F1 - Making History with Alain Prost

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As Formula One prepares to mark its 1000th grand prix, AUTO asks Alain Prost to choose his most memorable race. He chose his first ever F1 race, the 1980  Grand Prix of Argentina.


It’s impossible to choose a favourite race or a most significant, so I’ll go back to my first race, in Argentina in 1980. When I started, we had unbelievable drivers: Clay Reggazoni, Emerson Fittipaldi, Carlos Reutemann, Alan Jones, Gilles Villeneuve, Jody Scheckter. You can’t believe what these guys were like, with their charisma, their personality. And the cars! The cars were unbelievable. We had small teams, an aluminium chassis, and unfortunately, a lot of accidents.

Today it is maybe a bit different. [The drivers] start much younger, the cars are really different, and the risk is a lot less. When I met with Alan Jones or Carlos Reutemann at my first race we almost had a big hug, and you could see in their eyes that they were saying ‘we are still here; we escaped.’ We had a fantastic time, but we escaped. It’s importany to remember that.

That first grand prix was a very strange race. It was very hot and the tarmac was going completely away. The race director was Juan Manuel Fangio. We were in the drivers’ briefing, and we didn’t know if we could race. I remember Fangio said: “OK guys, there is only one solution: you have to go slow!” Everybody laughed. It was that relaxed.

But it was all those guys really. You never forget it when you meet people like that, especially in that period when in almost every race we had an accident. It really was an unbelievable time.

Looking to the future, it’s hard to know. We are in a period where we have a lot of technology, a lot of data. That technology is fantastic, and for the major engine manufacturers, it’s very good, as there is more and more a link between society and competition.

Having that, if we talk about the future direction of the sport, then in my opinion, we should go towards a Formula One where there is more ingenuity, where we have more surprises, more strategic possibilities, and we need to make the sport more human – drivers, engineers – we need to accent the human side, and maybe focus a little bit less on technology.

Of course we need to have that extreme engineering but I think we need to have more of a balance. Then I think Formula One will be a little bit more understandable for people outside of the sport.