The Making of Senna part 6: The perfect bad guy?


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Alain Prost, Williams, Adelaide, 1993

Alain Prost says he hasn’t watched the Senna film. He told the BBC he is “suspicious” of it.

But while Prost’s identity as Senna’s ultimate rival is not in doubt, he is arguably not the real villain of the piece.

Alain Prost

“I’m not going to watch the movie,” Prost told the BBC in an interview aired yesterday. “I have it on CD, maybe I will watch it one day.

“I have done the story myself. I know everything about the story. So it’s like when you have a nice dish, you don’t want to eat it cold, and I don’t want to answer all the questions.

“It’s a very difficult time. The way the movie is done, I am very suspicious. But I don’t want to answer more questions about that.”

Writer and an executive producer Manish Pandey met Prost, who he describes as “a very intelligent man”.

While the film has plenty to say about the rivalry between Senna and Prost, Pandey offered these thoughts on their battle for supremacy within McLaren:

“Prost was very clever. For example, people time themselves in very different ways on the circuit. So, in other words, you don’t do sectors one to three, you might do sectors three to three.

“Prost, apparently, was an absolute genius at that. I’ve very, very rarely met a man as intelligent as Alain Prost. An absolute perfectionist.”

He shared an interesting anecdote from a former tyre technician about how Senna responded to Prost putting one over him at a test session:

“[Prost] was very clever about how he would test parts. They would very seldom test together.

“This Goodyear tyre man told me that Senna turned up [at Silverstone] and he was really pissed off because there were some parts on [Prost’s] car that Senna knew must have been faster and he wasn’t given them.

“Senna had been led to believe that these parts were no better but, of course, they were.”

Senna responded in kind the next time he was called on for testing:

“Apparently he turned up, put on load of parts, came back and said none of them worked.

“So that turned the tables for the next Grand Prix: Prost didn’t choose the parts, Senna bolted them on and off he went. There was that level of rivalry.”

But Prost isn’t treated as the villain of the piece: he’s the perfect rival, rather than the perfect bad guy. That role falls to someone else.

Jean-Marie Balestre

If any figure is drawn as a pantomime villain in Senna it’s the late Jean-Marie Balestre, president of FISA (now the FIA) until 1991.

“With Balestre you have the perfect bad guy” says Pandey. “He’s French – Vichy-French – with a black leather jacket, black shirt done up to here and likes to wear his FIA badge on his left arm like a swastika.

“If I’d written that you’d say ‘no-one’s going to believe this – go and write me a better villain!’”

Balestre’s autocratic, table-thumping style speaks for itself – he is seen telling the drivers at one briefing “the best decision is my decision!”

Pandey says: “We could have been much tougher on him.”

He refers to an incident at Interlagos in 1990, following the controversial conclusion to the 1989 championship, where Balestre reacted to abuse from the crowd saying: “This is our championship, if you don’t want it we don’t have to give it to you, you need to learn some manners.”

Balestre’s perceived closeness to Prost was the subject of much speculation at the time: “I think he was definitely biased, and part of his bias was a French bias – it wasn’t necessarily [just] Alain.

“You have a championship which has got rules in French, at that time, the Concorde Agreement is in French, signed in Paris, the FIA and FISA were in Paris. [Until 1985] there had never been a French world champion.”

In 1988 Senna won his first world championship despite Prost having a higher total points score. Prost had to discard more points under the “best 11 scores” rule.

In Pandey’s view, that rule had been introduced after Prost narrowly lost the 1984 title to his team mate:

“Prost had a real problem with the ‘best 11′ rule. The rule came in after 1984 when he’d won seven races to [Niki] Lauda’s four or five. The ‘best 11’ rule was put in to stop consistency being the key to a championship.”

Pandey describes Balestre as someone who “[loved] acting up and playing up”.

“But people have looked back on his presidency and said ‘maybe it wasn’t that bad at all’. He did care very passionately about Senna.

“He was definitely someone who championed the drivers. Bernie [Ecclestone] said to us that he really cared about the drivers.

“He was the guy who banned [ground effect] skirts because he felt they were dangerous.”

Balestre died three years ago, but would Pandey feel comfortable if he was able to watch the film? On balance, he says: “I think we got it right”.

“If he was alive I think I’d be able to sit in a room and say ‘that’s how it was.’”

Senna opens in the UK on today. If you’ve seen the film and have a view to share on how it treats Prost and Balestre, please share it in the comments.

“The Making of Senna” continues tomorrow.

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See the official website for more information on the film and the official Facebook page for a list of cinemas that are showing it.

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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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77 comments on “The Making of Senna part 6: The perfect bad guy?”

  1. Mark Hitchcock
    3rd June 2011, 9:28

    Don’t think I’d want to watch it if I was Prost either. He must be absolutely sick of talking about and always being associated with Senna.

    1. He is erraneouslty remembered for the titles he lost against Senna rather than the ones he won against him.

  2. It’s often said that a hero is best-defined by his villain; the greater the hero, the greater the evil he needs to face (which has led to the suggestion that Williams Shakespeare killed off Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet when he realises that Tybalt was too interesting for the story). Senna and Prost were men who dedicated their lives to to pursuit of pure, unadulterated speed. Balstere isn’t the perfect villain because he’s the image of a Gestapo major, he’s the perfect villain because he wanted to slow down the Sennas and Prosts of the world.

    For this reason, it always struck me as odd that circuits like Hockenheim named chicanes after Senna and Clark and the other greats.

    1. What do you think of how they’re portrayed in the film (assuming you’ve seen it)?

      1. I haven’t seen it. I’m just going off what I know about them.

        That said, I think it’s too easy to get fixated on the negative points. Even the worst villains – at least in cinemas – had redeeming qualities. Look at Max Mosley: he was deeply unpopular, his tenure was fraught with controversy and contradictory rulings and to top it all off, he was outed as a sex fiend. Yet, when Senna died, he went to Roland Ratzenberger’s funeral instead of Senna’s because he felt it was important that someone remember the Austrian. That’s one of the most decent and human things I’ve ever heard of someone doing, and I think it’s a gesture Senna would have approved of.

        1. I see your point. But it’s only fair to point out other F1 personalities attended Ratzenbrger’s funeral: Herberth, Berger, Frentzen, Wendlinger and Lauda. Others didn’t bother to attend either one …

      2. Ive seen it. Brilliant film. I think the comment by Pandey is spot on when he says “…thats how it was”

      3. LOL, I think I know why that comment is awayting moderation. Good idea to have that word under scrutiny Keith.

        So Balestre comes over as not being neutral at all.

    2. Williams Shakespeare


      1. Uh-huh. Sir Frank is quite the playwright. Othello is clearly based on the events at McLaren between Hamilton (Othello) and Alonso (Iago) in 2007, while “Briatore” is Italian for “MacBeth”, and I cannot begin to count the number of similarities between Max Mosley and King Lear.

        1. Most awesome post, sire. LOL

        2. Excellent. Congratulations on being the first person I’ve heard draw serious parallels between F1 narratives and Shakespeare’s, since Clive James.

          When the Benettons (on Pirellis, I think) not only went quick in qualifying in Austria in 1986, but led the race, I recall James saying something like “it was as if Rosencrantz and Guildenstern concluded their appearance in Hamlet, by refusing to leave the stage”. I always loved the way he would juxtapose the sporting and literal with the literary or metaphorical, it was almost Pythonesque and it was a reminder that F1 at its best is about great human struggles, and quite often tragi-comic, or just tragic.

          1. I love Clive James’s F1 season review commentaries.

            Here’s a clip I posted last year you may not have seen…


          2. Keith – thanks for the link, I had missed that.

            “Paul Newman, a formidable racing driver himself, wearing earmuffs to shut out documentary makers who might ask him how he feels”.

            Just great. Almost up there with his Salazar commentary. Since I only have his ’84 and ’86 summaries (on PAL VHS – not the best format for someone who lives in the US in the 21st century), I had never seen this reel.

            I have spent the last 25 years wondering when he will do another one. I’m starting to lose hope.

          3. The ’82 one is well worth finding.

  3. Agree about Prost being sick of hearing about Senna.

    He is a 4 time world championship in his own right and now he will forever live in a shadow of one man.

    1. Actually, 3, since ’89 was practically a gift from Balestre.

  4. thesegoto11
    3rd June 2011, 9:55

    I saw the film last night, and whilst Prost does come not always come across in the best of lights, he is rarely overtly ‘villainous’ – more a smug beneficiary of what you rightly call out as the true villian of the piece, Balestre. Balestre’s behaviour in the scenes from drivers’ briefing hints at his running of the sport as a dictatorship, none so more following Senna’s disqualification in 1989 at Suzuka.

  5. Richey Ward
    3rd June 2011, 9:56

    I watched it last night, and I felt that JMB was the true ‘villian’ in the piece. I couldn’t help get the feeling that Prost and Senna were arch rivals on and off the track, but still held a huge level of respect for each other, maybe Prost more so. It does show a severe bias that JMB had for Prost, (and very possibly a negative bias for Senna).

    Overall I actually came out of this respecting Prost a lot more than I ever thought I could, but that’s just my opinion.

  6. I’ve seen both the standard and extended versions of the film.

    They are radically different in terms of how Prost is presented. The extended version includes quite extensive interviews with Prost, about the incidents with Senna, his relationship with Balestre and the whole Williams affair.

    What Prost says in the interview totally changes the tone of the movie. The standard version presents Senna as the ultimate hero, one man against the rest of the world. This is a bit simplistic and doesn’t do justice to Senna whose charisma, to me, came from the fact that he screwed up a lot and very often, but always gave his absolute utter best in each and every situation.

    Prost touches on this in his interviews and also very bluntly tells us that all that’s ever been say about his rivalry with Senna is a total utter bull, especially the Balestre part. It is very clear from his comments about 1993 and onwards, that Senna and Prost had deep down, a high apreciation for each other’s skills.

    At the time, it was just so easy to twist their competition into a war of words, given their radically different styles and characters. I have to admit that, while I was growing up, I absolutely hated Prost for his calculating ways, his political correctness. I hated him for not going balls out all the way like Senna. Having watched the races again, I now equally admire Prost and Senna. They drove each other to perfection.

    Having seen both versions, I don’t see anyone as a villain. Prost and Senna were absolute geniuses in their own ways. Balestre was not evil, just not the most competent person on the F1 scene.

    Seeing that extended version, leads me to think the film would have been much more insightful had other drivers, like Mansell, Piquet, been asked to describe their competition with Senna.

    1. Forgive my ignorance, but what is this “extended version” you saw and are you saying it’s available in English on Blu-Ray or DVD? I spent quite a bit of time searching for release dates of these discs yesterday and I wasn’t aware that there was anything other than what you can see in cinemas, and some foreign language releases.

      1. The extended version is available at least in Japan as BR. Basically it’s just the theatrical version, but with one hour of talking heads included.

  7. The examples of fighting over car parts and knowledge within the team are ridiculous. I wonder if something like this happened at Mclaren in 2007 as well

    1. What do you mean? Fernando using the Ferrari parts and Lewis not knowing about them? :)

      1. more likely fernando not being allowed to test despite at time still having full 3yr contract.

        the lies to both drivers other qualy strategy in hungary.

        not having control of his tyre pressures in china….

        them pitting lewis on a lap that fernando was about to come in..again china.

        and ‘WE are only racing fernando’ again china.

        Prost, montoya and DC got this same BS from mclaren(dennis).

        everyone forgets montoya letting kimi win a few gps in 2005, despite the team orders rule. But cos its mclaren its ok.

        when its ferrari its cheating…funny old sport.

        1. Yeah, I agree with you. I still think there was something very fishy going on at McLaren in 2007 especially at Hungaroring and the races after and I don’t believe Alonso asked to be N 1 but more likely to be treated the same as Lewis.
          “We were racing Fernando” was quickly ignored while “Fernando is faster than you” is still feeding some journalists. You are right it’s a funny old sport.

          1. I didn’t really watch much of that season, but from what came out of the spygate, it is clear Alonso definitely tested a lot in cooperation with de la Rosa – using the Ferrari tyre data, I think.

            But I agree that we probably won’t ever know what was really happening inside that team, and I doubt it was Alonso and Hamilton having a drink with their engineers and Ron Dennis, together laughing about all the fuss in the media!

  8. It’s impossible to tell Prost’s story without telling Senna’s; their history is irreversibly intertwined.

    Looking at Senna without the rose tint, it is very hard to find objective opinions about him. He was undoubtedly stunningly fast, but I think JYS had the best point of view in stating (in his Bio) that he never looked particularly comfortable in any car, in that he was so totally straddling the performance limits. Personally, I think this did for him, in the end.

    Prost on the other hand was quite comfortable ensuring he never worked harder than he had to. A style easy to respect but difficult to love. I do think history has been unkind to him, and would love a definitive Prost story.

    1. Rose tinted? I always thought Senna got more than his fair share of flak, especially in the British media.

  9. Note to all about movie versions:
    Senna – the theatrical version, 104 minutes.
    Senna – Beyond the Speed of Light – extended version, 2h 42 minutes.

    104 minutes to tell the story is NOT enough. Too many killed babies (movie editorially speaking). The extended version is the only real version for me. It feels like one hour anyway :)

    I recommend Alain to see it. He is portrayed as a big pal to Balestre but is given the time to explain their relation to break the conspiracy bubble. I felt his warm personality everytime he was on screen even when asked questions that might put him in a bad way. I felt he was portrayed all fair.

    The most important to note with Balestre´s “the best decision is my decision!” comment is that it was interrupted by Senna who talked back and looked like he wants to leave the room. Blestre later continues and says it´s the best decision because it´s a democratic decision and then asks all the drivers to vote. He then confirms the driver´s choice and Senna still got what he wanted (move a dangerously put tire wall away). It also looks like Senna felt like a brat for interrupting Balestre when he realized the drivers were going to vote.

    Great documentary

    1. I’ve seen that theatrical version. But now I have to see the extended cut..

    2. Ayrton Senna: Beyond the Speed of Sound

      Not “Light”. Just wanted to point that out.

    3. Thanks for sharing that info boost. I watched the theatrical version when it came to Adelaide as part of the Film Festival a few months ago, and yeah I walked out slightly disappointed. It felt like it didn’t go for nearly long enough. I’m glad that there is an extended version, and now I surely must watch it!

    4. I’ve seen the longer version and agree Prost should watch it. Maybe I was very wrong before, but I have a higher opinion of Prost after watching it then I did before. Balestre is definitely the bad guy in this one.

  10. Back to Prost one more time: I much preferred him to Senna.

    And shame on whoever compares Button to Prost. The latter could go real fast if he wanted to. ;-)

    1. I get pretty annoyed with the comparison too. Button isn’t a master strategist, or the ‘professor’ in anyway. Prost will go down in history as one of the greatest drivers of all time, and Button never had what it takes to be considered an all time great.

      1. but is as boring..

        1. See, it is one of my first times on this site and the first time I read the comments and I love how you guys seem very fair in your comments.

          I agree that Prost was boring (like Button is), but that Prost was lightyears better than Button ever will be.

          I don’t know if it is because people on here are more cosmopolitan than on for example, but as a Frenchman, I hate when people bash Prost for not being flamboyant enough, etc. I was a Prost fan (obviously since I was watching French TV broadcast F1) and I had a hard time liking Senna because it seemed he was all pouting about this or about that, and I just wanted him to get on with the program, but I remember crying like a little girl on that fateful May 1st, 1994, my 19th birthday. :-(

        2. why is prost boring?

    2. Williams4Ever
      4th June 2011, 10:58

      And shame on whoever compares Button to Prost. The latter could go real fast if he wanted to.

      +1 to that. As a Prost fan, I don’t like British Press and its PR about Button’s “Smooth Driving Style”. Button doesn’t have capability to work around the problems of the car, Button isn’t even as good and as fast as the car can go.

  11. Balestre was a buffon, and a powerless one once Bernie ousted him. They kept him involved and in caviar because that was the deal and it suited Balestres own sense of self importance.

    But one thing you realise if you read the latest biography of Ecclestone is that there are no heroes and villains in F1. Just villains. The winners paint themselves as the heroes but they just didnt get caught. The public decides heroes on emotion but its often an irrational decision. A Mansell or a Senna is loved though they are deeply flawed characters. A Prost or a Stewart or a Hamilton are derided maybe just because of their manner or they were the other guy or they were mouthy.

    Personally im going to see the film for the action sequences and the noise. The rest is just someones stories.

  12. They kinda tried to portray Prost as a side villain guy who gets all villainous cause senna is better. and then he leaves and senna tries to make him come back showing senna was a good man who didn’t want to keep any issues unresolved.

    And Balestre is portrayed as the proper villain who just didn’t like the way senna overpowered the French driver. so he first stripped him off the championship and then suspended him for trying to defend himself. And then later when all the drivers didn’t like his act, try to come off as the good man who tries to be fair to everyone.

    Of course there is no mention of how ruthless (i might be exaggerating here) he drove and how he psychologically overpowered the other drivers. I’ve never seen him drive but then that’s what everyone says. But i guess it’s justified as they tried to show senna, as a really good man and a driver whom we lost and the movie doesn’t try to make us decide whether he was a good man or not.

    Great analysis btw Keith. Nice. :)

    1. And I should mention I saw, Senna – Beyond the speed of Light. Which was almost 2 and a half hours long.

      1. Whereabouts can you see the extended version? thanks

          1. As you write in your article
            “Pandey explains: “We got it from five hours to three, and that came down to two-and-a-half quite easily. But now it gets nasty.

            “We had to fight for the 100 – it was meant to be 90, like most documentaries. But every time we chopped it to 90 it was like there was something missing. And when it got to 100 it just left you wanting that little bit more.””

            I guess one of the film makers wanted that little bit more to be available to us fans and leaked the longer version?
            So you´re right, Keith, officially there is no extended version, but the “two-and-a-half” hour version (2:42) is out there. I´ve seen it and Piffles has as well. You should see it too ;)

  13. To be honest, I don’t think Prost is pictured as a villain in the film, but his own confusing testimony of his reaction in Suzuka shows him in a dubious way. In any case, it is well documented that they reapproached in 1994.
    I was there in Sao Paulo when Prost arrived to Ayrton’s funeral. And the same brazilians who one year before booed him now gave them a big applause.
    Of course, Balestre is a villain, and the phrase “da best deshishon is my deshison” is received with laugh but the drivers.
    To me, one of the misteries of the film is the absence os Schumacher’s testimony. In 1994, it was very clear that Ayrton thought Benetton was cheating and he said that to almost everyone. Bisigniano says that very clearly in the film. But the question is left as that, floating…

  14. Re Extended Version, they can’t do an extended version because all the clips belong to Bernie and you can imagine how much he must have charged for what they already have – in the Q&A I went to, they explained they had to go back and practically beg to get the full film’s worth already. They did this because they wanted the movie to be told in real time images and not with retrospective talking heads. So if you are watching a version with talking head interviews, firstly that’s not the movie and secondly that’s a really ****** thing to do to such a perfectly crafted film.

    Re the presentation of Prost, I thought he came across quite negatively compared to a heroic Senna and I thought the redeeming moment was a bit fleeting, at the funeral. Within the context of a film about Senna though, I could see why he was presented the way he was. It isn’t a film about Senna AND Prost – we see practically nothing about Prost’s background or reasons for racing etc. Whether this is right or wrong, is for each individual to decide but I can understand why the film makers chose to do it that way.

    Finally re the presentation of Balestre, he is certainly the bigger bad guy. A lot of it is presented as being a nationalistic ‘French’ thing which is probably correct but not very politcally correct! However the scene where he says ‘the best decision is my decision’ really redeems him when he goes on to explain his decision is to let the drivers vote on the matter. And I don’t agree with the other poster. In my opinion, Senna doesn’t come across as petulant in this scene, just passionate about something that everyone else agrees with but is too scared to say anything about!

    I think it must be really weird for anyone to watch a film about their life. Even if every fact is correct, we each have our own perspectives on how it all went down and what it meant to us. The unfortunate thing for Prost is that Senna died young and has been immortalised (A la James Dean or Marilyn Monroe). More than anything, I’m sure he’d have prefered to spend the rest of his racing life fighting Senna on the track regardless of who was the good or the bad guy.

    I think Senna is an excellently crafted film that tells a unique story very well. But if you have very strong opinions about any of the ‘characters’ or feel you lived it yourself at the time, you’re probably going to disagree with some of what you see and wish they put in stuff they didn’t. That’s not the fault of the film but more a mark of how much these men made an impact on so many people’s lives.

    1. Wow. Thank you for this comment. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said (and you said a lot).

      And yes, I have seen the “extended version” and thought it was too long and disappointing with the talking heads. That makes it something that I (as a Formula 1 fan) loved, but something that my better half (and the public at large) would NOT enjoy, although I believe she would the shorter more embellished theatrical version.

      I can’t wait to see the theatrical version with her, in any case.

  15. the real story goes like this…

    Prost signed for Ferrari mid 1989…Ferrari wanted badly to have the champion of 1989 cause
    Philip Morris would pay a lot more had he won the championship

    thats why shortly after they signed, Nigel Mansell crashed Ayrton in Estoril 89 although he was disqualified of the race, he continued and crashed him out ,simple as that

    thats part 1 of the act

    part 2 was in Suzuka 1989

    Had Prost finished second he d score no points at all, not even 1, so he had nothing to loose…he crashed Ayrton out and then Ballaistre made sure that Ayrton would be disqualified

    in 1989 he never won a race when Ayrton was on track..he had less wins also but still a champion because of Ferrari and Ballaistre

    in an interview in 1994, after Ayrtons death, Prost said he d never drive an F1 car again…only 6 months later he was very close to sign with Ferrari beeing the number 2 and helping Schumacher win the title

    a hypocrite is Alain Prost, thats who he is, just a slow driver who benefited by the fuel consumption rules of the turbo era and who found his way to the top pushed by the french maFIA…

    1. Sorry man .. not buying your conspiracy theory of Mansell crashing into Senna to hand Prost the title. Prost wasn’t always the quickest guy out there, but this so called ‘slow driver’ pretty much matched Senna’s performances in 1988 and 1989… sure he had a little political help, but he was a very talented driver either ways.

      1. Agreed Todfod.

      2. Well said Todford – Prost clearly could driver very fast, but he was also a different racer and character to Senna.

        From all the footage I have seen (didn’t see a race live before 1992) I have the impression that not only Senna, or Prost, but all the champions of the later 80ties, and Mansell too, had quite a tough field of competitors for years. Not all of them had a winning car every year, but they were ready to fight if they did. Look at how often in those years the same people end up in the top five of the WDC.

    2. @Manu: Right….. So Senna had so much trouble beating a “slow” driver.

      What you have said is completely ridiculous.

      1. of course i am ridiculous

        …2 seconds gap between them is not exactly TROUBLE in my ridiculous mind

        @Todfod thats allright, you d never buy Briattore’s crashgate either had i told you…the fact that Nigel was already disqualified and Prost signed only couple of days earlier was just a tragic coincidence…happens!

        only a blind can’t see that Mansell’s move in Estoril 89 was EXACTLY the same with Senna’s in Suzuka 90…

        i really am very proud of Senna the way he revenged in 1990…eye for an eye

        1. Ayrton was my hero. And I think that Nigel did what he did in Estoril because was a crazy guy. His rivalry against Nelson, Alain and Ayrton was hard. Don’t forget what he did in Estoril 1990 against Alain as teammate.

  16. There is an utterly despicable villain in “Senna”. Someone so abhorrent and repulsive, he made me cringe everytime he showed up on the screen, and totally ruined my moviegoing experience. Someone to loathe forever. And he is not Balestre, not Prost, not even Senna.

    And most unfortunately, this individual is still around. And he wasn’t racing Kimi.

    1. I know we all don’t like Ecclestone, but wow.

      1. Well I do like Ecclestone. And wasn’t writing about him of course.

        1. Ah, Mosely is technically still around (alive) but has been ousted from his job :)

          1. Neither Bernie nor Max ever said they were not racing Kimi, that was Ron Dennis. And he’s quite still around, as CEO of McL. No longer team principal, thank goodness.

  17. Having just watched Senna, my opinion is that Prost is not portrayed as negatively as people are claiming. He is Senna’s rival, but not portrayed as a bad man, just as someone whose style and determination clashed with Senna’s. When you have two guys who both desperately want the championship, you can’t have them in the same team. It doesn’t work. I think that’s what really came across.

  18. i watched the movie and would give it 4 out of 10, it doesnt deserve the attention sites like this website are giving it. because senna is dead, the movie relies on this “dead hero” symbol to create its plot. but sennas hero is more then it really is worth, which is unfortunate to guys like prost. senna created one of the worst moments in the history of modern sport when he unsportsmanly like and spitefully took out prost from the 1990 championship for what he in his mind felt was retribution for 1989 (in which prost did nothing wrong). he should have been excluded from the 1990 championship, he fooled no-one, you dont have to even be a racing car driver to see senna took out prost on purpose risking serious injury to both. this was the moment that showed the true colours of senna, win at all costs, which is unsportsman like and selfish. i turned the movie off when they played this moment and its aftermath and still portrayed senna as the hero for doing this.

    1. Prost of course did it on purpose. He is as guilty as Senna was in ’90. The difference is that Senna accepted he ran into Prost …

    2. Kristy, in 1990 Senna had confirmed with the stewards that pole position would be on the left side of the grid as this is where the grip was and NOT the right side which was dirty. He had told the stewards that if this was not the case, he would not go for pole position but for second place to get the grip advantage. When Senna got pole position Balestre overruled the stewards and made him start from the dirty side awarding the grip advantage to Prost. For that reason Senna decided that he would be first through the first corner no matter what. The problem was Balestre not Prost (although Prost rushed to Balestre to disqualify Senna in 89).

    3. Kirsty, Senna is portrayed as a hero due to his character. His morales would not allow him to again be the victim of another FISA ruling. That said, Senna admitted he took no pride in Suzuka 1990. For anyone who watched the 89 season after Imola will know that Prost deliberately turned in on Senna in Suzuka 89. Senna stood up for what he believed in and, whether you like it or not, that is what idols and heros are acclaimed for.

  19. I have just watched the film, and must say it was great. I, as a 20+ years formula 1 fan, just wished I could get hold of that initial 5 hours cut of the film. I would pay good money for that. I don’t think Prost was shown in a bad light at all, he was Senna’s nemesis, pure and simple, not a bad person at all, just someone incredibly talented who wanted to win too. Both are motor racing legends, and having been at the Brazilian Grand prix in 91, 92 and 93 I must admit it brought back great memories, from queueing hours to get into the circuit, being chased down by security after sneaking into the restricted area and the sheer emotion when on the slowing down lap after having won the race in 91, Senna stopped right in front of where me and dad were sitting (sector G). I wanted to run and jump the fence into the track like everyone else was doing, but dad wouldn’t let me (I was just 11 years old).

  20. Having seen the film I think that while Prost isn’t really protrayed as a cartoon villain he does deserve a bit more respect than is shown – maybe he didn’t have quite the same swashbuckling speed as Senna but in terms of temperament Prost had the edge. The movie uses an awkward TV interview to introduce us to Prost and he comes across as looking cocky and a stereotypical French seducer – perhaps they could’ve at least used the old Boisnard on baord film of Prost in Renault days at Monaco to introduce him (another minor complaint is we never see any other driver’s on board camera). The director gives good technical reasons why Senna’s sweve at Prost in Estoril 88 is omitted but it does remove some of the context from Suzuka 89 – it just looks like Prost spitefully turns in and then whines to the stewards. All the more suprising when they’ve got Richard Williams on the voiceover and his book explains the psychology of the situation so much better.
    Still, minor quibbles really. It’s still a great movie. It even shut up the row of drunken ‘lads’ a few rows back who were joking before it began about ‘I wonder how it’s going to end???’ Hearing the muttered ‘oooh Jeeezzz’ from them when Barrichello hit the barrier confirmed that the film had done its job.

  21. They have actually cut and pasted audio transcripts together into sentences and physically put words into Prosts mouth. This is even in the interview version of the movie (at 2h42m).

    As an example, when the movie gets to 1993 and we hear Prost saying all he wanted was a clause in the contract to prevent Senna being his teamate, there is a crude addition to the end of the sentence of:

    “because I wanted to be world champion, I did not want to lose the opportunity”. Where infact that last part Prost said in describing his timing in telling Williams his decision to retire at the Estoril GP in 93.

    It amazes me that they would paint Prost so badly. Like a childrens cartoons villian.

  22. Gaston (@golarrazabal)
    5th June 2011, 6:32

    I think it is fair to say that the movie is definitely not sympathetic to Prost, but neither does it paint him as a bad person. In particular, I think that those few seconds Prost gets towards the end of the film are pivotal to make his role come full circle, in the sense that it makes clear that any negative vibe about him in the film was the natural result of his fierce rivalry with Senna, but not because he was evil or because he meant Senna any harm.

    Ironically, watching the movie motivated me to learn more about Prost. After doing some research I think I appreciate better his achievements, as well as his point of view regarding his rivalry with Senna. I can certainly see a point to the argument that Senna was sometimes too aggressive towards other drivers, a point that was unfortunately glossed over in the film.

    I found this interview with Prost (from 1998) to be quite interesting:

    1. What an awesome AWESOME interview. Thanks so much for sharing this link. I was a Prost fan at the time, and HATED Senna, but cried like a baby when he died on my 19th birthday. This interview – I think – captures the essence of their love/hate relationship. Awesome stuff…

  23. i was born at the end of 1994 so i didnt get to see senna race which for me is strange because i cant think why i like him so much all my life but i went on friday the first viewing in london and i thought it was soo good i couldnt really say anything abt it i had no words for it just a masterpiece !

  24. Before I wathed the Senna film i heard a lot about how badly Prost is portrayed in it.

    Now having seen it i dont know what everyone is on about. I actually felt Prost was the good guy in the film.

  25. I idolise Senna and wanted to wait until a cinema release to fully appreciate this film. I think that the film lacks a good deal of Senna’s earlier life and experiences ie. Rise to F1, his wife, the death of Villeneuve, despair at Kart championship, Nurburgring Saloon Race 1984 etc etc. I could harp on all day about what I think should be in the film and how they shaped him into the man he would become,. But, then again, the film would be closer to 10 hours.

    I thought that the portrayal of Prost is genuine. He is an incredibly nice man. I, as a Senna fan, was almost taught to despise Prost and anything connected to him. However, by belittling Prost, one of the greatest drivers of all time, you immediately belittle Senna. I think because of that, I regard Prost as a motor racing legend. The film does show Prost saying things in anger, but I knew that going into it, this was, after all the fiercest rivalry in F1 history. But, there are jovial moments with Prost that prove that he is a great character and the perfect Senna rival.

    If he is suspicious, he needn’t worry because Balestre is proven to be the corrupt mind leading the story. Some of his decision’s appeared to come out of pure bias and I think he will be remembered more as a problem to Senna than as a F1 legend in his own right. And there, lies the power of the hero that is Ayrton Senna da Silva.

  26. I idolise Senna and wanted to wait until a cinema release to fully appreciate this film. I think that the film lacks a good deal of Senna’s earlier life and experiences ie. Rise to F1, his wife, the death of Villeneuve, despair at Kart championship, Nurburgring Saloon Race 1984, Berger etc etc. I could harp on all day about what I think should be in the film and how they shaped him into the man he would become,. But, then again, the film would be closer to 10 hours.

    I thought that the portrayal of Prost is genuine. He is an incredibly nice man. I, as a Senna fan, was almost taught to despise Prost and anything connected to him. However, by belittling Prost, one of the greatest drivers of all time, you immediately belittle Senna. I think because of that, I regard Prost as a motor racing legend. The film does show Prost saying things in anger, but I knew that going into it, this was, after all the fiercest rivalry in F1 history. But, there are jovial moments with Prost that prove that he is a great character and the perfect Senna rival.

    If he is suspicious, he needn’t worry because Balestre is proven to be the corrupt mind leading the story. Some of his decision’s are suspect and I think he will be remembered more as a problem to Senna than as a F1 legend in his own right.

    And there, lies the power of the hero that is Ayrton Senna da Silva.

  27. Whilst flicking through the channels on a long tedious flight from Delhi to Dubai i came across the film ‘Senna’. I am a female that has never had an interest in motor racing and at the age of 39 can honestly say i have never watched a single formula 1 race. I only know Lewis Hamiltons name because of who he is dating! I flicked across to the film ‘senna’ on this flight because i was having a blonde moment and thought it was going to be about the actress sienna mills, but from the very first minute i was completely hooked ! I went into the film with a completely unbiased view and actually came out of LOVING both drivers. I dont think it portrayed alan prost as a villian AT ALL but just as Sennas greatest rival. I dont think it depicted Balastre as a villian either, just as someone that had a job to do! The only thing i would have liked to see on the film is an interview with Alan Prost after Sennas death. (when i started watching this film i didnt know that senna was dead so was fully expecting him to walk away from the crash) The film had depicted their rivally so well that it was SO VERY OBVIOUS that Alan Prost would have been completely destroyed over Sennas death and yes i think seeing it would have helped people understand that behind a close rivaly is two people that are actually in a relationship of sorts where there is no villian or victim just a mutual desire to win underneath a deep respect of each others capabilities. I absolutely loved the film and have only stumbled across this forum because i came onto the internet with a desire to find out more about these two characters. I was moved, touched and in tears by the time this film had finished – Well done to everyone involved in making it. Formula 1 has gained another fan ! x

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