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 Post subject: A Senna/Prost question
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:41 pm 
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Hi everyone. I've been watching F1 properly since 2008, and so I don't know every tiny detail about F1 in the past. I've often heard my dad talk about the F1 of days gone by and been told some stories about Senna/Prost. So, I have some questions that I'd like people who were there and who actually watched them race to answer.

It seems to me that Senna is thought of as the mega fast one, while Prost was "a thinker". But according to their career stats, Senna had 19 race fastest laps in 161 starts (11.80%) while Prost has 41 in 199 starts (20.60%). Also, Senna has 65 poles (40.37%) while Prost has 33 (16.58%).

Is it a case of "Senna was quick on Saturday, Prost was quick on Sunday"?

Was Senna an inconsistent racer, or was Prost just not great at qualifying, but better in the race?

Like I said, I don't know the ins and outs of their story, so please, your thoughts are welcome. :)


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:53 pm 
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I have always believed that Prost knew that titles weren't won by always driving as fast as the car could go, but by going fast as slowly as possible. "Only do as much as you have to, to win". Senna enjoyed absolute speed - and I believe to this day that he is the fastest driver I have ever seen in action myself. But thinking Prost was that much slower would be wrong; the true point is that he didn't believe in taking risks all the time, and he had good reason for that point of view.
I don't think you can say Senna was quick on Saturday, Prost on Sunday. Senna was always quick; even in the rain, when the risks of becoming a passenger in a runaway canoe were such that he considered it unwise to even try to race.
In my view therefore, Senna was the quickest, Prost was the best.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:43 pm 
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The perception that Prost was the thinker and Senna was the quick one seems to have become set in stone but it wasn't that simple IMO. They were far more closely matched on both fronts than legend suggests. I understand our human desire to categorise drivers, and that's lead to a significant exaggeration of the extent of the differences in their relative attributes. Senna was a very canny racer and Prost was very quick. IMO they were far more evenly matched in their respective fields of excellence than tends to be thought these days.

At a push I'd suggest Prost often had a cooler head and Senna would occasionally transcend the car in a way Prost didn't, and he was usually quicker over one lap. But that's not the same as saying Senna was simply quicker and Prost simply cleverer.

Ultimately much of what you ask about fastest laps can be explained by remembering they don't really tell us much. The criteria involved in setting them is enormous, and ultimate pace is not always one of the most important factors (some very unexpected cars and drivers have set fastest laps). For example, if you can't get the best out of a quick car in qualifying (something Senna never had a problem with), you will have many more opportunities to set FL's because you will have to push harder and go faster than the guy at the front controlling the race who may well be capable of going much quicker than he needs. Circumstances dictate a lot (if you have to push and take risks at a point in the race when you have full tanks and dead tyres nobody will notice, do it when the car's light and on fresh rubber and you may set FL). FL's also don't mean anything (unless you're Vettel), you don't/didn't get points so they weren't chased. A driver has to balance fuel and tyres and (back then particularly) reliability against outright speed. You didn't go faster than you had to, and Vettel style light-fuel blitzes in the last couple of laps would probably get you the sack: cars broke and fell off the track a lot back then.

Having said all that it still seems odd to me that Senna didn't score more FL's. I think the same now with Hamilton. In fact you can group together a whole bunch of superficially similar drivers who have scored more poles than wins or FL's, just as you can those who have scored more wins and FL's than poles. In other words, for whatever reason, setting a FL seems to require the same sort of skills and circumstances as winning, not as getting pole, which seems counterintuitive in many ways.

EDIT: one other possible factor re the FL records is that Prost was quite dominant for a period before Senna rocked up and perhaps had a higher % of his career in the best cars, whilst Senna always had the stiffest competition. Could be Prost set a lot of those FL's against weaker competition than Senna faced.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:07 pm 
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@ Balibari thank you for that post. The last paragraph especially was a bit of a "eureka moment" for me. Another driver who can be classed in the "Wins and FLs over poles" category is Kimi Raikkonen. He has, if i remember correctly, 19 wins and 37 FLs but only 16 poles. If memory serves, even in 2012 with a Lotus that wasn't quite the fastest, he managed a fastest lap or two. But as you say, circumstances dictate a lot of that.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:11 pm 
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I agree with post above both very close even though i does get portrayed otherwise. the fact that senna had years in toleman and a past it lotus before his seasons at McLaren, prosts career as was said in full swing and only a few years from retirement by the time senna joined McLaren, senna could easily had 5 years conservatively in what was a fast Williams and i think his fl % would have gone up but its ifs and buts.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:15 pm 
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Prost was brains and Senna was brawn (not that one!). One thought ahead, the other thought at the time. Both worked to magnificent effect.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:02 pm 
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Maybe this helps:

Prost had clinched 20 FL before being joined by Senna in the same team, that's 7 seasons with moderately competitive cars. Senna had only 7 before arriving at McLaren, he drove as well for a moderately competitive car for three seasons and a half, Toleman introduced their competitive TG184 well entered the season and Senna wasn't allowed to race for the last 3 races. Thus the balance of FL is on Prost's side by now.

