“Senna versus Prost” – read the review and win one of six copies

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Senna versus Prost (click to enlarge)
We’ve already had one new book on Ayrton Senna

to mark the 15th anniversary of his death – and here’s another.

But this one has a twist. Written after discussions with Alain Prost, “Senna versus Prost” tells the story of their infamous rivalry which dominated F1 from the moment they became team mates in 1988, until Prost’s retirement in 1993.

Read the review below plus enter an exclusive F1 Fanatic competition to win one of six copies.

I was halfway through a biography of John F. Kennedy when a copy of “Senna versus Prost” arrived for review. Ironically the Kennedy book is sub-titled “An unfinished life” – the very sentiment which has inspired so much interest in the three-times F1 champion.

To put it into perspective, a glance at my bookshelf reveals five biographies of Senna (one of which a compilation of several other books by the same author). Of his nemesis Alain Prost, four times a world champion and winner of more Grands Prix than anyone bar Michael Schumacher, I own just one, published before his final championship victory.

This is not because I am uninterested in Prost – far from it – there are simply not as many books written about him as there are Senna. At least, not in English.

So I had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Malcolm Folley’s “Senna versus Prost”, enough to put “Unfinished life” on hiatus. Not least because Folley had secured an interview with the only one of the two combatants still around to talk about it.

Since the collapse of his eponymous, ex-Ligier team in 2001, Prost has often been reluctant to talk to the motor racing press. This is a pity for all concerned, as it has denied us greater insight into a man who unquestionably was one of the greatest ever to compete in the sport.

Folley seizes on the differences between Prost and Senna’s experiences of death in racing and uses it to explain their contrasting approaches.

Prost was on the scene of Gilles Villeneuve’s fatal accident at Zolder in 1982. Later that year it was Prost’s Renault that Didier Pironi struck in practice at Hockenheim that year, launching the Ferrari into the air, burying it into the ground, smashing Pironi’s legs.

That first-hand experience of the death and destruction brought about by Pironi and Villeneuve’s rivalry motivated Prost to ensure the same did not happen to him: “From this point on,” says Prost, “I changed the way I drove. I remember 1982 as a defining moment.”

Perhaps inevitably, the book casts Senna in a more critical light than many others do. Some would say this is closer to an accurate portrait of the man, free of rose-tinted sentimentality.

I had to hold myself back from skipping forward to the chapter on 1989 to read Prost’s account of the championship-deciding crash with Senna at Suzuka. I’m not going to reproduce it here (you’ll have to enter the competition!), but suffice to say I thought his insistence that “I had no interest to make a crash” was disingenuous and at odds with the author’s efforts to paint Prost in a positive light.

There are no headline-grabbing revelations to be found, especially if you’ve chewed through as many Senna books as I have. I did find some sections rather flabby and weighed down by irrelevant detail.

Given the recent dramas at the McLaren team I was expecting and hoping to hear a bit more about Ron Dennis’s role in events, but he doesn’t get an introduction until 40 pages before the end.

However I appreciated the new material in it, particularly the interviews – not just with Prost but also seasoned F1 observers who saw Senna at close quarters, like Martin Brundle and Gerhard Berger.

Perhaps this book would have worked best offered as a book dedicated to Prost rather than a sort of ‘dual biography’. Sadly, it’s not difficult to imagine why such a proposition would be less attractive to publishers. Still this is more likely to find a home among fans of Prost than Senna.

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“Senna versus Prost”
Malcolm Folley

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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23 comments on ““Senna versus Prost” – read the review and win one of six copies”

  1. Hmmm…It may be hard to read a more honest impression of my hero, but as the years have gone by, I have found myself missing, respecting and admiring Prost more and more. In fact he is most probably my second all-time favourite driver. Something I would never have thought would happen.I must definitely by this book, and also add it to my Senna Collection. At least it is something new and different…it has been a long wait. Thank you for the excellent review Keith :-)

    1. Funny thing is (responding to Ayrton’s comments here) as a Prost fan, I feel the same way about Senna now. I used to detest the guy but he would have to come in as my number 2 now. Without the other, neither man would be the legend they are today. Two sides of the same coin. I didn’t even know this book existed until I saw it in the book shop yesterday and gasped in delight and bought it immediately.

  2. Why is there a picture of a Ferrari racing against a Williams on the front cover??? That has eff all to do with the rivalry. Talk about a lazy author and editor!!!
    Its things like this about F1 books that really wind me up!!!

    1. I have to agree 100% with Gareth here, that is simply unforgivable.

      It should have simply been the 2 McLarens from 88/89… that represents the Senna/Prost rivalry like nothing else IMO.

    2. Totally agree Gareth, I was a little bemused by that too. It should have either been the suzuka 89 coming together or a side by side shot of them going down the main straight at Estoril in 1988

  3. Keith, is this UK only?

    1. The competition? Nope :-)

  4. Scott Joslin
    26th May 2009, 11:54

    I am half way through this book. There are parts I really like and parts I feel a bit indifferent about.

    Firstly I am a bit like Keith, I have read quite a few books on the career or death or Senna, and this book does use a lot of the famous interviews and alreay documented about the life of senna. However so far the most interesting part are the words of Prost as his life story is less talked.

    Folley’s style is very thorough, he does tend start a story off and seem to go somewhere completely different to what the main focus of the book is about, eg he spends a lot of time talking about Ratzenburger, but for readers that do not know too much about these characters this must really add to the book as all these characters are all someway inerwoven and exellently portrayed.

    While I have not got to the real meaty parts of the book, I have enjoyed it, however I have found like keith the urge to just cut to the chase.

