Could Ayrton Senna have really driven for Alain Prost’s Formula 1 team? As ludicrous as it sounds, when you recall their bitter racing feuds, it just might have happened had he lived longer…
An interesting quote emerged this week originating via our colleagues in France, from Alain Prost on the subject of Ayrton Senna…
"It's funny, maybe a week before the accident [at Imola, which so sadly claimed Ayrton’s life] we were talking on the phone," said Prost. "I told Ayrton: ‘You know, one day it would be fun if I had a team and you could be my driver.’”
“And we were laughing about it, but at the time we were already talking to buy Ligier at the beginning of 1994. It would have been fantastic, no doubt very good."
Wishful thinking, or a serious proposition? Don’t underestimate the power of their friendship – despite their many recriminations, Senna had huge respect for Prost, which Alain only truly realised after he’d retired from driving.
“I keep the last six months [of his life] in my mind,” Prost once told me. “That’s when I knew Ayrton much more than ever before. He was a completely different person, I understood who he was and why he was acting sometimes.
“I look back on how he was [when they were both racing] as a compliment. I came to understand that Ayrton’s main motivation, almost his sole motivation, was to focus on me and on beating me.
“That is why when we were on the podium together in Australia in ’93, when I stopped, just a few seconds later he was already a different person. That is the souvenir of our relationship that I carry with me today.”
The moment everything changed
Remember that Adelaide podium ceremony? It turned out to be more significant than we’d ever imagined at the time. We knew it was Prost’s final Grand Prix, but it turned out to be Senna’s last-ever victory too.
After Prost received his runner-up trophy, Ayrton insisted that Alain stand with him on the top step, physically pulling him up to stand arm-in-arm together. A poignant scene...
But talk to Prost now, and although he enjoyed sharing those final few months of Senna’s life – as they became firm ‘phone friends’, he says something felt… unworldly about it all.
And that was never more true on that fateful weekend at Imola in May, 1994.
“Near the end, when we were close, it was very strange because we would talk about the bad safety and this kind of thing,” said Prost. “He would ask me many times to take the lead of the GPDA, and I said no. We had some very private discussions together around this time. It was very strange.
“I keep this souvenir [of him] from then right until his last day, because I met him two or three times, and just before [the race at Imola] – and of course he was already this different person to me. That is why I prefer to think about that alone.
“Ayrton called me on Saturday, so I met him on Saturday, and I met him on Sunday twice – the main constant [of their conversations] was safety and the fact that he was not happy with the situation, thinking that the Benetton was not legal.
“He was very focused on that, but it was very weird… Very weird.”