During the time they shared at McLaren they got:

* Prost: 12 FL. He only got 1 FL on one race he had started from pole (France 88).
* Senna: 6 FL. He started from the pole on those 6 races.

Now let's compare percentages, poles, wins and fastest laps depending on their GP involvements.

* Prost: 33 Poles, 51 wins and 41 fastest laps out of 202 starts. That's 17% of poles, 25% wins and 20% of fastest laps.
* Senna: 65 poles, 41 wins and 19 fastest laps out of 162 starts. That's 40% of poles, 25% wins and 12% of fastest laps.

This is a very superficial comparison, not taking into account other facts (Prost driving for a mediocre Ferrari in 91 but a great Williams in 93 i.e.). We can agree that maybe Prost was forced, as stated in a previous reply, to go quicker in races to compensate not starting from the pole. Maybe Prost's driving style was suited for long races, maybe he managed his tyres better, who knows, maybe their race engineers, not me. If there's something clear is that Senna was an outstanding qualifier and Prost tremendously quick on longer stints.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:23 pm 
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Not sure if mentioned but fastest lap data is rather meaningless when you do not have refueling.

The cars Senna / Prost drove, like today are 4-6 seconds a lap slower at the start of the race. Even at half distance the car is 2.5-3 seconds slower than it will be at the end.

The fastest lap will most likely be set by a much slower package who is pushing at the end of the race when the fuel load is down. This is perfectly exemplified by Vettel / Webber in 2011.

Vettel 2011;
3 fastest laps
15 poles
11 wins

Webber 2011
6 fastest laps
3 poles
1 win

Vettel had the race won in the first half, more often than not Webber was scraping for positions with the best car at his disposal in the last 3rd of the race.

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Last edited by lamo on Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:24 pm 
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Having not watched F1 until the late 90s/early 00s; the Senna/Prost story completely bypassed me until recently. If you can get a copy of the film Senna then it's a fantastic watch Although from reading up I'd still take it with a pinch of salt, it slightly makes Prost out to be the 'villain' of the story but still very powerful viewing.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:56 pm 
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Prost / Senna reminds me of Hamilton / Button.

Prost/Button can only beat the other guy 3-4 times per season or when something goes wrong for the other driver. Don't get me wrong I rate Prost as a top 5 driver of all time but that is the way it was. 1988 and especially 1989 this holds true. How Prost won the 1989 title is incredible. Senna had a Hamilton 2012 type season.

Senna won 6 races in 1989, Prost 4. 3 of Prosts wins Senna retired in front of him. The both finished 10 races together, Senna ahead 9-1. The one being when Senna lost his wing in a first corner incident.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:01 pm 
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lamo wrote:
Not sure if mentioned but fastest lap data is rather meaningless when you do not have refueling.

The cars Senna / Prost drove, like today are 4-6 seconds a lap slower at the start of the race. Even at half distance the car is 2.5-3 seconds slower than it will be at the end.

The fastest lap will most likely be set by a much slower package who is pushing at the end of the race when the fuel load is down. This is perfectly exemplified by Vettel / Webber in 2011.

Vettel 2011;
3 fastest laps
15 poles
11 wins

Webber 2011
6 fastest laps
3 poles
1 win

Vettel had the race won in the first half, more often than not Webber was scraping for positions with the best car at his disposal in the last 3rd of the race.


The only drivers I know of who really racked up fastest laps are Prost, Schumacher and Raikkonen.

Let's face it it's a rather random stat.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:06 pm 
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Schumachers era it was important. When you have refueling and it is very difficult to overtake the fastest lap would be set when the car was on fumes just before its pit stop or first 2 laps out of the pits on fresh rubber. Basically on the in and out laps where it is crucial to nail it if you are fighting for position to maintain it or jump the car in front.

During this era most of the "overtaking" was done on in/out laps.

This is why Schumacher has so many and Kimi too.

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Last edited by lamo on Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:06 pm 
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lamo wrote:
Prost / Senna reminds me of Hamilton / Button.

Prost/Button can only beat the other guy 3-4 times per season or when something goes wrong for the other driver. Don't get me wrong I rate Prost as a top 5 driver of all time but that is the way it was. 1988 and especially 1989 this holds true. How Prost won the 1989 title is incredible. Senna had a Hamilton 2012 type season.

Senna won 6 races in 1989, Prost 4. 3 of Prosts wins Senna retired in front of him. The both finished 10 races together, Senna ahead 9-1. The one being when Senna lost his wing in a first corner incident.


This man knows his stuff.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:30 pm 
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sennafan24 wrote:
lamo wrote:
Prost / Senna reminds me of Hamilton / Button.

