Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were the two big names that marked Formula 1 in the late '80s and early' 90s. The Brazilian and the French fought hard for titles and glory, reaching extremes never seen in F1 before or after.
Alain Prost came to F1 in 1980, with McLaren. After a passage through Renault between 1982 and 1983, he returned to McLaren where he was crowned world champion in 19865 and 1986. For his part Senn came to the F11 in 1984 with the modest Toleman. That year he did a feat under the rain in Monaco, overtaking everyone until he overtook the leader ... Alain Prost. However, the authorities decreed the suspension of the race for safety reasons (excessive rain), and the classification was as it was in the previous round. Ayrton was second. That and other good performances took him to Lotus in 1985, where he remained until 1987.
It is curious that it was the same Prost who in 1988 had convinced Ron Dennis to sign the Brazilian, sure that it would be a contribution to the team to continue in the path of victory. That first year of the two together in McLaren Prost accumulated 105 points and Senna 94, but the regulation only counted the eleven best results in 16 races, so Senna was left with the title to add 90 valid points against 87 of Prost. That year was relatively quiet, although a couple of times the Frenchman was bothered by certain Ayrton maneuvers.
A rivalry to red hot.
In 1989 the rivalry exploded with everything. An incident in San Marino, where Senna would not have respected a previous agreement on who came first to the first corner, initiated a series of conflicts that created a horrible environment inside McLaren. Prost felt displaced, since he saw that Ron Dennis and most of the mechanics preferred Senna. Annoying, he signed for Ferrari in 1990 mid-season, so it was more than obvious that the team's favorite for the title was Senna ... although Prost kept adding more points in his new team.
After several controversies, they arrive at the Japan Japan GP, on the penultimate date; Prost with 76 points, and Senna with 60, although the French already had 11 better results and not only added if he won, so if Senna won that race and the next (in Australia) would stay with the title. Dominated Prost followed closely by Senna, when, four laps from the end, the Brazilian stretched the brakes to the maximum and Alain did not desist. Both touched and were stranded in the middle of the track.
Prost got out of the car and walked to the pits, while Senna begged some track marshals to push him. They did so, and the Brazilian resumed the race; He went through the pits, changed the trunk and came out as a lightning bolt on the hunt for the new leader, Alessandro Nannini's Benetton. A couple of corners before the finish overtook him, achieving victory.
In that, the chaos: Senna was disqualified for skipping a chicane (when the commissioners pushed him, he returned to the race for an escape route). It is believed that the one who decided it was Jean-Marie Balestre, the French president of the FIA (International Automobile Federation), confessed admirer of Prost. The Brazilian could not get on the podium, Prost won the title and Nannini won his only race in the F-1.
On the following date, in Australia, the controversy continued. A torrential rain caused that Prost left the race by own decision after the first return; a victory of Senna would have caused an atomic controversy, but the Brazilian crashed on lap 13 (nothing was seen) and the championship was over for him, sealing the title for Prost.
In 1990, the Ferrari was very competitive and both fought all season for the victory, but this time Senna arrived in Japan with 78 points against 69 of Prost; if both left in one of the two races and Prost won the other, Senna was still a champion because Prost had to discard two points won in Canada, his 12th worst result.
Senna wins the pole position, but this was placed on the dirty side of the track. Senna went to claim Balestre, feeling hurt, but he ignored him and Ayrton decided to play everything for everything. In the first corner accelerated to the bottom, Prost did not see it (or did not think he was going to do something like that) and both went on long out, something very similar to what happened last year, although now the champion was Senna.
A friendly ending.
From then on the rivalry remained, but in a lower tone. In 1991 the Ferrari was terrible and Prost was fired before the last race for saying he felt like "driving a truck". In 1992 Prost did not compete, but signed for Williams in 1993.
Senna also wanted to go to Williams, but ran into the surprise that Prost's contract prohibited him from coming as a teammate. Reluctantly he continued at McLaren. Prost, meanwhile, took advantage of the incredible power of Williams-Renault to win his fourth title. However, he discovered that his contract did not prohibit the arrival of Senna for 1994 (it was only for 1993) and, upon learning that the Brazilian had signed with Williams, decided to retire definitively from Formula 1. This caused a profound impact on Senna. He discovered that beating Prost, despite all the fights they had, was his great motivation in Formula 1, and that now, without the French, everything had another flavor. Prost was surprised by the expressions of appreciation of the Brazilian after his retirement, and the atmosphere between them improved noticeably.
But it did not last long: three races after the retirement of Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna met the death in Imola, ironically the same track that detonated the conflict between the two in 1989.Prost was one of those who carried his coffin when he was buried, giving final definitive to the best rivalry in the history of Formula 1, between two of the best riders who have ever run a circuit.