Alain Prost - how the Frenchman retired as Formula 1 world champion

Alain Prost won the last of his four F1 world championships in 1993 - after which he promptly announced his retirement from the sport.

Alain Prost in the 1993 Formula 1 season. (Image: Twitter)

In the mid-1980s and early 1990s of Formula 1, Alain Prost was one of the best drivers on the grid. Given the sport featured greats like Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell at the time, this was no mean feat.

Yet of the fearsome foursome, it is worth noting that Prost was the most successful. He had more race wins and more championships than the other three, something down to his calculated approach to racing.

Indeed, that approach led to him being dubbed ‘The Professer’. And it helped him stay in title chases, because whatever the situation he looked to maximise his approach.

The last of Prost’s four world championship wins came in 1993. Indeed, his last-ever race in F1 came on this day in that same year. He would not win the race – the season-ending Australian Grand Prix – but the title was already sealed by that point.

He would, however, finish second and seal his farewell with a podium finish. In many ways, it was a fitting end to a legendary career in Formula 1.

Let us now look back at what was an interesting season in the sport, for more reasons than just the racing action on the track.

The background

Coming into the 1993 season, there was a whole new driver line-up for defending champions Williams. The British team had won the 1992 title with Nigel Mansell, with Ricardo Patrese as a competent second driver.

However, Patrese had left to join Benetton. And Mansell? Well, he wanted to stay on to defend his crown but was unaware the team had signed Alain Prost to replace Patrese.

When he found out, he quit the team – and the sport – and joined the CART Series. The reason for this was due to the infamously poor relationship he and Prost shared during their brief stint at Ferrari.

To replace Mansell, Williams shocked everyone by promoting test driver Damon Hill. The benefit of hindsight would tell you it was a great move though.

Notably, this wasn’t the only controversy surrounding the seats at Williams. Ayrton Senna too wanted to join Williams, as they had become more competitive than McLaren.

But there was a twist – Prost’s deal had a one-year clause that prevented Senna from being his teammate. This infuriated Senna, who publicly branded Prost a ‘coward’.

“I think if Prost wants to be called the sole champion, three-times world champion, come back in a sportive way, maybe win another championship, he should be sportive,” he said at a press conference at Estoril.

“The way he’s doing, he’s behaving like a coward. And if he wants to be sportive, he must be prepared to race anybody, at any condition, at equal terms.”

Nevertheless, the title battle would come down to Senna and Prost. And that one-year clause? It would play a part later in the season.

Alain Prost seals fourth championship

The season started well enough for Prost, who took a debut victory at South Africa. But Senna’s McLaren was victorious in both the Brazilian and the European GP.

Unlike last year, when Williams pretty much romped to the title, it was clear already they were in for a fight this time around.

Not that this bothered Prost too much. The Frenchman took back to back wins of his own at San Marino and Spain, before Senna took another win in Monaco.

However, the run of races that arguably sealed the title came after this. The next seven races saw a Williams stand victorious on all seven occasions – Prost won the first four, with Hill winning the next three.

To make things worse, while Prost regularly scored podium finishes, this run of races saw Senna get not even a single podium finish. Prost was leading the title race, with Hill in second position.

The run of Williams’ wins was broken in Portugal, but not by Senna. Michael Schumacher, the man who would take the mantle from the likes of Prost and Senna, secured his only race win of that season.

And Prost would seal the title with a second-place finish behind the young German. At that point, all Senna could fight for was second place in the championship.

The Brazilian duly stepped up, winning the last two races to to finish second ahead of Hill. In the final race at Australia, he even hugged Prost at the podium. This was a shock, given the two’s bitter rivalry till that point.

The aftermath

Given Alain Prost retired after the season, Senna did indeed join Williams the following year. Sadly, he would die after a crash at the 1993 San Marino GP.

Prost would also be only the third driver after Mike Hawthorn (1959) and Jackier Stewart (1974) to retire as champion. Indeed, he would be the last to do so until Nico Rosberg in 2016.

Prost’s tally of four world championships would also remain untouched until 2001, when Schumacher won his fourth title. The German would eventually surpass both him and Juan Manuel Fangio for titles.

Since then, Prost’s tally has been matched twice – by Sebastian Vettel in 2013 and Lewis Hamilton in 2017. Hamilton would further become only the second man to surpass Fangio’s record and is currently the only man besides Schumacher to have won seven world championships.

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