Prost/Button can only beat the other guy 3-4 times per season or when something goes wrong for the other driver. Don't get me wrong I rate Prost as a top 5 driver of all time but that is the way it was. 1988 and especially 1989 this holds true. How Prost won the 1989 title is incredible. Senna had a Hamilton 2012 type season.

Senna won 6 races in 1989, Prost 4. 3 of Prosts wins Senna retired in front of him. The both finished 10 races together, Senna ahead 9-1. The one being when Senna lost his wing in a first corner incident.


This man knows his stuff.


These days it's all so organized that if a car fails then it's basically bad luck. In 1989 was there a driver factor involved in nursing the car? I believe there was but I am not sure how big it is.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:47 pm 
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Balibari wrote:
The perception that Prost was the thinker and Senna was the quick one seems to have become set in stone but it wasn't that simple IMO. They were far more closely matched on both fronts than legend suggests. I understand our human desire to categorise drivers, and that's lead to a significant exaggeration of the extent of the differences in their relative attributes. Senna was a very canny racer and Prost was very quick. IMO they were far more evenly matched in their respective fields of excellence than tends to be thought these days.

At a push I'd suggest Prost often had a cooler head and Senna would occasionally transcend the car in a way Prost didn't, and he was usually quicker over one lap. But that's not the same as saying Senna was simply quicker and Prost simply cleverer.

Ultimately much of what you ask about fastest laps can be explained by remembering they don't really tell us much. The criteria involved in setting them is enormous, and ultimate pace is not always one of the most important factors (some very unexpected cars and drivers have set fastest laps). For example, if you can't get the best out of a quick car in qualifying (something Senna never had a problem with), you will have many more opportunities to set FL's because you will have to push harder and go faster than the guy at the front controlling the race who may well be capable of going much quicker than he needs. Circumstances dictate a lot (if you have to push and take risks at a point in the race when you have full tanks and dead tyres nobody will notice, do it when the car's light and on fresh rubber and you may set FL). FL's also don't mean anything (unless you're Vettel), you don't/didn't get points so they weren't chased. A driver has to balance fuel and tyres and (back then particularly) reliability against outright speed. You didn't go faster than you had to, and Vettel style light-fuel blitzes in the last couple of laps would probably get you the sack: cars broke and fell off the track a lot back then.

Having said all that it still seems odd to me that Senna didn't score more FL's. I think the same now with Hamilton. In fact you can group together a whole bunch of superficially similar drivers who have scored more poles than wins or FL's, just as you can those who have scored more wins and FL's than poles. In other words, for whatever reason, setting a FL seems to require the same sort of skills and circumstances as winning, not as getting pole, which seems counterintuitive in many ways.

EDIT: one other possible factor re the FL records is that Prost was quite dominant for a period before Senna rocked up and perhaps had a higher % of his career in the best cars, whilst Senna always had the stiffest competition. Could be Prost set a lot of those FL's against weaker competition than Senna faced.

Yes i believe Prost had more years in good cars than Senna, both had 6 strong years at McLaren both notching up 3 WDC's, then Prost had other strong cars, a season at Williams, a season at Ferrari and i believe maybe a season or two at Renault?

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:50 pm 
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Some of the problems Senna had went far beyond not nursing the car and therefore helping the engine.

He spun out at Silverstone near the start due to gear selection and did not even start at France due to mechanical issues. Portugal Mansell collided with him and in the last race he crashed into the back of Brundle due to the conditions being so bad he could not see.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:54 pm 
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Sharkattack wrote:
Hi everyone. I've been watching F1 properly since 2008, and so I don't know every tiny detail about F1 in the past. I've often heard my dad talk about the F1 of days gone by and been told some stories about Senna/Prost. So, I have some questions that I'd like people who were there and who actually watched them race to answer.

It seems to me that Senna is thought of as the mega fast one, while Prost was "a thinker". But according to their career stats, Senna had 19 race fastest laps in 161 starts (11.80%) while Prost has 41 in 199 starts (20.60%). Also, Senna has 65 poles (40.37%) while Prost has 33 (16.58%).

Is it a case of "Senna was quick on Saturday, Prost was quick on Sunday"?

Was Senna an inconsistent racer, or was Prost just not great at qualifying, but better in the race?

Like I said, I don't know the ins and outs of their story, so please, your thoughts are welcome. :)


Senna was often quicker in qualifying. On saturdays, Prost concentrated more on getting his setup correct. As Jo Ramirez (McLaren engineer who worked with both on those times) put it: F1 cars are seldom well balanced. Senna was able to be very fast with a car that he didn't consider to be perfectly balanced. But on the days Prost nailed his set-up, "he was untouchable."

So it's a case of a driver being to be able to adapt better to difficult conditions (Senna) while another who relied on a better balanced car (Prost) but with very good set-up skills to compensate for it.

