Matchless throttle delicacy, unequalled tactic acuity and race craft beyond the usual borders. The Professor was one of the greatest drivers ever to grace Formula 1 scene. But how good was he in Ferrari terms? Well, he almost took the title in his first year, only Senna’s infamous move at Suzuka denying him the honors.
He beat a team mate as great as Mansell hands down and rounded the Scuderia technical department around him in a way seen only at Lauda and Schumacher. And it took the politically astute polyglot about five minutes…His Italian odyssey started very good, with victory in only the second race of 1990, in Brazil, followed by another four, but the campaign will be remembered for its tetchiness as its triumphs.
First, at Estoril, Mansell almost put the reigning champion in the pit wall after making a complete mess for his start. Then came Suzuka. Senna, in the faster Mclaren-Honda MP4/5B qualified in pole which in those days was on the dirtier side of the track, and urged the stewards to move it on the other side. For the sake of meritocracy. They refused. Prost made a better start and was leading at the end of the start-finish line, but made only as far as the first corner before the Brazilian punched him and took both cars out of the GP. Game, set and match. Senna won his second championship, Prost was livid, but he should have known better what games his nemesis could play when under pressure.
He won a stupendous race in Mexico coming from 13th on the grid and was dominant in his home GP, but the other wins were a combination of excellent judgment, great tactic choices and poor luck on his rivals garage. The 641 was a gentle car to drive, more nimble than his toughest rival, the Mclaren MP4/5B, but overall the British monoposto had the edge due in part to a more powerful and more efficient Honda V10 engine.
In Spain 1990 Prost scored his 5th win of the season, but it proved to be the last for the Scuderia. The 1991 campaign-this time was paired with the hot newcomer Jean Alesi, was mediocre comparatively, with a few podiums, not so good reliability and a bad car, 642 that on some occasion handled like a pig. The Frenchman mentioned that it was more of a truck than a Ferrari and was promptly sacked.
Nobody stands higher than the Rampant Horse, no name is bigger in motorsport. In the period between Prost’s forced depart and Schumacher’s arrival in 1996 Ferrari won only twice, and with huge luck. Alain took a sabbatical, joined Williams in 1993 and won his 4th crown. The memories of him driving the 641 V12 with a big no.1 on the nose stands high, and his meticulous, technic approach will be surpassed only by the most successful Scuderia driver, the cynical Red Baron.