Alain Prost

Portrait photography: Seagram Pearce

Alain Prost, born on 24 February 1955, is a retired French racing driver and Formula One team owner. Renowned as a four-time Formula One World Drivers’ Champion, his dominance in the sport endured from 1987 until 2001, when Michael Schumacher surpassed his record of 51 Grand Prix victories at the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix.

Prost’s journey into racing began at the age of 14, during a family holiday, where he discovered the world of karting. Rising through the ranks of motor sport, he secured victories in the French and European Formula Three championships. In 1980, at the age of 24, he joined the McLaren Formula One team, making an impressive debut at the San Martín Autodrome in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

His Formula One career was marked by notable achievements, including his first race victory at the French Grand Prix a year later, driving for the factory Renault team. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Prost engaged in a fierce sporting rivalry with Ayrton Senna, as well as Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell. Notably, in 1986, he clinched the title in Adelaide, overcoming challenges from Mansell and Piquet.

The Prost-Senna rivalry reached its pinnacle at McLaren, with controversial clashes, including the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix collision that secured Prost his third Drivers’ Championship. A year later, at the same venue, the tables turned, as Prost, now driving for Ferrari, faced defeat. Dismissed by Ferrari in 1991 for public criticism, Prost took a sabbatical in 1992 and returned to win the 1993 championship with Williams before retiring from Formula One.

In 1997, Prost assumed control of the French Ligier team, operating it as Prost Grand Prix until its bankruptcy in 2002. Subsequently, he ventured into ice racing, participating in the Andros Trophy from 2003 to 2012, securing 38 race victories and winning the championship three times. Prost, known for his smooth and relaxed driving style, earned the moniker “The Professor” for his intellectual approach to competition, embodying the spirit of racing legends like Jackie Stewart and Jim Clark. Despite initial reluctance to the nickname, Prost later acknowledged its apt representation of his strategic and calculated approach to racing, often preserving his car’s resources for a decisive challenge in the later stages of a race.