Prost didn't like to take unnecesary risks and that's why on rainy days he didn't push it too far. Senna, on the other hand, was a rain master, sublime in the rain.

Senna was an amazing overtaker that often rely on very "do-or-die" risky overtakes. Prost was another very good overtaker (he, more than once, had won a race despite being 1 lap down), but he preferred more 'cleaner' overtakes. Another signature Prost tactic was to pressure the driver in front -going faster and faster without actually attempting an overtake- until the driver in front made some mistake and went off track. Then Prost simply gained the position.

On the mechanical side, i have reasons to think Prost was way gentler with the car, so he suffered much less DNFs than his teammates (particularly Senna and Mansell).

Those two were very well matched. I side with Prost as the better racer of the two (more consistent, more technically savvy, more gentle with the car, more brainy, won over more teammates, etc). But who's better will depend on your criteria.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:45 pm 
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Senna was never overly excessive on the machinery, this is evident by mechanical issues in all other years. 1989 was just one of those things. 4 mechanical DNFs, all whilst leading. 3 Collisiosn and a disqualification.

He had a boom or bust year like Lewis this year. His race finishes were 11,1,1,1,1,2,1,1,1(later disqualified)
8/16 races he did not finish.

1) Lost his nose at first corner. 11th
2) WIN
3) WIN
4) WIN
5) Electrics. Retired from lead
6) Engine. Retired from lead, 3 laps to go.
7) Hydrallics. Did not even start
8) Spun out
9) WIN - although Prost had a mechanical issue and finished 2nd, but would have beaten Senna
10) 2nd - Charging Mansell famously uses the backmarker to overtake Senna.
11) WIN
12) Gearbox
13) Collision. An already black flagged Mansell takes Senna out
14) WIN
15) WIN but disqualified for cutting chicance
16) Collision

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:54 pm 
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The spin was caused by a gear selection problem Lamo. Not driver error just to clarify, he had such a unlucky year.

Credit to Flavio81 though, that was a quite balanced opinion from him. He has a point on who is better depends on criteria.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 10:04 pm 
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All very accurate assessments of Prost and Senna.

The only thing I would add is that drivers' careers all have differing perfromance 'curves', from rookie to peak to slowing. Prost was in F1 four years longer than Senna and when they 'met' at McLaren in 1988, was into his eighth year.

Both Lauda in 1984 and Prost in 1988 openly acknolwedged their team-mate's (Prost and Senna) superior speed, saying: "When you've been in F1 a long time, you can't go at it, all out, the same as when you started".

As some posters above said: Prost's speed was under-rated and his race times were so close to Senna's. Lauda would like to have seen Prost against Senna as Alain was in 1984-5. For me 1990 was Prost's greatest season, when he scored five wins for Ferrari against Senna's six for McLaren-Honda. Senna set ten poles, Prost none; so Alain started further back on the grids, yet matched Senna's average race-times and almost matched his wins. What racecraft and how many overtakes he must have had to make.

If I had to put my head on a block: overall Prost at his best would be the most difficult driver for any other greats to beat. Imo his spread of tech skills, talent, racecraft , sensitivity and sheer speed have not been surpassed in GP racing history.

Off-topic, but that in 2012 Alain Prost at 57 beat 35-year-old Mark Webber up one of the steepest Tour de France Alpine climbs is so funny. They were on road racing bicycles.

Not that I am a Prost fan of course! I happened to have seen him at Kyalami in 1982 when his Reanult punctured; he pitted then made up over a lap to win. To me trackside spectating, Prost was as smooth as the best I saw: Clark, Andretti and Stewart.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:46 am 
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I have nothing too serious to add to all what has been written... One thing certainly added to the general feeling that Prost was slower than Senna : he drove so neatly and smoothly that he simply looked slow... slower not only than Senna, but slower than all the other drivers.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:47 pm 
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I guess you have to decide how much Senna's retirements were down to him or down to bad luck, if down to him then there was not much between them at all, if not then you have to consider that head to head when both drivers finished Senna would more often than not finish in front of Prost and most of his retirements came whilst he was running in front of Prost

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:09 pm 
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POBRatings wrote:
All very accurate assessments of Prost and Senna.

The only thing I would add is that drivers' careers all have differing perfromance 'curves', from rookie to peak to slowing. Prost was in F1 four years longer than Senna and when they 'met' at McLaren in 1988, was into his eighth year.

Both Lauda in 1984 and Prost in 1988 openly acknolwedged their team-mate's (Prost and Senna) superior speed, saying: "When you've been in F1 a long time, you can't go at it, all out, the same as when you started".

As some posters above said: Prost's speed was under-rated and his race times were so close to Senna's. Lauda would like to have seen Prost against Senna as Alain was in 1984-5. For me 1990 was Prost's greatest season, when he scored five wins for Ferrari against Senna's six for McLaren-Honda. Senna set ten poles, Prost none; so Alain started further back on the grids, yet matched Senna's average race-times and almost matched his wins. What racecraft and how many overtakes he must have had to make.

