Otherwise known as ‘The Calculator’ or ‘Professor’ of the Track, Frenchman Alain Prost completed over 202 races during a career spanning 12 years and became one of the most prolific racing drivers in the history of Formula One.
Celebrating four World Championship titles during his career, it is an achievement that has only been beaten by Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio.
In 1993, Prost retired after 51 wins and 106 podium finishes. He received an OBE in the same year.
Getting on track
Born in Saint-Chamond on 24 February 1955, Prost developed a taste for life in the fast lane during his first karting experience on a childhood family holiday. Despite an earlier ambition to become a footballer, he soon realised his natural skills on the track.
At the tender age of 14, he pursued his new found passion and triumphed in numerous karting competitions during his teenage years. This early success resulted in his decision to leave school and he became a full time racing driver in 1974.
A year later, Prost won the senior French Karting Championship which sparked further speculation about his ability and, in 1976, he was promoted to racing cars in the French Formula Renault Championship. After a brilliant start, which saw Prost win all his races with only one exception, he was to wait until the following year to win the Formula Renault Championship title.
By 1978, he had rightly earned a place racing at Formula Three level and he completed the season with the French and European Championship titles.
His career catapulted and, in 1980, he signed his first Formula One contract with McLaren. Aged only 25, he was set for certain success.
Life in the fast lane
During his Formula One debut in Argentina, the Calculator, so-called because of his methodical style of driving, earned one point for the team after finishing in sixth place. This first season also saw Prost pick up points, and several injuries, in Brazil, Britain and the Netherlands. At the end of the season, he was ranked 15th in the World Championship and moved to Renault.
In 1981, Prost celebrated his first Grand Prix victory in his homeland, France. The season culminated in two more wins before climbing an impressive ten places in the Drivers’ Championship ranks, finishing the year in fifth position.
Prost stayed with Renault until 1983, winning the Grand Prix in South Africa and Brazil, but otherwise suffering a mixed response from French media and a strained relationship with Renault teammate Rene Arnoux.
Despite being ranked second by the end of the season, the contract was terminated shortly after.
Re-joining McLaren in 1984, driving alongside Austrian champion Niki Lauda, Prost marginally missed out on the World Championship title before finally celebrating this major accomplishment one year later. He was the first Frenchman to do so and he repeated this achievement in 1986.
Two years later, Prost was joined by new McLaren teammate Ayrton Senna, creating one of the most widely publicised rivalries in Formula One racing. After fierce competition during their first season together, Senna eventually walked away with the Championship title.
The feud intensified throughout the following year and in 1989, during the penultimate race of the season, Senna attempted a pass and the Frenchman would block his teammate resulting in them colliding. Senna would rejoin the race but would be disqualified for cutting the chicane and the championship went to Prost.
Prost developed his career the following year with the Ferrari team, forming a successful relationship with Nigel Mansell. However, the rivalry with Senna continued both on and off the track. During a series of further encounters, Prost watched his former teammate emerge from the final race with the Championship title and he left Ferrari the following year.
After taking twelve months away from the race track, the Frenchman joined the Williams team in 1993.
It was to be his last year of professional racing and culminated in his fourth World Championship title.
Prost recalls the Brazilian Grand Prix in 1987 as his most relished victory. After starting in fifth place, he calculated a driving style which would allow less tyre wear over a longer period than his competitors. Leaving his rivals in the pit stop, he reached the finish line an impressive 40 seconds ahead of the runner up.
The previous year, Prost also enjoyed an unexpected success. As he headed towards third position in the Drivers’ Championship, a technical fault in the Williams team resulted in the two leading drivers being removed from the track. The Frenchman walked away with the title.
During the same year, Prost treated racing fans to another spectacular finish at the San Marino Grand Prix. After spending most of the race in pole position, he realised that his fuel was not sufficient to complete the final three corners of the track. The Calculator figured that, by swerving across the track, the car would consume less fuel thus allowing him to finish the race in first place.
When the same problem occurred in Germany, his tactic was not so successful. However, as the car finally ran out of fuel, Prost refused to admit defeat and desperately attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to push his car over the finish line.
Life after racing
Following his departure from professional motor racing, Prost undertook numerous roles, one of which included occasional television presenting, before buying his own racing team in 1997.
After sealing a deal with the Ligier team, the Prost Grand Prix was formed. Unfortunately, the new enterprise did not prove to be a success and the team collapsed, with estimated debts of $30m, by 2002.
Stepping down a gear
Whilst Prost may have left the driving seat through retirement, his racing hat is still firmly in place. Currently, he is more commonly found taking part in bicycle races in France or competing in Ice Racing Championships. In 2003, he finished second in the Ice Race Series and, four years later, he added another racing victory to his name.
Prost is married with two sons and a daughter. His eldest son Nicholas looks to continue his father’s success after joining the Spanish Formula Three Championship in 2007 at the age of 26.