres. In fact it was water leakage from the radiator. His car smoked and was out of the race. Mansell thus inherited 2nd place and that was Ferrari's another one-two finish in 1990 after Mexican GP. Prost won his 44th Grand Prix and reduced the gap to 9 championship points. Yet Senna executed his "option" in Japan. He ran into Prost and claimed the 1990 World Drivers' Championship. Thank God that Prost survived the crash.
Monaco GP in Prost's History - The Hattrick, a combination of speed and patience
For a whole decade from 1984 to 1993, only two drivers had won the Monaco GP: Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. Prost made a hattrick from 1984 to 1986, failed to add a fourth in 1987 with a blown engine, but finally got it in 1988 when Senna, 43 seconds ahead, collided head-on with the barriers. In 1989 Prost was held up by backmarker Arnoux, Prost's former teammate, and then lost half a minute as Piquet and De Cesaris collided and blocked the road. Prost's Ferrari gave up in 1990. The 1991 race was a Senna's solo. 1992 was a comedy featuring Mansell's countless vain attempts to get past Senna. In 1993 Prost made a jump start, got a 10-second stop-go penalty, stalled his engine in his tyre stop, but could still came back for a 4th place. But how did Prost make the hattrick from 1984 to 1986? In 1984 the Grand Prix was cut short due to a thunderstorm. It was Senna's first season in F1. He drove his Toleman as if the track was dry and he was catching Prost fast. People said if the race was not stopped, Senna would have won. Funny that they already assume that Senna could pass Prost. Funny that they don't see that Stefan Bellof in a Tyrrell was catching Senna fast. Funny that someone can enjoy a race with zero visibility. Funny that someone wants drivers to gamble with their lives!! SHAME! Having won a shortened race, Prost was only awarded half of the winning points, which is 4.5. At the end of the season he lost the world title to teammate Niki Lauda by 0.5 point. Prost never complains. He knows what safety is all about. In 1985 Prost started from 5th on the grid, got to 4th at the start, passed Mansell and got 2nd place when Senna's engine blew. Alboreto in a very fast Ferrari was in front, but he spun on the oil left from the crash between Piquet and Patrese and Prost took the lead. Alboreto came back but found a puncture in his left rear tyre. He pitted and Prost was through for his 2nd Monaco victory. 1986, Prost was on pole, led the race until his tyre stop, and then caught Senna who had not yet pitted. Senna resisted Prost's overtaking. Prost knew it was Senna who was in front, he knew Senna could do anything to block an overtaking, he knew Senna would have to pit soon, and thus he refused to take risk and stayed behind. When Senna did pit, Prost had preserved his car so well that he went faster and faster. His teammate Rosberg tried to launch a challenge but never could he match Alain's pace. Prost made some amazingly fast laps and beat Rosberg by 25 seconds. Rosberg: "Alain was simply too strong for any of us." Prost's tactical mind combines raw speed with patience. He knows how to win races safely and fairly. He makes F1 an art of motorsport. He is not just the fastest driver, he is the best driver.