If I had to put my head on a block: overall Prost at his best would be the most difficult driver for any other greats to beat. Imo his spread of tech skills, talent, racecraft , sensitivity and sheer speed have not been surpassed in GP racing history.

Off-topic, but that in 2012 Alain Prost at 57 beat 35-year-old Mark Webber up one of the steepest Tour de France Alpine climbs is so funny. They were on road racing bicycles.

Not that I am a Prost fan of course! I happened to have seen him at Kyalami in 1982 when his Reanult punctured; he pitted then made up over a lap to win. To me trackside spectating, Prost was as smooth as the best I saw: Clark, Andretti and Stewart.

Superb post!

As for Senna being the better qualifier and Prost being the better driver come race days, that may be true, it is also true that while Prost had the Mental edge, both were cunning tacticians and each relied on their entire skills set to best the other. In Senna's case he knew how complete and how incredibly strong Prost was so he concentrated on qualifying at the front to ensure he had as much of an advantage over Prost and hope he would encounter traffic and possibly be taken out by others. For Prost, he also knew how well he could drive and so he set his car up for the long race come sunday and qualified as high up as he could and let the race come to him. He knew Senna was blindingly quick for quaky but he also knew that of any driver he ever faced, none could maintain that pace come Sunday and so he had to make sure to keep his head in it at all times in order to force Senna into little mistakes or to simply set himself up to have the fastest and/or most reliable car down the stretch to edge his rival.

As for the bit in bold, I would place Prost almost equal with Schumacher, with Michael getting the edge. I don't think anyone in history could touch Michael with a 10-foot pole when he was at his fastest, but both are for me the top 2 drivers of all time. Of course, not by very much.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:27 pm 
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Alain Prost: Professor
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qLbZ4FGO4k

Ayrton Senna: Magic
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZrMnWpQQB4

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:32 pm 
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lamo wrote:
Prost / Senna reminds me of Hamilton / Button.

Prost/Button can only beat the other guy 3-4 times per season or when something goes wrong for the other driver. Don't get me wrong I rate Prost as a top 5 driver of all time but that is the way it was. 1988 and especially 1989 this holds true. How Prost won the 1989 title is incredible. Senna had a Hamilton 2012 type season.

Senna won 6 races in 1989, Prost 4. 3 of Prosts wins Senna retired in front of him. The both finished 10 races together, Senna ahead 9-1. The one being when Senna lost his wing in a first corner incident.


Isn't that a bit of a slam dunk, that Senna was better than Prost, at least in 1989? Personally I do rate Senna as better than Prost, but I didn't watch F1 when they were racing.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:01 pm 
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Eva09 wrote:
lamo wrote:
Prost / Senna reminds me of Hamilton / Button.

Prost/Button can only beat the other guy 3-4 times per season or when something goes wrong for the other driver. Don't get me wrong I rate Prost as a top 5 driver of all time but that is the way it was. 1988 and especially 1989 this holds true. How Prost won the 1989 title is incredible. Senna had a Hamilton 2012 type season.

Senna won 6 races in 1989, Prost 4. 3 of Prosts wins Senna retired in front of him. The both finished 10 races together, Senna ahead 9-1. The one being when Senna lost his wing in a first corner incident.


Isn't that a bit of a slam dunk, that Senna was better than Prost, at least in 1989? Personally I do rate Senna as better than Prost, but I didn't watch F1 when they were racing.


I have always thought so. It should have been 2-0 in titles for the Mclaren years. Senna was certainly the better driver over their 2 years together at Mclaren. Over their careers there is a lot more room for debate, Prost had been in F1 8 years by 1988 and was quite old.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:11 pm 
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the incubus wrote:
POBRatings wrote:
All very accurate assessments of Prost and Senna.

The only thing I would add is that drivers' careers all have differing perfromance 'curves', from rookie to peak to slowing. Prost was in F1 four years longer than Senna and when they 'met' at McLaren in 1988, was into his eighth year.

Both Lauda in 1984 and Prost in 1988 openly acknolwedged their team-mate's (Prost and Senna) superior speed, saying: "When you've been in F1 a long time, you can't go at it, all out, the same as when you started".

As some posters above said: Prost's speed was under-rated and his race times were so close to Senna's. Lauda would like to have seen Prost against Senna as Alain was in 1984-5. For me 1990 was Prost's greatest season, when he scored five wins for Ferrari against Senna's six for McLaren-Honda. Senna set ten poles, Prost none; so Alain started further back on the grids, yet matched Senna's average race-times and almost matched his wins. What racecraft and how many overtakes he must have had to make.

If I had to put my head on a block: overall Prost at his best would be the most difficult driver for any other greats to beat. Imo his spread of tech skills, talent, racecraft , sensitivity and sheer speed have not been surpassed in GP racing history.

