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Alain Prost crowned Greatest Formula Renault Graduate!

Formula Renault

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06.10.2020

Alain Prost has been voted as the best driver in the history of the Formula Renault system in a month-long poll of motorsport fans and expert journalists here on formulerenault.com.

In the closest fought head-to-head since the start of the tournament, Alain Prost won 52.22% of the votes in the final round to get the nod over fellow Frenchman Didier Pironi.

Still today, Alain Prost’s glorious career inspires many drivers racing in Formula Renault as "The Professor" quickly developed all the qualities that made him the first French driver to be crowned F1 World Champion.

Initially attracted to gymnastics and football, Alain Prost didn’t discover karting until he was a teenager. However, his incredible skill behind the wheel quickly translated into results as he became European Junior Karting Champion in 1972, French and European Junior Champion in 1973, then French Senior Champion in 1974.

Following his military service, he chose to move on to single-seaters for his return to the track. Formed at the Winfield driving school, he won the Volant Elf in 1975 and a grant of 100,000 francs to compete in the 1976 French Formula Renault Championship.

The driver from Saint-Chamond decided to run his own team based near Magny-Cours with a Martini MK17 chassis and an engine prepared by Bernard Mangé and one mechanic, Jean-Pierre Nicolas.

Despite a 40-car field, Alain Prost left his mark on the discipline from the outset. In those days, the slightest mistake could ruin an entire weekend as a qualifying round preceded the final race... But despite a crash in practice, Alain Prost brilliantly recovered in moving through the field in his heat, then dominated the final to win in his maiden outing on the Le Mans Bugatti Circuit on April 4, 1976!

The Frenchman continued to impress the competition and observers by winning again at Nogaro and Magny-Cours. His sponsor invited him to make his debut in the next category, the Formula Renault Europe Challenge, which unofficially replaced the French Formula 3 Championship.

Against other experienced hopefuls led by Didier Pironi, Alain Prost sprung a surprise in slotting his Lola T410 on pole at Dijon-Prenois. While he retired from the race with a mechanical issue, he confirmed his raw speed the following weekend with another front row spot at Zolder.

When he returned to the national scene, Alain Prost continued to dominate with wins at Charade in May, at Folembray and Rouen in June and at Circuit Paul Ricard and Magny-Cours in July. He even picked up the pace after the summer break, winning at Dijon and Nogaro in September, then at Albi and Castellet in October.

His amazing streak of 12 consecutive victories came to an end at Imola, the 13th and final stop on the calendar. Alain Prost took the pole by more than 1.5s before an electrical issue ended his run in the qualifying heat. In the final race, he moved through the field to fourth place in only two laps, but an engine problem forced him to retire. Today, some are still arguing that it was all due to an ill-intentioned outside interference...

The up-and-coming young driver nonetheless concluded his first single-seater campaign with 12 wins, 12 podiums, 10 pole positions and 11 fastest laps in 13 races. Courted by several foreign teams competing in F3 and F2, the Frenchman nevertheless gave priority to the career path offered by Renault’s Sports Promotion, aiming to succeed Didier Pironi in the Formula Renault Europe Challenge.

In 1977, Alain Prost faced stiffer competition. While the returning Dany Snobeck won the season-opener at the Bugatti circuit, the rookie answered back at Nogaro. The two swapped the top step of the podium in the early part of the season with Dany Snobeck taking the laurels at Hockenheim prior to Alain Prost returning the favour at Magny-Cours, then it was Dany Snobeck again the victor in the street of Monaco.

Already methodical, diligent and meticulous down to the smallest detail, Alain Prost showed the first signs of his characteristic approach in consistently scoring significant points when Jean-Louis Bousquet made it a three-driver race for the title with consecutive wins at Pau, Zolder and Charade. While the summer was marked by the emergence of Jacques Coulon, who won at Dijon, Magny-Cours and at Castellet, Alain Prost was the only driver able to stop him at Rouen and Nogaro.

Everything settled down following the summer hiatus. Alain Prost took control with triumphs at Monza and Albi, so much so that Jean-Louis Bousquet’s win in the season-finale at the Circuit Paul Ricard did not change a thing. Alain Prost held on to take the title by three points at the conclusion of a campaign in which he took six victories, ten podium finishes, four pole positions and 11 fastest laps in 16 races.

The rest, as they say, is history. French Formula 3 Champion in 1978, Alain Prost masterfully defended his title in 1979 while adding the European accolade with a prestigious win in the Monaco Grand Prix Formula 3. At the end of the year, he got his first taste of F1 at a test with McLaren, who recruited him for 1980.

Following a promising maiden season with the British team, the Frenchman returned to Renault in 1981 with whom he won his first pole positions and victories in Formula 1. His rise continued until 1983 when he came ever so close to winning the title. Back at McLaren, he lost for just half a point to team mate Niki Lauda before going on to become the first driver from the Formula Renault to win the Formula One World Championship in 1985 and 1986.

The Frenchman then wrote another chapter in motorsport history with his legendary duel with Ayrton Senna. Following another title in 1989, he moved on to Ferrari, then Williams-Renault for a final campaign that concluded with his fourth world championship.

At the end of 1993, Alain Prost hung up his helmet with one of the most impressive records in motorsport. In addition to his four world titles, the Frenchman finished runner-up in the general classification four times while finishing in the top five in 12 of his 13 seasons in F1. With 51 victories and 106 podiums in 199 Grands Prix, Alain Prost sprayed champagne in more than half of the races he competed in.

Following his retirement, he ran his own Prost Grand Prix team from 1997 to 2001 before briefly returning to the cockpit in the Andros Trophy, the FFSA GT Championship or when testing the Renault Sport R.S.01. His career on the other side of the pit wall took off again when he teamed up with Jean-Paul Driot and Renault Sport Technologies to lead the Renault-e.dams team from 2014. The team won four titles in the FIA Formula E Championship, including the first three team titles awarded by the all-electric category.

Since Renault’s return as a fully-fledged constructor in F1, Alain Prost worked as Renault F1 Team Special Advisor before being appointed non-executive director at Renault Sport Racing.

The tournament pitted the 17 drivers who competed in Formula Renault and won at least one Grand Prix in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since the creation of the category by Renault’s Sports Promotion in 1971.

Daily knockout duels gave a voice to fans and a panel of expert journalists. Top seed n°2, Alain Prost eliminated Olivier Panis in the opening round of the competition before he did the same to René Arnoux and Sebastian Vettel.

Despite the final result, Didier Pironi was again able to show his huge popularity to compete for the victory all the way to the end. The 1974 French Formula Renault Champion, 1976 Formula Renault Europe Challenge winner and 1977 24 Hours of Le Mans winner with Renault eliminated Renault DP World F1 Team driver Daniel Ricciardo and six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton before facing Robert Kubica in the semi-finals.

Renault Sport Racing would like to thank the thousands of fans who cast their ballots on formulerenault.com as well as the panel of five expert journalists, composed of Marcus Simmons (Autosport, Great Britain), Massimo Costa (Italiaracing, Italy), Medhi Casaurang-Vergez (AUTO Hebdo, France), Arnau Viñals (FormulaRapida, Spain) and Floris Visman (F1 Feeder Series, The Netherlands) for their collaboration throughout the tournament.

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