    I would recommend this book to anyone who has not read the many books on Senna, or who would like to have more detail about some of the characters in F1 from the early 1980’s.

    The credits in the sleave say the photo on the front cover is from the british grand prix 1991 and it is Mansell V’s Prost. PS don’t expect any photo’s in this book as there are zero.

    1. PS don’t expect any photo’s in this book as there are zero.

      Good point – forgot about that. Quite unusual for a new hardback like this.

  5. Keith, you are absolutely right – It is not a book for Senna’s fans. Prost has always been bitter about Senna, and one only seem to have his versions of the facts in this book. If on top of it, you also have Murry Walker and Peter Windsor giving their two cents…well, Senna won’t come out in very good light.

  6. Prost may not have been much of a talker after Prost GP’s retirement but, he was pretty candid during his career and he has given a few in depth interviews since. He has always been honest about the Pironi crash’s affect on his attitude and driving and even recall one post 1994 interview quoting him as saying if he had been in the Williams that day he would likely not have been pushing it to the limit like Senna was. It wasn’t said as a criticism of Senna,as I recall but that he wouldn’t have risked as much in a car with some of the difficulties the Williams had early that season.

    Oddly enough I’ve never looked for a Prost biography but, I do have a book he co wrote about the techniques of driving. I may dig that out. I think he may have made a reference to rallying which he indicated he would probably not warm up to, or his style didn’t suit or something like that. Interesting since I think he’s done some ice rallying since, hasn’t he?

    I’ve always given him the benefit of the doubt on that Suzuka incident and since the man knows everyone thinks he took Senna out deliberately anyway, I doubt he would fabricate or resort to selective memory at this late stage. It would just be meaningless.

  7. Antifia, most indications are that Prost stopped being bitter about Senna (if indeed he ever was) the day he retired.

  8. Let’s not forget that Senna wouldn’t be as big as he is considered if he hasn’t faced a rival like Prost.

    Schumacher, on the other hand, missed a rival like Prost or Senna, because Hill, Hakkinen and Alonso are very far from them, and that’s the main reason why many people think he wasn’t the greatest, despite breaking almost every record… other even say he only broke all that records because he didn’t face a tougher opposition…

    1. I agree with the last sentence, although i completely respect Shumacher’s career, and how he contributed to putting Ferrari back on the top for so long so consistently, you can’t but admit that he didnt have a proper rival, or nemesis. the only person that was occasionally beating him was Barrichello, and as we know the poor guy was ordered to give up his leads one way or the other.

      What makes Senna a great in my opinion is the fact that he shared the track and swapped championships with a couple or even few of the greatest as well. Nigel, Prost and then at the end Schumacher, and with all of them he proved a worthy opponent.

      I’ve always respected Prost, and he was my second favorite always, and i cant wait to read this book. lets see if i win this contest first…

      how will you be choosing the 6 winners Keith, if you don’t m ind me asking?

      1. And particullary what, beside British supporters’ sympathy and general fan’s sympathy with Mansell as a driver and a person makes him a better driver than Hakkinen was? I see that people are often underrating the lad. Same goes with Hill and especially Alonso, who is once described as the hottest talent after Schumacher and the best driver around here, a moment ago some say that he’s a shelf lower than Mansell or Prost. So what’s with him finally?

  9. Bigbadderboom
    27th May 2009, 15:40

    Schumacher was by far the most talented driver for his period, and he could only beat his opponent to prove this, however when discussing the greatest, (and maybe this should be a thread of its own) I think Senna and Prost still sit apart in the modern era. Recent revelations regarding certain financial and prefferential treatment has left my memories of Schumi tainted. I now have a stronger feeling as for why he got away with so much.
    It is easier to reflect on the Senna/Prost rivalry with rose tinted glasses, but as a young man at the time I remember it being quite firery. But as ever with a new publication I am looking forward to reading it.

  10. Aquatic Mammal
    3rd June 2009, 10:37

    Who won?

  11. Why not Piquet?
    8th June 2009, 0:20

    I am Brazilian but I wasn

  12. Why not Piquet?
    8th June 2009, 0:26

    Iam Brazilian but I wasn’t a Senna fan. I see ppl talking about Senna just was great because had great rivals at his time (ppl says Nigel, Alain and Michael)but and Nelson Piquet? I don’t know why England thinks that Nigel was beter than Piquet. Nigel won just one year, Nelson three. Nelson was much better driver or, as Nelson said: “I won 3 times, Mansell lost 2” – Remember 86 and 87

    1. Just check out the races from 86/87 – Mansell had Piquet for breakfast – remember Silverstone?

      Mansell effectively ended Piquet’s career – ironic when you think that in F3 – Mansell, according to Piquet – was one of the ****** at the back of the grid! How sweet that Mansell crushed the brazilian – arguably one of the most unpopular drivers (with his peers) ever to sit on the F1 grid.

  13. SHAME ON FOLLLEY !!!! Shame on Prost.
    You never even came close Alain and you know it!

  14. Prost in the same league as Senna? Check out the statistics!!! Prost only really won at Le Castellet. Look at the facts !
    The only one who could ever challenge Senna was Mansell NOT PROST !

    1. Did you ever watch the 88/89 seasons? If you seriously think Prost only beat Senna in France start with Mexico 88 (available on Youtube) a comprehensive beating for Senna with Prost absolutely supreme.

      The Mclaren guys from that time also knew the facts: Senns could do the 110% qualifying lap and was peerless – But over 60 laps of a race Prost was his master – just watch the races and you’ll see how Senna scarpers off from pole and then slowly but surely Prost reels him in – Most are available on Youtube.

      Also check out fastest lap stats etc. for those two seasons – simple conclusion: Prost was faster in race trim.

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