Off-topic, but that in 2012 Alain Prost at 57 beat 35-year-old Mark Webber up one of the steepest Tour de France Alpine climbs is so funny. They were on road racing bicycles.

Not that I am a Prost fan of course! I happened to have seen him at Kyalami in 1982 when his Reanult punctured; he pitted then made up over a lap to win. To me trackside spectating, Prost was as smooth as the best I saw: Clark, Andretti and Stewart.

Superb post!

As for Senna being the better qualifier and Prost being the better driver come race days, that may be true, it is also true that while Prost had the Mental edge, both were cunning tacticians and each relied on their entire skills set to best the other. In Senna's case he knew how complete and how incredibly strong Prost was so he concentrated on qualifying at the front to ensure he had as much of an advantage over Prost and hope he would encounter traffic and possibly be taken out by others. For Prost, he also knew how well he could drive and so he set his car up for the long race come sunday and qualified as high up as he could and let the race come to him. He knew Senna was blindingly quick for quaky but he also knew that of any driver he ever faced, none could maintain that pace come Sunday and so he had to make sure to keep his head in it at all times in order to force Senna into little mistakes or to simply set himself up to have the fastest and/or most reliable car down the stretch to edge his rival.

As for the bit in bold, I would place Prost almost equal with Schumacher, with Michael getting the edge. I don't think anyone in history could touch Michael with a 10-foot pole when he was at his fastest, but both are for me the top 2 drivers of all time. Of course, not by very much.


You are playing to the myth a bit there. The popular conception.

During 88/89 Prost qualified 2nd behind Senna 20/32 races. He out qualified him 4 times. So in 24/32 races Prost was either ahead of Senna on the grid or 2nd place behind him. The other 9 races he was usually 3rd. So by the first corner he was immediately behind or ahead of Senna. The Mclaren was dominant he did not need to come through the field.

Over 1988/89 when both drivers finished Senna finished ahead 16-6, so Prost was not that much of a Sunday master.

The real difference was Prost stayed out of trouble, Senna had 7 collisions/accidents over 88/89. 3 of which were with cars he was lapping.

Prost had one, the infamous incident with Senna in Japan 1989 when Alain turned in on him.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:57 pm 
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Not playing to the myth. i was counting ALL of the years they raced one another NOT just the McLaren years when Ron almost immediately began touting Senna as their #1.
Prost having been their #1 guy and the person who raised their stock significantly felt as if it was a slap in the face, which it was and then it was downhill from there. That's why from there his contracts always had the NO SENNA clause written into them. He was not about to put in all that time and do all the work only to have it all stripped away from him. he was always intelligent and made sure to create bonds with his teams, but after the experience with Senna at McLaren, Prost was not about to yield a single thing to anyone in any way and no one should ever blame or accuse him of being a coward. He is one of the greatest of all time.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:59 pm 
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I feel Senna reached his peak in 1993 personally, I have that down as his best year. Which is scary given how good he was in 1989 compared to Prost.

That is not a knock on Prost, it is compliment to how great Prost was that I am so in awe of Senna in 1989 in comparison.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:13 am 
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flavio81 wrote:
As Jo Ramirez (McLaren engineer who worked with both on those times) put it: F1 cars are seldom well balanced. Senna was able to be very fast with a car that he didn't consider to be perfectly balanced. But on the days Prost nailed his set-up, "he was untouchable."
For those who compare these two with Lewis and Jenson... this quote from Ramirez is the closest the Lewis-Jenson comparison gets, in my view.
Ayrton and Alain were more evenly matched than I used to believe (though I was just a youngster during their shared stint at McLaren) and, prpbably more dur to his driving style, I tended to support Ayrton over Alain (though was actually a Mansell fan). In hindsight, there is a strong argument to be had for Alain alongside Ayrton - and the drivers themselves acknowleged that, behind all the drama and politics, they pushed each other to new levels.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:22 am 
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the incubus wrote:
POBRatings wrote:
All very accurate assessments of Prost and Senna.

The only thing I would add is that drivers' careers all have differing perfromance 'curves', from rookie to peak to slowing. Prost was in F1 four years longer than Senna and when they 'met' at McLaren in 1988, was into his eighth year.

Both Lauda in 1984 and Prost in 1988 openly acknolwedged their team-mate's (Prost and Senna) superior speed, saying: "When you've been in F1 a long time, you can't go at it, all out, the same as when you started".

As some posters above said: Prost's speed was under-rated and his race times were so close to Senna's. Lauda would like to have seen Prost against Senna as Alain was in 1984-5. For me 1990 was Prost's greatest season, when he scored five wins for Ferrari against Senna's six for McLaren-Honda. Senna set ten poles, Prost none; so Alain started further back on the grids, yet matched Senna's average race-times and almost matched his wins. What racecraft and how many overtakes he must have had to make.

