Alain Prost vs Niki Lauda

Champion of Champions

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The second Champion of Champions quarter-final features two drivers who were team mates at McLaren for two years.

During their time together Niki Lauda won his final championship title in 1984 and Alain Prost claimed his first the following year.

These are also both drivers took time out of the sport and made successful comebacks.

It looked like Lauda had quit for good when he told Bernie Ecclestone he was leaving Brabham as practice began at Montreal in 1979. He had already agreed terms to continue driving for the team, and his change of mind potentially cost him two years in cars capable of winning the championship.

Ron Dennis convinced Lauda to make a comeback with McLaren in 1982. He won twice in his first year back and once McLaren arranged a deal to use Porsche turbo power he was on his way to world title number three.

It came after a season-long battle with Prost which Lauda won by the smallest-ever margin of half a point. The following season Lauda was dogged by unreliability and retired for good.

Prost’s 1992 sabbatical and 1993 comeback was characteristic of his approach to the sport. He bided his time until the seat he wanted at Williams became available. When he got his hands on the car he emulated Lauda by winning a title on his return.

And both can also talk about championship near-misses. Lauda’s terrible crash at the Nurburgring in 1976 arguably cost him the title that year.

And 1984 wasn’t Prost’s first or last taste of missing out on the title by a small margin: he lost to Nelson Piquet by two points the previous season and was runner-up to Ayrton Senna in 1988 and 1990

So these are two champions with a lot in common. But which of these drivers should go through to the Champion of Champions semi-finals?

Vote for which you think was best below and explain who you voted for and why in the comments.

Alain Prost Niki Lauda
Titles 1985, 1986, 1989, 1993 1975. 1977, 1984
Second in title year/s Michele Alboreto, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Ayrton Senna Emerson Fittipaldi, Jody Scheckter, Alain Prost
Teams McLaren, Renault, Ferrari, Williams March, BRM, Ferrari, Brabham, McLaren
Notable team mates Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell Carlos Reutemann, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost
Starts 199 171
Wins 51 (25.63%) 25 (14.62%)
Poles 33 (16.58%) 24 (14.04%)
Modern points per start1 12.48 7.85
% car failures2 16.58 34.50
Modern points per finish3 14.96 11.99
Notes Lost ’83 title by two points and ’84 title by half a point Badly burned in 1976 crash, withdrew from title-deciding race in heavy rain
Controversial clash with Senna sealed third title Clinched second title for Ferrari in 1977 then left team
Returned from sabbatical to clinch fourth title with Williams Ended two-year retirement to return to McLaren and win third title
Bio Alain Prost Niki Lauda

1 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of races they started
2 The percentage of races in which they were not classified due to a mechanical failure
3 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of starts in which they did not suffer a race-ending mechanical failure

Round two

Round one

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Niki Lauda (22%)
  • Alain Prost (79%)

Total Voters: 630

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Images © Honda (Prost), Gary Faulkenberry (Lauda)

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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80 comments on “Alain Prost vs Niki Lauda”

  1. hardest one yet for me. They are both legendary!

    1. I prefer and have more respect for Lauda, but I had to vote Prost.

      1. That’s exactly what I think! Lauda is an inspiration, but Prost is an unsung hero – perhaps the most underrated driver ever.

        1. As a 3 times WDC I’d hardly call him underrated!!

          1. So as a 4 times champion even less so…!!

            (Keith, any signs of an edit button any time soon??)

          2. I know, but hardly anyone ever ranks him in the top drivers of all time, do they? When you’re talking about the greats, people normally mention Fangio, Clark, Senna and Schumacher. Prost is like the villain of the 80s, and I don’t think that’s right.

          3. Can’t say I’ve ever really noticed…perhaps because when I think of Senna I automatically think of Prost as being his arch-rival (which to me suggests equal).

            That said I only really started watching F1 in 1991 as a 10 year old so don’t really have too many memories of those early (for me) years.

            In fact my first F1 memory is Our Nige’ winning the title in ’92 and my second is sadly Senna’s crash in’94.

          4. Senna is a hero, he is a legend, the things he said ‘racing is in my blood’ etc… his manor, his passion and to a massive extent his untimely death all contribute to him becoming this figure.

            Prost is hence overshadowed. Not many people remember Ascari, I’d rank him at worst just below Fangio and best above him. Yet because Fangio hs 5 world titles and Ascari doesn’t he is overshadowed. No one really thinks of any as that good since 94 till when schumacher retired. Hakkinen, mostly ignored and will be partially forgotten.

            If Senna was a movie then Prost was a facinating book. I prefer Prost over Senna, but because Senna is a legend, a mythical man almost now, people largely forget who Prost was.

        2. Amen to that Damon, Prost doesn’t get enough credit. He would have dominated like Schumacher had he not had such strong competition in the form of Senna, Mansell, Piquet, etc.

