Built Reputation In Junior Formulae
It wasn't long before Prost's success in the junior series earned him the attention of a leading F1 team. Prost was on a losing streak when McLaren team director Teddy Mayer offered him a chance to test in a McLaren car. After just three laps, Prost's talents were obvious; Mayer was ready to offer the young driver a contract to drive in the most prestigious auto racing series in the world. He actually offered Prost a ride in the final race of the 1979 series, but Prost turned him down—had no interest in racing F1 without adequate preparation. It was a move that would become characteristic of the calculating Professor. Prost debuted in 1980 as McLaren's
second driver alongside British F1 veteran John Watson at the Argentine Grand Prix. He drove flawlessly, finishing in sixth place, and followed up two weeks later with a fifth place in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Prost's sunny picture began to cloud before the third race of the season. The suspension broke in his McLaren during practice before the South African Grand Prix, resulting in a crash. He suffered a broken wrist and missed the next two races. Car failure led him to crash again that season, during practice for the United States Grand Prix. Prost was disgusted with McLaren team management. They had a falling out over his lack of confidence in the team's engineering standards. He broke his contract with McLaren to join Renault, France's national racing team. He challenged McLaren to sue, leaving the two teams to settle the matter legally.