If I had to put my head on a block: overall Prost at his best would be the most difficult driver for any other greats to beat. Imo his spread of tech skills, talent, racecraft , sensitivity and sheer speed have not been surpassed in GP racing history.

Off-topic, but that in 2012 Alain Prost at 57 beat 35-year-old Mark Webber up one of the steepest Tour de France Alpine climbs is so funny. They were on road racing bicycles.

Not that I am a Prost fan of course! I happened to have seen him at Kyalami in 1982 when his Reanult punctured; he pitted then made up over a lap to win. To me trackside spectating, Prost was as smooth as the best I saw: Clark, Andretti and Stewart.

Superb post!

As for Senna being the better qualifier and Prost being the better driver come race days, that may be true, it is also true that while Prost had the Mental edge, both were cunning tacticians and each relied on their entire skills set to best the other. In Senna's case he knew how complete and how incredibly strong Prost was so he concentrated on qualifying at the front to ensure he had as much of an advantage over Prost and hope he would encounter traffic and possibly be taken out by others. For Prost, he also knew how well he could drive and so he set his car up for the long race come sunday and qualified as high up as he could and let the race come to him. He knew Senna was blindingly quick for quaky but he also knew that of any driver he ever faced, none could maintain that pace come Sunday and so he had to make sure to keep his head in it at all times in order to force Senna into little mistakes or to simply set himself up to have the fastest and/or most reliable car down the stretch to edge his rival.

As for the bit in bold, I would place Prost almost equal with Schumacher, with Michael getting the edge. I don't think anyone in history could touch Michael with a 10-foot pole when he was at his fastest, but both are for me the top 2 drivers of all time. Of course, not by very much.


I haven't watched them race live, but have watched a lot of old races and i am convinced by your posts entirely :)


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:04 am 
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I think having read most of the thread, that you could in a sense, in terms of style at least compare them to Hamilton and Button.

Hamilton- can wrestle a car around and get the most out of it, loves to be fast and win
Button- more of a thinker as we have seen several times when the rain has hit and with pit stops, going fast when needed not just 'all the time' so to speak

Obviously to date these two are no way near on the same level as Senna and Prost, just thought the two different styles could be a similar comparison for those who have just started watching and have many questions


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 8:32 pm 
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lamo wrote:
Eva09 wrote:
lamo wrote:
Prost / Senna reminds me of Hamilton / Button.

Prost/Button can only beat the other guy 3-4 times per season or when something goes wrong for the other driver. Don't get me wrong I rate Prost as a top 5 driver of all time but that is the way it was. 1988 and especially 1989 this holds true. How Prost won the 1989 title is incredible. Senna had a Hamilton 2012 type season.

Senna won 6 races in 1989, Prost 4. 3 of Prosts wins Senna retired in front of him. The both finished 10 races together, Senna ahead 9-1. The one being when Senna lost his wing in a first corner incident.


Isn't that a bit of a slam dunk, that Senna was better than Prost, at least in 1989? Personally I do rate Senna as better than Prost, but I didn't watch F1 when they were racing.


I have always thought so. It should have been 2-0 in titles for the Mclaren years. Senna was certainly the better driver over their 2 years together at Mclaren. Over their careers there is a lot more room for debate, Prost had been in F1 8 years by 1988 and was quite old.


That only makes him 33 doesn't it? Schumacher took pole at Monaco aged 43.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:44 am 
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Eva09 wrote:
lamo wrote:
Eva09 wrote:
lamo wrote:
Prost / Senna reminds me of Hamilton / Button.

Prost/Button can only beat the other guy 3-4 times per season or when something goes wrong for the other driver. Don't get me wrong I rate Prost as a top 5 driver of all time but that is the way it was. 1988 and especially 1989 this holds true. How Prost won the 1989 title is incredible. Senna had a Hamilton 2012 type season.

Senna won 6 races in 1989, Prost 4. 3 of Prosts wins Senna retired in front of him. The both finished 10 races together, Senna ahead 9-1. The one being when Senna lost his wing in a first corner incident.


Isn't that a bit of a slam dunk, that Senna was better than Prost, at least in 1989? Personally I do rate Senna as better than Prost, but I didn't watch F1 when they were racing.


I have always thought so. It should have been 2-0 in titles for the Mclaren years. Senna was certainly the better driver over their 2 years together at Mclaren. Over their careers there is a lot more room for debate, Prost had been in F1 8 years by 1988 and was quite old.


That only makes him 33 doesn't it? Schumacher took pole at Monaco aged 43.

I merely wonder sometimes what Michael could have had achieved in an utterly dominant Williams/ McLaren. Sure he had his run of Ferrari's, but nothing comes close to old McLaren/ Williams. Michael is also very very good at nursing machinery, so i guess he could have been a proper headache to all big names in that era.

