19/09/2018

Renault Sport retro: Prost & Renault F1 champions together at last!

A look back to 1993 and finally, a decade after narrowly missing out, Alain Prost and Renault re-joined to become Formula 1 world champions together…
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That’s right: a quarter of a century has passed since Prost, driving his Renault powered Williams, sealed his fourth F1 drivers’ title and, with it, retired from the sport.

Prost and young British star Damon Hill made for an all-new line-up with Williams-Renault after the departure of 1992’s title winning combination of Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese.

While Williams again produced a chassis (FW15C) superior to its rivals, so Renault had also kept ahead of the rest with its glorious, howling 3.5 V10 engine (now badged the RS5).

In fact so good was the engine that Prost was able to win seven of that year’s grands prix and Hill three while the FW15C-RS5 combo would have the constructors’ title wrapped up for Williams-Renault well before season’s end.

Looking back, one could argue that only quirks of fate got in the way of Prost winning the season’s first nine races. He won the opener at Kyalami in South Africa – an apt victory first time back with Renault after he’d been fired by its team there a decade earlier.

That was 1983 and the race was the season’s final round. Prost had gone into it leading the standings for the Renault team with its own car, the turbocharged RE40. Retirement from the race though allowed Nelson Piquet and Brabham-BMW to steal the title and Prost, critical of Renault management, was swiftly shown the door…

This then, ten years later, was ‘redemption’ and it marked a successful start of a new chapter together for both Prost and Renault, albeit now only competing as an engine supplier.

Prost had started the race from pole position and he would go on to qualify first on the grid for the next six GPs, too. In fact he would achieve 13 poles in all and Hill two to make it a mesmerising 15 out of a possible 16 for the RS5 engine – testament to its versatility and outright performance.

But after Kyalami, Prost would crash out of the lead during a sudden downpour in Brazil while wet weather again stymied him and Hill at Donington Park’s fabled European GP in which McLaren’s Ayrton Senna took one of his most famous victories.

At Imola and Barcelona it was dry and Prost was again unstoppable. That domination should have continued at Monaco, Prost leading until a controversial stop-go pit lane penalty for a jumped start ruined his chances.

Prost replied with four wins on the bounce at Montreal, Magny-Cours, Silverstone and Hockenheim before Hill’s breakthrough first victory came at the Hungaroring.

The title by now, however, was almost a foregone conclusion and, after Spa-Francorchamps and Monza (both of which Hill also won) the big prize finally happened for Prost and Renault (and, of course, Williams) at Estoril in Portugal with a second place finish.

Second places to Senna in the season-closing Suzuka and Adelaide races would follow but Prost, one of the most successful drivers in F1 history, had already confirmed his retirement from the sport. That he’d bowed out at last with a title with Renault after coming so close ten years earlier was somehow a fitting end.