Prost on his rivalry with Senna, the moment their relationship changed

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Alain Prost has reflected on his "enduring" association with Ayrton Senna through both their bitter rivalry and strong final relationship.

Last weekend marked what would have been the 60th birthday of the great Brazilian, who won three Formula 1 titles during a remarkable career that was tragically cut short after his fatal crash in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola.

For almost all of his 10 years on the grid, Senna and Prost were rarely apart with the controversial early ending to the 1984 Monaco GP considered the first part of their long history.

But it was when they were teammates at McLaren in the late 1980s where their rivalry really picked, notably in 1989 when they collided at the Japanese GP with the Frenchman winning the championship as a result.

Ultimately, Prost would leave for Ferrari the following year but still, they were inseparable and it was another controversial clash at Suzuka that this time saw Senna come out on top.

“There isn’t a day when someone I know doesn’t talk about Ayrton and me: it means that we have done something, that something has endured,” Alain told Italy's La Repubblica.

“But in those years, you didn’t realize it. I don’t know how to say it: it was quite incredible."

Nowadays, the lessons from Senna and Prost's time at McLaren mean most top teams opt for a clear No.1 and No.2 driver system to avoid conflict, though Mercedes had their own internal turmoil in 2016 between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Even so, Prost, who is now an advisor to the Renault team, admits he isn't sure if modern rivalries would ever reach the point his did with Ayrton.

“I don’t know if rivalries like mine and Ayrton’s are the same [today]," he said.

"They are different times, the racing world today is more sophisticated, the environment has changed and relations, even those with the press, are no longer the same and finally, we have to consider the charisma, the styles and characters of the drivers."

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For all the history between them, however, Prost admits regret that the turbulent times override their strong friendship in the final year of Senna's life.

“I triumphed in the [1993] World Championship by taking the podium [in Adelaide], but Ayrton who had won the race took my arm and wanted to share the top step with me. That moment actually changed our relationship, and today I can say that ours was a magnificent story," he revealed.

“There was a before and after [my time in F1]. Senna, before, looked at me as the driver to beat and shoot down, a total war. There are the facts that confirm it.

"Then, when I stopped, there was a complete rapprochement. He no longer had the same motivation. Without me, it was like he’d lost his target a little bit.

“We even became friends," Prost admitted. "He told me intimate things about his life. He was no longer the same Ayrton Senna who challenged me on the track. I remember he wanted me to take care of the drivers’ association: he called me several times a week to ask me for advice.

“I also remember that message on the radio in Imola ’94, before he died (‘We all miss you, Alain’). He was interviewed by TF1, French TV and, knowing that I was a commentator, he said those words but I wasn’t in the studio. It wasn’t until after his death that they showed it to me, and I had tears in my eyes.

“In retrospect, I knew something was wrong. The world was either with Senna or with Prost but how did it end? That our stories were completely connected. Not only my career but my life too. I’ve lived with this rivalry/friendship forever."

 

         

 

 

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