Fans have seen huge rivalries in Formula One, from the ongoing Lewis Hamilton vs. Max Verstappen rivalry to the one between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the 70s. But the rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost is one that will always stand out.
Ayrton Senna is one of the best drivers to be a part of Formula 1 in its history. He won 3 Championships and could have possibly won more if not for his fatal accident. During Senna‘s rookie year, Alain Prost was already a driver for McLaren who were the frontrunners at the time. However, Senna’s incredible talent would see him progress faster than the normal driver.
Their rivalry took place from 1988 to 1993 and has often been the topic of F1 conversations since then. Their story is filled with controversy and heated arguments. They battled each other in the same team and different teams.
Early years of the rivalry
Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost first came across in Formula One in 1984, when Senna was driving for Toleman and Prost was driving for McLaren. Senna’s aggressive racing style regularly clashed with Prost’s more measured approach, and they quickly became rivals. Prost clenched the Drivers’ Championship in their first season together, but Senna won the most races.
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) August 12, 2015
The two drivers continued to compete for the title over the next few years, with Senna winning in 1988 and 1990 and Prost winning in 1989. They raced in 63 Grand Prix races in total, with Senna winning 41 and Prost winning 22.
Another defining moment in their rivalry happened at the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix when Senna and Prost raced in wet conditions. Senna, racing for McLaren, took the lead from Prost’s Ferrari and maintained it off for the remainder of the race. Senna delivered a masterclass in wet-weather racing, and it is still regarded as one of the greatest performances in Formula One history.
— Legendary F1 🌎🏁 (@LegendarysF1) June 28, 2020
Ayrton Senna and Prost collided on the first lap of the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix. This became one of the most renowned incidents in their rivalry. Senna, desperate for a victory to keep his championship chances alive, took an aggressive path into the first turn and collided with Prost, forcing both of them out of the race. The Brazilian was subsequently disqualified from the race, and Prost was declared the winner.
The peak of Alain Prost’s rivalry with Ayrton Senna
Their enmity peaked in 1990 when they faced off again at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. Senna was leading the championship at the moment, but he needed to win the race to win the title.
Prost, who started from pole position, made a slow start, and Senna tried to pass him on the inside of the first turn. Prost turned in on Senna, leading to another collision and the disqualification of both cars from the race. Senna, who was furious with Prost at the time, was eventually crowned champion because he had more wins that season than Prost.
Senna had the advantage over Prost in terms of raw speed and qualifying success based on their career statistics. He had 65 poles to Prost’s 33, and he made 19 fastest laps to Prost’s 12. Prost, on the other hand, proved to be more consistent and earned more points overall. He won four world titles to Senna’s three, as well as more podium places and points finishes.
Off the track, the two drivers had polar opposite traits. Senna was famous for his keen focus and determination, but he also came across as arrogant and difficult to deal with. Prost, on the other hand, was more approachable and likable, with a reputation as a smart thinker.
#OnThisDay, 25 years ago…
Senna took his 41st and final win, while Prost retired a 4-time champion
A fitting way for a legendary rivalry to come to a close 👏 pic.twitter.com/6PCNLxFi4Q
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 7, 2018
“When you are fighting against somebody who is really strong, you need to respect him,” Prost said in an interview with F1. “I always had regard for Ayrton, and I believe he did as well.” Despite their differences, Senna and Prost admired and respected each other’s talents.
Unfortunately, Ayrton Senna’s career was cut short after the fatal accident in 1994 at the San Marin Grand Prix. During Senna’s funeral, Alain Prost was a Pallbearer at the funeral in Brazil. Their rivalry soon turned into an unforeseen friendship filled with respect.