Great champions are born fighters; Formula One is no exception and the rivalry, on and off the track, between Prost and Senna was one of the greatest in sporting history.
Inside Story of the Most Deadly Rivalry in Formula One Motor Racing
In Senna Versus Prost; The Story of the Most Deadly Rivalry in Formula One Malcom Folley gets inside Grand Prix motor racing during the 1980s and 1990s. He charts the careers of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna when Grand Prix racing saw the struggle for supremacy between two great champions with very different approaches to motor racing.
Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna; Changing Times in Formula One
Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna da Silva had very different routes through motor racing and at very different times. Alain Prost started racing in Formula One when it was still very dangerous and drivers were still getting seriously injured and killed all too frequently. This coloured his attitude to risk and Prost developed an approach of winning as slowly as possible. His thoughtful approach earned him the nickname “The Professor”. For Prost driving Formula One cars was an art, an intellectual pursuit.
Ayrton Senna, he dropped the da Silva early in his career, was completely different; for him driving a racing cars was a spiritual experience and at its best was purely instinctive. However he had grown up after motor racing had been made safer as result of the efforts of drivers like Jackie Stewart and,, indeed, Alain Prost. This meant he was prepared to be more aggressive as the consequences of accidents had become less serious. It was not until the death of Roland Ratzenberger at Imola in 1994 that Senna had to face the death of another driver. It affected him deeply and may have contributed to his own death the following day.
Psychology, Relationships and Grand Prix Racing
Senna Versus Prost also explores the team aspects of Formula One motor racing and other rivalries of the period such as that of Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet. It is a sport which is filled with big, highly motivated, personalities; not just drivers but team managers, engineers, officials and sponsors. It creates strong friendships and enmities often between the same people at different times. The bitter relationship between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost might have become just such a friendship if it had not been for Ayrton Senna’s untimely death on May 1, 1994 at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola.
From the start the new boy Senna had seen Prost as the man to destroy, not just beat, and the relationship rapidly became one of mistrust even when they were both in the same McLaren team. The relationship slid into activity mistrust exemplified by their “accidents” in successive years at Suzuka in Japan.
But after Prost retired Senna lost some of his purpose and had started to seek out Alain Prost despite having got to the point where the two men would not even talk to each other. With Roland Ratzenberger’s death something changed for Senna and he appeared to need Prost’s company even more. At the same time Ayrton Senna was beginning to face what he had done to Alain Prost as he became the target for a fast and aggressive new driver, Michael Schumacher – the cycle continues.
A Psychological History of Formula One Grand Prix Racing
Malcom Folley has produced a fascinating insight into the psychology of formula one drivers through a changing period for Grand Prix motor racing. Senna Versus Prost provides a history of top-level motor racing during a time of great changes that focuses on the people and relationships rather than the technology. He uses his own experience of covering Grand Prix racing and interviews with drivers and other team insiders to build a comprehensive picture of the two men, how and why their relationship turned into bitter rivalry and how it might have changed had Senna lived.
A Great Read for Enthusiasts of Grand Prix Racing and Sports Fans Generally
As well as being a great read Senna Versus Prost fills an important gap between the technical histories and the more one-sided memoirs and biographies. Any fan of Grand Prix racing should read this book – it explains much about the people, not just Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, and their behaviour on and off the track.
Malcolm Folley has been the Chief Sports reporter for Mail on Sunday since 1992 and staff writer on national newspapers for more than 30 years.
Senna Versus Prost, The Most Deadly Rivalry in Formula One (ISBN: 978-1-8460-5540-9) by Malcolm Folley is published in hardback by Century at £18.99 (Can$48.50).