Formula 1 has seen several iconic rivalries amongst some of the greatest racing drivers that the world has ever seen. Be it the recent clash of the titans between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, or be it the legendary battle between Niki Lauda and James Hunt, one rivalry that stands out as the most enduring and harsh battle in the history of F1 would be Alain Prost versus Ayrton Senna.
Three decades ago, this fight reached the breaking point as the world looked on with awe at the two white-and-red McLarens sitting alongside each other at Suzuka, with Ayrton Senna trying to signal to the Marshalls to help him out, and Alain Prost climbing out of his car, defeated and destroyed. Thirty years from that moment, we look at some less talked-about moments between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, and celebrate their incredible rivalry.
Senna makes his mark with an incredible pass at Imola (1989)
Following a disaster of a race at Rio which saw Senna getting involved in a first lap crash and then subsequently losing his front nose cone, he made a strategy for the next Grand Prix, set to be held at Imola.
Senna’s strategy for the San Marino Grand Prix involved him proposing to Prost that they will not race each other until they passed Tosa, which was turn 3 back then. Prost accepted the proposal and the start of the race saw Senna go into the lead from pole position with a better start. However the race was soon stopped after Gerhard Berger crashed out at Tamburello.
During the restart, this time, Prost got the better start and took the lead. However, Senna wasn’t one to give up, the Brazilian dive-bombed into Turn 3 and snatched back the lead from Prost and he kept the lead till the Chequered Flag.
Prost, was furious as expected and even threatened to leave the sport. This led to McLaren boss Ron Dennis hosting an emergency meeting in an attempt to make peace between the two drivers. Prost would then go on and leak the things that were said in the meeting to the media, leading to a rebuttal from Senna. This was the final trigger and the unsaid discomfort between the two drivers at McLaren turned into a full-on Civil War
“There can only be one winner” (1988)
A joint interview was held during the 1988 German Grand Prix, where Senna had won and closed up behind Prost in the championship standings. They had a difference of just 3 points.
Even though it was only round nine of the season, it was pretty evident that the championship would go to either of the two drivers. Prost asked, “Is it possible to be equal?” To which, Senna replied, “No.” with a fixed gaze. He goes on, “There can only be one winner.”
Senna gets a bit “naughty” in Germany (1991)
During the 1991 German Grand Prix, late on in the race a battle evolved between Prost and Senna as Prost was looking to find his way past Senna for P4. With eight laps left, Prost got alongside Senna going into the Clark Chicane.
Senna suddenly opened his steering wheel during the braking zone just enough to scare off the French. In the process, Prost locked up and squealed into the run-off. He would fail to rejoin the track as his car then stalled. Even though Senna would eventually also fail to finish the race as his Honda Engine ran out of Fuel. His move on Prost would be remembered as “a bit naughty” as stated by BBC Comentator and 1976 champion James Hunt.