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Champion Snapshot - Alain Prost 03 Aug 2004

Pole sitter and race winner Alain Prost (FRA) Williams at the opening race of the year. South African Grand Prix, Rd 1, Kyalami, South Africa, 14 March 1993.

French, 24/2/1955, World Champion 1985/86/89/93

Alain Prost's clinical driving style and ice-cool strategic brain always set him apart from his more extrovert and excitable rivals. Yet it was Prost's approach - which earned him the popular nickname, 'The Professor', that proved more successful. The Frenchman finished his Formula One career with four drivers' championships to his credit and a total of 51 grands prix victories, second only to Michael Schumacher.

From the moment he stepped into a racing car it was clear that Prost's enormous natural talent had him destined for the top. He dominated karting, Formula Renault and then Formula Three, in which he took both French and European championships in 1979. His Formula One debut came in 1980 with McLaren, finishing sixth in his first race in Argentina, and fifth in his second in Brazil. His early promise saw him move to Renault for the '81 season, two victories in Holland and Italy helping him finish the championship in fifth place with 43 points. There were two more victories early on in '82, but a run of mechanical misfortune saw him end the season in fourth place.

1983 looked set to be Prost's year – he took victories in France, Belgium, Britain and Austria - but ended the season as runner up to Nelson Piquet by just two points. In 1984 Prost returned to McLaren alongside Niki Lauda, the pair dominating the season with 12 victories between them, but the Austrian veteran pipped his young team mate by just half a point - the slimmest margin of victory ever in a Formula One championship.

In 1985 the Frenchman's luck changed, five victories giving him the championship he craved by a healthy 20 point margin over runner-up Michele Alboreto. And the following year he made it back-to-back titles, another four victories helping him to beat Nigel Mansell by two points. '87 was a relatively disappointing year, Prost falling to fourth place in the year-end standings, but the following year Prost found his nemesis in the shape of Ayrton Senna, and the stage was set for one of the most exciting contests in Formula One history.

The intense rivalry between Prost and Senna produced some spectacular battles, never more so than in '88 when they were team mates at McLaren. With seven victories against Senna's eight, Prost finished runner-up. In 1989 the battle between the two men was equally close, and was decided in controversial circumstances after a collision at the penultimate race of the year, Suzuka, destroyed Senna's chances of catching Prost's 16 point lead.

In 1990 Prost moved to Ferrari and took a remarkable five victories for the red team, looking set for another title. In an unfortunate near-repeat of the previous year there was another coming together at Suzuka - and this time Senna was the one who claimed the drivers' championship. Prost left Ferrari after a disappointing season in '91, when he ended the championship fifth and he sat out the 1992 season without a drive. In 1993 he moved to Williams and put in a commanding performance to take a fourth and final championship with seven victories. Yet Williams signed Senna for the 1994 season and Prost retired from driving.

The Frenchman's later career will probably be best remembered for his takeover of what had been the Ligier team in 1997, relaunching it under his own name the following year. Despite technical input and engines from Peugeot, Prost was never able to replicate his driving success as a principal, and the team was wound up at the start of 2002. Prost continues to drive competitively and competes regularly in ice-racing.