The Story of the Most Deadly Rivalry in Formula One
Senna versus Prost was arguably the greatest rivalry ever in the history of Formula 1. Both drivers are among the greatest drivers ever. When Ayrton Senna joined Alain Prost at McLaren in 1998, the latter had two World Driver’s Championships under his belt. Ayrton Senna had none and had won only six races and finished third in the championship the previous year. Young Senna knew that Prost was the man to beat if he were to rule the Formula One world. He set about the job in earnest.
When we were watching the races on television in the late ’80s, we knew that one among the two was going to win the race. The only question was who? Little consideration was given to the other drivers on the circuit, no matter which car they were driving (unless you were a Ferrari fan, of course). The duo won 25 of the 32 races over the 1988 and 1989 seasons, both driving for McLaren to add further fuel to their rivalry.
Malcolm Folley has been the chief sports reporter for the Mail on Sunday for over 22 years. Though he is now retired, he has covered tennis, football, rugby and 13 Olympic Games during his illustrious 39-year career as a sports reporter. He watched, from prime locations, most of the races between the two great rivals.
Formula One is about living in the fast lane along with the glamour, glitz, and inherent danger that comes with it. To achieve their dreams, drivers put their lives on the line every time they get into the car. Folley, with his book Senna Versus Prost, puts into perspective for the reader how far Senna was willing to go, and why Prost decided winning wasn’t worth his life.
Folley pulls back the curtain on the desire of the sponsors to win the World Constructors’ Championships and the drivers of winning the World Drivers’ Championships. He also shares rare insights on what went on behind the scenes. The driver’s egos, the bias shown by sponsors among drivers of their teams or the politics that went on.
In 1988, Ayrton Senna won his first World Drivers’ Championship with his relentless driving style. Between the two McLaren drivers, they won 15 of the 16 races with 8 victories going to Senna and 7 going to Prost. By the end of the year, Prost realised that Honda was favouring Senna. The head of their R&D department averred the fact claiming that they liked Senna’s ‘kamikaze’ style of driving.
It was in 1989 that the rivalry was exacerbated. The two drivers had a gentlemen’s agreement that whoever among the two of them gained the first lead would not be challenged. Senna broke the agreement between the two drivers by overtaking Prost on the first lap of the San Marino Grand Prix that year.
Prost had a good lead that year and was due to win the World Driver’s Championship 1989 unless Senna won the last two races. Senna and Prost collided during the penultimate race of the season at Suzuka in Japan, causing Prost to retire. Senna, with the help of marshals, continued the race and won it only to be disqualified, handing the World Championship to Prost.
Prost, dissatisfied at McLaren, joined the Ferrari team the following year but Senna was not going away. The rivalry continued until Prost retired at the end of the 1993 Formula One season. Prost won his fourth World Drivers’ Championship in his last Formula One year and in his final race, the 1993 Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide, came second to Senna, the winner. In a surprising gesture, Senna pulled Prost on to the winner’s podium hugging him.
Folley presents the captivating and moving story of the two rivals brilliantly, relating how the two reconciled after Prost retired and became close to each other. To Prost’s surprise, Senna brought up the topic of safety in Formula One after Prost’s retirement. A driver who, Prost was afraid, would hurt either himself or someone else with his reckless overtaking, was concerned about car safety and the safety of the drivers participating in Formula One.
Senna was no doubt one of the best drivers to grace Formula One. He was charismatic and, to put it mildly; his daredevilry ensured that he was the bigger fan favourite of the two. Prost, on the other hand, was calm and calculated. It wasn’t for nothing that he was nicknamed ‘Le Professeur.”
Prost would save his fuel and his tires during the first half of the race to have them ready for the rigours of the later laps. As he put it, he wanted “to get pole with minimum effort and to win the race at the slowest speed possible.” He won more than one race because of fewer pit stops he had to make compared to his competitors.
Malcolm Folley, with his extensive intimate interviews with Prost himself and other drivers like Martin Brundle, Gerhard Berger, and Johnny Herbert puts together the story beautifully. He also spoke to Bernie Eccelstone, a team owner and later the CEO of Formula One, Sir Frank Williams and the then staff at McLaren.
Prost retired at the end of the 1993 season. Senna died hardly six months later in a tragic accident while leading the race at the San Marino Grand Prix.
Senna versus Prost is a must-read for all Formula One fans whether they have watched Senna and Prost in action or not. Malcolm Folley brings the rivalry back to life with his in-depth account. The book is beautifully paced and engrossing.
What We Love About Senna versus Prost
For those of us who are old enough to have lived through F1 in the 80s and 90s Senna versus Prost is an incredible walk down memory lane, however, it’s also more than that.
As the rivalry was played out on our screens, at the time it was more difficult to get the inside details because it was all before the internet. The interviews that Folley includes in this book, some with the biggest names in the sport, some from team staff who even the most ardent of F1 fans probably don’t know, all help to paint the picture of what is arguably the most exciting time in the history of Formula 1.
It’s the inside knowledge, woven together with aplomb by Folley, that make this book the definitive story of the Senna versus Prost rivalry
Where To Buy Senna versus Prost
You can buy Senna Versus Prost: The Story of the Most Deadly Rivalry in Formula One from Amazon.
Senna versus Prost Product Details
File Size: 1328 KB
Print Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Cornerstone Digital (May 7, 2009)
Publication Date: May 7, 2009
Sold by: PRH UK
X-Ray: Not Enabled
Word Wise: Enabled
Lending: Not Enabled
Screen Reader: Supported
Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled