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Alain Prost - High Hopes For Frenchman On French Team

championship world renault wins

The pressure was high for Prost to become the first French World Champion driving a French car. He won his first F1 Grand Prix in France in 1981, and finished the season in fifth place for the World Championship, a respectable finish for a second-year driver. Prost began the 1982 season with impressive back-to-back wins, but the season quickly disintegrated for him. He took the top spot on the podium at the South African Grand Prix. He was third crossing the finish line at the Brazilian Grand Prix, but won the race when the first and second-place cars, driven by Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg, were disqualified. His winning streak ended in Brazil. Renault's turbocharged engine technology was quickly becoming eclipsed by that of the Ferrari and Honda teams. Prost's most searing disappointment of the year was personal. He was second behind teammate René Arnoux in the French Grand Prix when it was agreed that Arnoux would give Prost the lead, as Prost was closer to a Championship than his teammate. Arnoux reneged and held Prost in second, leaving him to finish third in the 1982 World Championship.

In the highly competitive world of F1, the deal made on the track in France between Prost and Arnoux was not an unusual one. When a race comes down to being won by one of two teammates, it is common to let the one who has scored the most Championship points during the season move ahead. In a fickle turn of publicity, however, Prost was villainized, and was characterized as a poor sportsman. Arnoux, in comparison, was depicted as the hero. Furious at the turn of events, Prost was fed up and even considered retiring from F1. He moved his family from France to Switzerland not long after.

After his strong performance in 1982, Prost was a legitimate contender for the 1983 World Championship. He finished "in the points," or in the top six, in nine of the first eleven races. The Brabham team became a serious threat halfway through the season, however, after engineers improved the BMW engine. Prost clearly saw that Brabham's Nelson Piquet could succeed in upsetting him on the points table. He stressed to Renault engineers that an immediate improvement was necessary to remain competitive, but Renault did not consider the Frenchman's pleas seriously. Prost's fears played out. He was the points leader until the very end of the season, when Piquet and his new engine narrowly edged him out. Feeling Renault had miserably mismanaged the season, Prost again found himself in an adversarial position with an F1 team. In an unforeseen turn, Renault responded by replacing him.

Chronology

1955 Born February 24 in Lorette, France
1973 Wins Karting World Championship
1976 Begins racing professionally and wins Formula Renault Challenge series
1977 Wins Formula Renault Europe title and begins racing the Formula 3 series
1979 Wins French and European Formula 3 titles
1979 Signed to race the F1 series for McLaren team
1980 Places sixth and fifth, respectively, at first two Grand Prix races; breaks wrist before third
1980 Returns in May to score points at British and Dutch Grand Prix
1980 Frustrated by McLaren car failures, breaks contract to drive for Renault Sport; challenges McLaren to sue
1981 Finishes fifth in the 1981 F1 Championship
1982 Finishes fourth in the 1982 championship, but is plagued by car reliability problems
1983 Loses World Championship by two points; is fired by Renault
1984 Returns to drive for McLaren
1984 Loses World Championship by one-half of a point to teammate Niki Lauda
1985 Wins five Grands Prix and first World Championship
1986 Wins second World Championship, over Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet
1987 Finishes fourth in World Championship
1988 Loses World Championship to teammate Ayrton Senna
1989 Wins World Championship, but tension with Senna leads Prost to defect to Ferrari team
1990 Loses World Championship after controversial crash with Senna
1991 Fired from Ferrari for criticizing team
1992 Sits out 1992 season
1993 Returns to drive for Williams-Renault, wins fourth World Championship, breaks world record with fifty-one Grand Prix wins
1993 Announces retirement when Williams hires Senna
1994 Works for French television and as representative for Renault
1994 Works as consultant for McLaren team
1997 Buys Liegier team, renamed Prost Grand Prix
1998 Debut chassis proves unreliable, team has disappointing season
1999 Peugot engine proves too heavy too win
2000 Sells share of team after third losing season
2002 Begins liquidation of Prost Grand Prix team

Awards and Accomplishments

1973 Karting World Championship
1976 Formula Renault Championship
1977 Formula Renault Europe Championship
1979 French and European F3 Championships
1981 Fifth place, F1 World Championship
1982, 1987 Fourth place, F1 World Championship
1983-84, 1988, 1990 Second place, F1 World Championship
1985-86, 1989, 1993 F1 World Championship
1993 World record for 51 Grand Prix wins
Alain Prost - Chronology [next] [back] Alain Prost - Built Reputation In Junior Formulae

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