He made winning look easy, reaching the top step of the rostrum 51 times. Winner of four F1 world championships, Alain Prost’s place as one of the sport’s greatest drivers is secure. On this week’s edition of Beyond The Grid, presented by Bose, the Frenchman – now Renault’s special advisor – discusses a career full of conflict and controversy, including tense relationship with Ayrton Senna that ultimately softened…
“I asked Ron [Dennis] and Honda to put Ayrton in the team,” Prost tells host Tom Clarkson as they discuss how Senna and he became team mates at McLaren for 1988. “It was very simple. We were in Japan in a meeting in a hotel room. They wanted to put Prost and [Nelson] Piquet in. I said why?
“Nelson was a good friend, Ayrton I didn’t know him. I said why you want to take Nelson? We have a young guy, very talented, we need to have the best for the team. I had the veto [on who his team mate was], I could say no for sure.
“I never regret anything, because when you do things, you do it because you feel that is the best.”
Prost and Senna fought for supremacy during their time at McLaren, with their relationship becoming increasingly sour. It came to head when Prost deliberately shut the door on Senna at the chicane at Suzuka in 1989 to clinch the title before leaving the outfit to join Ferrari.
It wasn’t until after Prost retired from F1 at the end of 1993 - just months before Senna’s fatal crash at Imola - that the two drivers developed something of a friendship, as the Frenchman explained:
"That’s when he started to talk. We talked about everything. He was calling me once or twice a week. We had long conversations. He wanted me to come back [to F1].
“When I tested the McLaren with the Peugeot engine (in 1994) he said 'you should come back'. I was laughing. I said 'if I come back, you’ll be one lap ahead of me!' He explained to me a lot. I understood a lot on the human side, which was the most important.
“I don’t know if you can say [we were] friends. When we were on the podium in Adelaide , he changed completely the way he was with me. A few days later, he called me and it continued during the winter.
“I can call that being a friend, because when you talk about your professional life and personal life, your worries and your problems, I always said I know some things I will never share. I never told anyone. So I can say yes, in this way, he was a friend. But I never met him very often.”
In an enthralling interview, that comes 25 years after his fourth and final world championship triumph, Prost reveals where his nickname ‘The Professor’ derives from, discusses his illustrious racing career (including the merits of his various 80s rivals) and his less successful time as team boss of Prost Grand Prix.
Plus, he gives his view on Daniel Ricciardo’s much anticipated move to Renault next season...
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