          1. I’d argue he still dominated even in the face of such strong opposition. 4 titles and umpteen times runner up.

      2. Prost was exceptional. Senna made less points than him in 88/89 (the only fair way to compare drivers, for me).
        But, I do believe that being beaten in 84 by Lauda is just exceptional. In the same car!
        Vote for Lauda.
        Besides, Prost 93 was kind of of a deception.

        1. Exactly!
          Lauda should’ve had 4 titles – with the one that he lost in 1976 only because of his horrific crash and then being unable to compete.
          And Lauda beat Prost in McLaren in 1984.

          Apart from that: Lauda 34.50% car failures.
          Come on!!

          Lauda all the way.

    2. Lauda was very very good. But Prost, as shown by statistics, was even better.

      1. or luckier?

        1. anybody’s luckier than Lauda… the crash, 2-kidney operation, the plain crash… cmon

  2. They are both fantastic, but Prost clinches it.

  3. Prost . Easy !!!!!

    1. Yep. Much easier than yesterday’s…

  4. Its Hammer time
    26th January 2011, 13:17

    An incredibly hard choice. Lauda, because of his recovery after that fire in Germany in 76. He nearly won the championship that year as well

    1. I’m going with this. I can’t fault either driver really, as I do think they are some of the greatest that the sport has ever produced.

      However, Lauda coming back to win after what happened to him is one of those stories that is almost too good to be true. it’s said that his burns were not healed and still bleeding/raw while he raced for the remainder of that season, which is simply incredible. He’s inspirational in that respect.

      Prost too is fantastic, and in fact to vote against him is difficult. In many ways, he was the perfect racing driver. His story though is not as remarkable as Lauda’s.

  5. Very hard. Lauda beat Prost in 84 by 0.5 point, but that was because the Monaco race was stopped short. Then in 85 Prost beat Lauda. Alain said that Niki was his toughest competitor, because he was very quick and intelligent. He said that the Lauda that raced with him at McLaren wasn’t as fast as the 70’s Lauda. Lauda’s style was racing only what was needed, no less, no more. Prost learned a lot from him.

    1. this is a fallacious argument – if that race had gone full distance, prost would probably have finished 3rd behind senna and bellof and therefore would have only got 4 points rather than 4.5.

      1. Bengt Johansson
        4th June 2014, 9:33

        Yeah, but Bellof would be disqualified, so Prost would be 2nd and score 6 pionts.

  6. Not easy. Both real heavy weights in the sport, with great skills and legends behind them. I choose Prost, because I loved his highly intelligent approach to racing.

  7. There are no “newcomers” in my top eight, and both of these drivers make the cut. But only one is in my top four – Alain Prost.

  8. Prost wasn’t the most flamboyant of drivers, but to be able to keep up with and beat Senna despite lacking the Brazilian’s raw pace means one thing: he was a genius. Niki Lauda has my utmost respect for his F1 career (even if I don’t like him for all his whinging), and was deeply unfortunate not to win the 1976 title. It’s pretty close, but I go for Prost.

  9. 1984, Lauda beats Prost…that and you can’t really beat a chap who’s come back from the dead, can you?

  10. Lauda has a real grit that can’t be ignored… Prost beat Senna in equal equipment… and that is grit cubed!

    Can someone put that into a mathematical equation for me?

    1. Lauda = g

      Senna = gxgxg (there’s no way that I know of to make the 3 into superscript)

      Prost > Senna


      Prost > Lauda x Lauda x Lauda…

      I think that’s a little biased towards Prost…

  11. As I really think about it I came to realize Lauda has lost this on the Ring in 1976. Before that he has won 4 out of 6 races, and ruled 1975 not just driving ‘like a computer’ but also blatantly quick.

    After that he still managed to be the best in terms of overall standings, concentration and stuff… but I think he lost the edge after the accident. Still his superiority in quick-thinking and being smart, knowing when to push and for how long earned him two more WDC.

    Prost learnt it very well and was quite prolific. Ultimately I think he went beyond of his ‘master.’

    So Prost. And I’m sorry for Lauda.

    1. Damn, my English lets me down so many times. :D

  12. Prost for me, should’ve been more than 4 titles.

    1. Yeah there was a fifth… that was lost @ Suzuki.

      1. Agreed, i’m not sure why people say it was just revenge from Senna he was way too hot into the final chicane so it was Senna’s own fault. But what he did to Prost a year later was just damn right dangerous and very unsporting.

        Senna in my eyes would’ve been a true great had it not been for that incident.

        I think Prost deserved in some ways the ’84 title, very unlucky.

      2. and another one was lost at Monaco 84. And yet another one was won by points, but not granted in 88

        1. Arjun Mehta
          26th July 2019, 9:21

          Niki actually had more retirements that season than Prost, Niki just made really good use of the times when Prost retired… Also team orders kept Niki behind Prost at the German Grand Prix. Niki wasn’t great that season in quali which he put down to the differences in engine power between qualifying and the race, however I reckon he was better than Prost in the races, with strategy as well. He got more fastest laps that year than Prost

  13. Wanted to Vote Niki but voted Alain both deserving but only one can go on.

  14. Prost. Just. And to be honest, it’s because of a personal preference rather than skill, or talent, or results because I can’t really distinguish between the two on any of these criteria.

  15. Nearly 35 per cent car failures for Lauda, that is surprisingly high! I think he is one of those drivers who is in most people’s top 7 or 8 and he of course beat Prost in ’84 despite winning less races which is very impressive. This of course being after he won two titles against the previous generation of drivers, and had that horrific accident. Pretty unbelievable character.

    However Prost is best remembered for his duels with Senna, and the fact he matched Senna in the same car for two seasons as well as his unbelievable race craft means he gets my vote. He could conceivably have had 8 titles which considering the standard of competition back then to be competitive for such a long period of time speaks volumes about his skill. I’m pretty sure if the modern points allocation had been used in the 80’s he would have had more titles than 4, he was the master of consistency.

    1. On the contrary. Prosts consistency failed to get him more world titles. Both in 1984 and 1988 Prost got more points than the world champion, but because of his consistency he couldn’t count them all because in those years only the 11 best results counted.

      Both Lauda and Senna won because their best 11 results were better than Prosts, but Prosts results were beter over the whole season. In all years where Prost missed the World Championship, the various points systems over the years do not change the champion. Only allowing all results versus the best eleven results does. See F1 Facts for details.

      1. In the modern points system all results count. That was what I was trying to say.

        Therefore if the modern points system was applied to back then (i.e all results rather than 11 best scores) then Prost would have been champion in ’84 and ’88.

    2. True. In 1985 he had technical issues in the first ten races of the season. Then came Zanvoort where we won his last race even after the team gave him the wrong tires.

  16. These are starting to get really hard. But as much as I admire and respect Niki Lauda – and despite the figure that shows all of those car failures, I had to vote for Prost. He is perhaps the most underrated driver ever, which probably stemmed from the fact he was racing against the likes of Senna. But there’s no denying the statistics above. He is a truly talented man. +1 to Prost.

  17. Prost will win it by a nose

    1. 123-29, a rather large nose

      1. for which he is known :P

        1. HA! brilliant

  18. Oh boy – hardest one so far, probably the hardest we’ll get… Prost by a whisker

  19. This duel is unfair in quarter finals.. Should be semi! Lauda should go further! Prost is top 3 ever and lauda might be too or top 5.. this isn’t fair… :(

  20. Much easier than the Michael-Jim pairing. Look at the stats. Prost – Winner 4 times, Runner up 4 times. The only one who beats him is Michael with 7 wins and 3 runnerups

  21. Personally I think Lauda is overrated. May be it has to do with the accident on the Nurburgring or that he did well in good cars, but like I said when compared to Alan Jones, Jones managed to get points in mediocre cars, where Lauda didn’t. In both his Ferrari and McLaren years he probably had one of the best cars in the field. And maybe that is one of his qualities as well, to get a drive in the best cars (just like Fangio did). But based on statistics Lauda isn’t even top ten material. Not in wins, poles, fastest laps or points. Prost is top ten in three out of four.

    Besides Prost beat Lauda in probably all seasons they raced each other fair and square (even in ’84 where Lauda became world champion based on the best eleven results) so my vote definitely goes to Prost

  22. Very hard.
    I believe Prost lost to Lauda in the direct comparison in ’84, but he learnt from him so many things he was able to win 4 then!
    I believe Prost wouldn’t ever have been Prost if he didn’t learn that much from Niki.
    Voted Prost…but may be just for number of championships.

    1. I agree. Prost learned a lot from Niki. Mostly that qualifying isn’t (at least it wasn’t back then) that important. It’s important to be consistent in races. To know when to push and when not to.

      The Rat and The Professor; Master and apprentice.

      Very close, but Prost gets my vote

  23. Both were great, but probably Prost have the upper hand despite the fact that Lauda made a very brave comeback in F1.But looking through the data it has to be said after Schumacher & Fangio Prost is the third most successful driver in F1.

  24. This, after the massively complicated match-up of yesterday, is like being back in primary school. That is not to say that Lauda doesn’t deserve credit, but Prost is simply speaking phenomenal.

  25. Has to be Prost

  26. Niki was my hero when i was 10. Coming back from the accident was topped by nobody, and it probably never will. When i was growing up i had the chance to see him win his last title, and i cheered for him.
    I never liked prost as a driver. His style never captured my imagination, and he seemed slow, and unspectacular. Eventough he wasn’t.
    After listening to both in some interviews, i don’t especialy like any of them, but to me prost was the better of the two, driving against senna, and beating him in the same car.
    Lauda doesn’t do himself any favour, talking so much trash against fellow drivers, just for people to keep turning the tv sets on. In my book, he couldn’t be the champion of champions.

      1. That’s bizarre. And someone at the Mail needs to learn how to spell.

        Yes, I know, look who’s talking… :-)

      2. What did he expect when he signed up?

        Kidding of course! :D

  27. I actually found this really tough. I think Schumi or Prost would be my Champion of Champions but then I thought of Lauda who managed to best Prost in 84.

    Lauda was blindingly quick then he wised up and became a very complete driver. His determination was unquestionable and his natural ability shone through when he came out of retirement. He really could have stopped Hunt from pinching that title and is perhaps unlucky to only have 3 while Prost is usually seen as quite lucky with the title he won at Williams (but then again he did have more points than Ayrton in ’88 and dragged the Ferrari so close in 1990).

    I’ve gone for Prost because I really do think he was a genius. His Monza performance in 1988 is one of my favourite F1 stories ever. This was surprisingly, very tough for me to the point where before I now really rate Lauda as one of the best F1 drivers. Although the biggest problem with Niki these days is Niki; I really don’t think he endears himself to fans the way old champs like Stewart do and that could hurt him.

  28. I sooo much want to vote Lauda, so much respect for the man, but I have to be honest, and no matter what my heart says, Prost was clearly the better driver, even though I strongly believed he was past his prime after 1990, and only won the 93 title because of the car, and he still made hard work of that.

    But missing out in 3 and 84 by such narrow margins….no Prost has to be the clear winner here

  29. Interesting note:- Had F1 gone down the ‘Medals’ route when it began (and what Bernie so wants to be implemented)then Niki Lauda would be Twice World Champion and Alain Prost, Five Times.

  30. Prost. Because he made something difficult look easy. No one could ever accuse Prost of over-driving his car.

  31. In the modern points system all results count. That was what I was trying to say.

    Therefore if the modern points system was applied to back then (i.e all results rather than 11 best scores) then Prost would have been champion in ’84 and ’88.

    1. Actually all results counted in 84, so Lauda would have won anyway. 1988 was the only year in F1 History where the driver who scored most points didn’t get the title.

      but i do agree Prost only lost the 84 title due to bad luck.

      Its also clear how Prost learned from Lauda. In 84 Prost won 7 races, while Lauda won 5. Lauda also had more DNF, but he won because he was more consistent than Prost, and, apart a 4 place, he only got wins and 2nds.

      That’s the same situation Prost saw himself in 88, winning 1 race less, but being far more consistent than Senna. However, the 11 best system prevented him from getting the title

  32. I went for Lauda for him overcoming that accident and returning for another WDC with McLaren. But I expect Prost to win this and actually hope he can take it to the final round.

  33. Very hard choice, both of them are exceptional drivers…The edge goes to Prost however.

  34. For me, Prost is quite possibly the most complete driver ever in Formula 1.

  35. Prost of course. Even tho Lauda is one of the very best (but not THE champ of champs).

    I’ve been watching F1 since the Jackie Stewart days, so I can’t say much about Fangio or Jim Clark. But in the last 40 years Prost gets my vote as the absolute best. That includes of course Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher (my candidates for 2nd and 3rd).

  36. In stats Prost wins. More wins, more poles. In rivalry Lauda wins. He beat Prost when they were teammates. In total championshis Prost wins. 4 to 3. But in my mind I know….Lauda is the winner. Maybe the accident played a role in my decision … I don’t know. My gutt tells me that he will be the one that will move on to the next stage.

    1. Hmmm Prost 321-81, maybe you should see a Gastroenterologist 8)

      1. lol

  37. I think it says it all that Lauda beat Prost when he was still young by a very thin margin and the next year Prost trounced him. There’s so much more to the comparison than this but for me this is the essence of why Prost got my vote.

  38. I think in Alain Prost X Ayrton Senna or M. Schumacher X Ayrton Senna.
    I don’t know for the others, but Senna is the best

  39. this poles is getting harder and harder had to go with the professor in the end

  40. Has to be Prost

  41. quite easy this one. the professor. very successful, wasn’t a car breaker and was a fair, clean racer. the only glaring blip i remember was when he binned it on the formation lap in the rain at imola in the early 90’s

  42. Prost, even though I really disliked him when I was younger and got into a fight about his name being Frost haha.

  43. Speckled Jim (@)
    27th January 2011, 12:47

    Go Niki. Mega fast, crashed and burned, came back and won another WDC. Prost, Mega fast, had HE crashed and burned he would have cried and never gotten into a racing car ever again. (Stop the race its raining is a good enough example IMO) Lauda gets my vote, driving while still bleeding and in enormous pain from terrible burns. A true champion, between him and Prost anyway.

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