Flashback: Alain Prost towers over Suzuka

For two decades Maurice Hamilton reported from the F1 paddock with pen, notebook and Canon Sure Shot camera. This month we are at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix as Marlboro promo personnel struggle to move an oversized Alain Prost

Giant-promotional-Alain-Prost-figure-at-Suzuka-1989

Maurice Hamilton

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The cancellation of this year’s Japanese Grand Prix has deprived Formula 1 of more than a magnificent race track. Suzuka also produced a very different kind of passion within bizarre and fascinating surroundings. A funfair in bright pastel colours, populated by babbling stall holders with high-pitched voices, brought a feel of Disney World to the area behind the main grandstand. A walk through this zone made an interesting start to the day, mainly because you never knew what to expect.

I came across this scene in 1989. Intrigued as to what the two guys would do next, I watched with increasing amusement as they tipped Alain Prost, face down, into a prone position, got underneath and carried him feet first through a road tunnel and into the paddock. Not long after, two more Marlboro promotion men struggled into view with a similar fully inflated effigy of Ayrton Senna. They managed to avoid a collision; that, of course, would be reserved for the real thing later in the day.

“Do one autograph and you’re completely finished. You’ll never reach the paddock.”