Senna and Prost, a History of Rivalry

Senna and Prost were the protagonists of the greatest Formula One rivalry in the history of the world. These two men had such talent that they marked a whole era.
Senna and Prost, a History of Rivalry

Last update: 14 March, 2019

It’s impossible to speak of Alain Prost without mentioning Ayrton Senna, and vice versa. Both drivers starred in the greatest rivalry in the history of Formula One. The seasons were plagued by conflicts, on and off the track, reproaches, anger, and tension…a lot of tension. Without a doubt, Senna and Prost have become Formula One legends.

This rivalry began in an innocent exhibition with streetcars. It reached its peak at the time when they were both teammates at McLaren and ended with the tragic death of Senna.

The beginning of the rivalry

The first time that Senna and Prost met was at an exhibition at the Hockenheim German circuit in the spring of 1984. It was a friendly, inaugural race with streetcars. Although the two arrived together at the circuit with an atmosphere of cordiality, this vanished by the end of the race.

Senna and Prost first met in an exhibition at the Hockenheim German circuit.
Photo, courtesy of

Prost told the press on several occasions that although they talked cordially just before the race, by the end of it, Senna never spoke to him again. Maybe it’s because the Frenchman was declared the winner of the exhibition.

At that time, Prost was already a Mclaren driver and Senna was starting his career in Formula One with the Toleman team. A veteran driver versus a rookie who would cause a lot of commotion.

1988, the start of the war

In the world of Formula One, you repeatedly hear the phrase, “You can’t put two cocks together in the same pen” and that’s exactly what McLaren did. Being on the same team made Senna and Prost become rivals.

The first season was relatively peaceful, or at least in comparison to what would come next. Senna arrived at McLaren when Prost had already been there for several seasons and had earned a well-deserved reputation.

Throughout the season, they would compete at a very high level, sharing victories. In the Portuguese Grand Prix, one of the first maneuvers that would end the cordiality took place. Senna cornered Prost on the pit and far from slowing down, he continued to accelerate and ended up winning the race. Later, Senna apologized.

In the last race of the season, the Japanese Grand Prix, both were competing for the Championship. In one of the best races in the history of Formula One, Senna stalled at the start but made a spectacular comeback in the rain until he reached the first position and proclaimed himself world champion.

1989, Prost is champion

Prost won the 1989 championship.
Photo, courtesy of Stuart Seeger.

The following season supposed an increase in the tension between both drivers. In the San Marino GP, Prost accused Senna of breaking the pact they’d made in regards to respecting each other on the track. This is when confrontations between them started to happen, inside and outside the circuits.

The development of the season was not as close as the previous one. Senna suffered all kinds of breakdowns while Prost was adding podiums. Once again, the Japanese Grand Prix was the explosion between the two drivers.

Senna had to overtake Prost if he wanted to continue with the possibility of winning the title. When the two met on the track, they crashed. Senna was able to return to the race and he won but was disqualified. Prost was proclaimed world champion and was signed by Ferrari. 

1990, Senna has his revenge

Senna was world champion in 1990.

In 1990, Ayrton Senna competed at the highest level, remaining the top driver practically throughout the whole championship. However, Prost still had options.

To the surprise of the Brazilian, after making the pole, the FIA told him that they had changed the starting lineup and that he would come out through the dirty side. Although angry, Senna maintained the trajectory during the start and both drivers finished in the gravel at the end of the first curve. That’s how he became the world champion.

The end of the rivalry

The rivalry went on for a few years, but it wasn’t until the retirement of Alain Prost (in 1993) when they both made peace. At Prost’s last race, the two of them hugged and joked on the podium. This put the finishing touch to the strongest rivalry in the history of Formula One.

Later, Senna recognized that racing without Prost was not the same and they remained in contact. When the tragic accident ended Senna’s life, Prost traveled to Sao Paulo to carry his coffin. Moreover, Prost became a member of the Ayrton Senna Foundation.

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