Why is Prost unappreciated?
Thank you for your Prost on Senna article (March) which I read with considerable interest as these two protagonists raced together in what I personally consider to be a true golden age of Formula 1. I feel they stood head and shoulders above the rest, but what is disappointing is the subsequent historical deification of one and the routine character assassination of the other.
If you had taken a poll among your readers in, say, 1990, you could expect to see Prost and Senna in the top two positions. If you took a poll now I’d bet my house you would have an order of one, M Schumacher; two, Senna – and the chances are Prost wouldn’t even figure.
It seems to me a common distortion of the history of our sport that past champions are seen as just that. Sadly we are already in a period where few saw Fangio or Ascari race, and we are rapidly moving into a situation where the exploits of the likes of Hill, Brabham, Clark and even Stewart are considered as mere footnotes to people whose memories start with Mansell mania and end with Schumacher’s retirement. Even Gilles Villeneuve is becoming a distant memory in an era obsessed with victory tallies.
To lose perspective is to distort history. The facts are simple: without Senna, Prost would have completely dominated F1 and vice-versa. They dominated their team-mates, who included five GP winners.
It is startling that they were even prepared to tolerate such talent in the other car, and this for me is why despite 90-odd wins and seven titles, I can never consider Schumacher the great driver he is thought to be. His refusal to countenance racing even inferior team-mates on equal terms is anathema to being a champion.
Senna did learn from Prost how to manage a race: look at the way he won particularly from 1991 onwards. As with Prost in 1986, ’87 and ’90, he didn’t always have the best car, but used what he had better than his rivals.
Ultimately for some observers what might tarnish a view of racing drivers is the manner in which they drive – Prost was probably the smoothest driver of all, and possibly the best manager of a race or season. Stewart and Clark would be his competition, but perhaps they weren’t exciting enough to watch.
Prost was correct in your interview: in death Senna achieved far more than any rival could possibly do in life, but to effectively deny that anybody else competed is ridiculous. Over two years together Prost certainly outscored his rival (without the best 11 scores rule) and perhaps became the only man in equal machinery to outrace Senna. That is something he should be extremely proud of, and we should feel privileged to have witnessed.
Ian Brooks, Whinmoor, Leeds