On topic... I think Senna was good, but Prost raced better ever so slightly, but enough to count as the difference maker. I faintly remember one story about Prost and how he was sand-bagging... Says it all really! Then, there's the famous quote by Scottish lady (christened by top-gear), "to finish first, first you have to finish!"

I guess it is perhaps the place to ask this, wasn't Senna given preferential treatment in McLaren on engines and other things??? I may be wrong, but i read something to this effect somewhere sometime ago, and i thought i'd ask.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:50 pm 
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garagetinkerer wrote:
Eva09 wrote:
lamo wrote:
Eva09 wrote:
lamo wrote:
Prost / Senna reminds me of Hamilton / Button.

Prost/Button can only beat the other guy 3-4 times per season or when something goes wrong for the other driver. Don't get me wrong I rate Prost as a top 5 driver of all time but that is the way it was. 1988 and especially 1989 this holds true. How Prost won the 1989 title is incredible. Senna had a Hamilton 2012 type season.

Senna won 6 races in 1989, Prost 4. 3 of Prosts wins Senna retired in front of him. The both finished 10 races together, Senna ahead 9-1. The one being when Senna lost his wing in a first corner incident.


Isn't that a bit of a slam dunk, that Senna was better than Prost, at least in 1989? Personally I do rate Senna as better than Prost, but I didn't watch F1 when they were racing.


I have always thought so. It should have been 2-0 in titles for the Mclaren years. Senna was certainly the better driver over their 2 years together at Mclaren. Over their careers there is a lot more room for debate, Prost had been in F1 8 years by 1988 and was quite old.


That only makes him 33 doesn't it? Schumacher took pole at Monaco aged 43.

I merely wonder sometimes what Michael could have had achieved in an utterly dominant Williams/ McLaren. Sure he had his run of Ferrari's, but nothing comes close to old McLaren/ Williams. Michael is also very very good at nursing machinery, so i guess he could have been a proper headache to all big names in that era.

On topic... I think Senna was good, but Prost raced better ever so slightly, but enough to count as the difference maker. I faintly remember one story about Prost and how he was sand-bagging... Says it all really! Then, there's the famous quote by Scottish lady (christened by top-gear), "to finish first, first you have to finish!"

I guess it is perhaps the place to ask this, wasn't Senna given preferential treatment in McLaren on engines and other things??? I may be wrong, but i read something to this effect somewhere sometime ago, and i thought i'd ask.


I have heard that Honda favoured Senna but I don't know if it's true. I don't think there is any real proof of anything that particularly favoured Senna.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:58 pm 
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If I recall correctly, Honda did favor Senna by giving him newer engines first. However, this worked to Prost's advantage as the new engines were unreliable, hence Senna's vast amount of DNF's in 1989.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 3:50 pm 
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Honda definitely favoured Senna with more powerful engines.
McLaren did not know of this, Honda were always very secretive. The favourtism was strongly denied, honestly by McLaren...

Prost knew it immediately from their time-traces, lap times and saw it on-track, the way Senna pulled away from him exiting corners.

From being 0.3 slower than Senna on best, pre-race time, season-average for 1988, Prost was suddenly 1.0 down in 1989. As Alain said: "No way is a driver suddenly a second slower than his team-mate!"

Prost got confirmation about this favouritism years later when he had lunch with one of the Honda engineers and made sure the guy had quite a lot of liquid refreshment.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 6:52 pm 
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I agree Honda or somebody did favour Senna in 1989 as the performance gap was much larger.

However, a much overlooked fact is a change in regulation to do with minimum weight. I believe this came into effect in 1989.

Prost was 10kg lighter than Senna and the minimum weight regulations were only for the car and not car and driver before 1989. Thus lighter drivers had quite an advantage.

They then made it car + driver for minimum weight to even it out more. Lighter drivers still to this day have an advantage as they have more ballast to play with, however no where near the advantage of the 70s/80s

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 8:56 pm 
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lamo wrote:
I agree Honda or somebody did favour Senna in 1989 as the performance gap was much larger.

However, a much overlooked fact is a change in regulation to do with minimum weight. I believe this came into effect in 1989.

Prost was 10kg lighter than Senna and the minimum weight regulations were only for the car and not car and driver before 1989. Thus lighter drivers had quite an advantage.

They then made it car + driver for minimum weight to even it out more. Lighter drivers still to this day have an advantage as they have more ballast to play with, however no where near the advantage of the 70s/80s


Very good info, Iamo, and must be an important factor in F1 racing. Could this account for some of Mark Webber's 'gap' to Vettel in 2012?

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2013 12:19 am 
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I know Mark is about 16-18kg heavier than Seb, which is a lot of weight. Seb will be carrying that 18kg 1 centimetre off the ground. Mark will be carrying it 20-40cm above the ground. Would be interested to know what that was worth over a lap. Surely at least 0.050

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