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Thirty years on from a perfect comeback: Prost’s final title

One of F1's most successful drivers sealed his fourth title this week in one of the sport's most iconic cars

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Alain Prost won his fourth and final title this week in 1993, driving a Williams car that decimated the field. 

Alain Prost shares the podium with Ayrton Senna at Adelaide in 1993 (Image Credit: Adelaide_GP on X)
Alain Prost shares the podium with Ayrton Senna at Adelaide in 1993 (Image Credit: @Adelaide_GP on X)

Prost’s career had not panned out as intended. Following his acrimonious departure from Ferrari at the end of the 1991 season, he retired from the sport. The Scuderia and Prost teamed up after Prost’s relationship with McLaren teammate and title rival Ayrton Senna had deteriorated beyond repair in 1989.

A toxic 1989 season culminated in the two McLaren drivers hitting each other at the title-deciding round in Suzuka. Prost was out on the spot. Senna received assistance from marshalls and staged a heroic comeback drive to win the race. However, Senna found himself disqualified, with Prost declared champion.

Such was the breakdown between the two men; they were no longer on speaking terms. Ferrari seemed logical for the man dubbed “the professor”, and Prost arrived in Maranello in 1990. After a hard-fought season, he once again took the title down to the wire at the final round in Suzuka. Ferrari hoped and prayed for a result as it had not won the driver’s championship since 1979. Sadly, another iconic incident occurred, with Senna and Prost crashing out the at the first corner. This time, Senna was declared champion.

Ferrari and Prost dusted themselves off, preparing for another shot at the title in 1991. Except the 642 proved to be a disaster. P2 in the opening round was as good as it got, failing to start one race and retiring from two others. The Scuderia hastily prepared the 643 as its replacement, which Prost criticised publicly. Unimpressed, Ferrari fired him before the end of the year. A legend of F1 seemed destined to exit f1 on a whimper.

1993: The dream drive materialises in a dream car
The FW15C is one of F1's most advanced and successful cars (Image Credit: FormulaNerds via James Phillips)
The FW15C is one of F1’s most advanced and successful cars (Image Credit: FormulaNerds via James Phillips)

Taking a sabbatical in 1992, Prost agreed a deal with Sir Frank Williams for 1993, placing one of F1’s most successful drivers into a legendary team at approaching the height of its power. After the acrimonious divorce in 1989, Prost ensured a clause in his contract prevented the Brazilian from becoming his teammate.

With the clause active, Williams chose to promote Damon Hill from testing duties to be Prost’s teammate. Although Hill would suffer appalling luck during the season, including being robbed of victory three times by various issues, he would match or challenge Prost on many occasions.

The stage was set for a comeback that could go either way; all Prost needed was a car capable of winning the world title. Williams delivered on this emphatically. The success of the technological marvel that was the FW14B ensured the FW15C would likely follow the same formula for success, given it was effectively the 1992 FW14B adapted for 1993.

The team improved the electronic suspension, anti-lock brakes, and traction control, resulting in an even faster car. The car also featured a push to pass to system, technology well ahead of its time.

A dominant renaissance
Alain Prost on his way to victory at the 1993 British Grand Prix: Image Credit: @F1 on X)
Alain Prost on his way to victory at the 1993 British Grand Prix: Image Credit: @F1 on X)

The impact of the Prost and Williams alliance was immediate at the first race. Taking pole position at Kyalami from arch-rival Senna, Prost had a poor start, dropping behind Senna and Michael Schumacher’s Benetton. By lap 25, his Williams had retaken P1 and finished over a minute ahead of Senna, the only car on the same lap. A crushing display, it acted as an indicator of the season to come.

Taking pole position again in Brazil, Prost easily led into turn one from arch-rival Senna. The weather created far-from-ideal conditions, with rain pouring at Interlagos in the opening stages and rivals opting to pit on lap 27.

Williams opted to pit Hill but not Prost. This decision would have terrible consequences for Prost’s race. Aguri Suzuki spun his Footwork on the pit straight, crashing hard. Prost was now on slick tyres on a rapidly soaking track, and with no grip, a loss of control became inevitable. The second Footwork of Christian Fittipaldi was in the wrong place at the wrong time, as both were eliminated on the spot. Senna took the win in front of his adoring home fans.

P3 at the rain-soaked European Grand Prix followed the disaster in Brazil. However, this particular race at Donington Park is widely known for one of Senna’s greatest-ever drives. Moving from fifth to first on the first lap, Senna’s McLaren was in a different league, and Prost came home P3, a lap down, having not enjoyed the conditions.

From this point in the season, Prost and Williams became almost untouchable. Dominant wins in San Marino and Spain gave way to P4 in Monaco, but four crushing consecutive wins followed. Sealing both titles became a question of when, not if.

However, his victory in Germany would be his last in F1. At this point, bad luck began to come into play. Taking yet another pole position in Hungary, Prost stalled on the formation lap. Now, starting at the back of the grid, he also suffered a fault with his rear wing. P12 was a far cry from his dominant run.

A slow second stop denied him victory in Spa, finishing in third place. Teammate Hill’s win wrapped up the Constructor’s title for Williams. Prost aimed to seal the driver’s title at the next round in Italy. However, a rare Renault engine failure allowed Hill to take his third consecutive win and Williams’s seventh.

Championship secured
Alain Prost celebrates winning his fourth championship with Michael Schumacher at Estoril (Image Credit: BBC Sport via Getty Images)
Alain Prost celebrates winning his fourth championship with Michael Schumacher at Estoril (Image Credit: BBC Sport via Getty Images)

Prost arrived in Estoril knowing he needed to wrap up the title this weekend, announcing he would retire at the end of the season. The clause that prevented Senna from becoming his teammate expired at the end of the year, resulting in Senna choosing to leave McLaren to join Williams for 1994.

Still enjoying his fantastic run, Hill beat Prost to pole position. However, fate played its hand at the start of the race, as it was Hill’s turn to suffer a Renault engine issue. Now, starting from the back, he would need a miracle to win his fourth consecutive race.

Prost lost the lead to the McLarens at the start of the race, but Senna’s Ford engine failed during the race. The Benetton of Michael Schumacher pulled a strategic blinder, the German finding himself leading once the stops were complete.

Earning his reputation as The Professor, Prost opted to remain behind the young German, fearing that Schumacher may take them both out, so he made a move. P2 sealed the title with two races remaining. Williams took its second consecutive championship double, with Prost now added to its list of World Champions.

Senna won the last two races of the year, Prost finishing P2 in both. The two arch-rivals stood together one last time in Adelaide, the final time the two men who dominated F1 for so many years shared a podium.

Prost retired at the end of 1993, having rewritten the history books. His ultra-successful season included starting on the front row at every race, a record that stood until Michael Schumacher equalled it in 2002 with Ferrari. He ended his career on 51 wins, setting a new record for the time, beating rival Senna by ten victories. Again, Schumacher beat this record as part of his ultra-successful 2002 season.

Crushing dominance and standout performances made Prost’s comeback one of the best in F1. The Williams FW15C justifiably earns its place in the history books, driven by one of the sport’s most legendary drivers. Thirty years on, Prost’s achievements ensure he remains one of F1’s all-time elite drivers.

Feature Image Credit: @Historical_F1 on X

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