Quadruple Formula 1 champion Alain Prost, has been around and witnessed the evolution of F1 through several eras. The French great says ‘you need to live with your time’ when discussing which generation of F1 cars he’d rather drive.
The “Professor”, as he is famously called, has raced in 199 grands prix starting from the 1980 season. He famously partnered the great Ayrton Senna at McLaren for the 1988 and 1989 seasons, where the two famously clashed and dueled on and off the track, writing one of the most exciting chapters in the history of F1.
Prost, now a non-executive director for Alpine F1 Team was speaking to the Prost in the Paddock podcast series recently launched by Alpine. And gave his opinion on the difference between old and modern F1 cars, and the differences between them, based on his experience from his racing days, and the sampling of new F1 cars on several occasions.
“The driver can adapt himself to all kinds of cars, and I asked the question myself,” said Prost.
“But I remember in the last few years, I drove a modern Formula 1 car, and I also drove my car from 1985, that was in Austria. In the same week I drove the Lotus, I drove the Red Bull modern cars.
“These cars are not very different in terms of technology, but they are all perfect. It’s the ergonomics also in the car [that] was much, much better than what we had, but the feeling was not the same,” he explained.
“I drove my car from ’85, I had the exact same shoes, overalls, helmet and the car had the same pedal positions when I left the car like this. I drove the car with a mechanical gearbox, obviously, with the clutch, and what I felt 30 years before came back in about half a lap.
“I could feel everything, I could feel the pedal, I could feel the wind, I could feel the grip. Everything was all together. The way you brake, the car goes on a little bit on the front.”
However, Prost admitted that driving modern F1 cars doesn’t not come naturally to him, being used to the cars of his time, their characteristics, and driving requirements.
“These modern cars are not for us,” he said.
“You need to be young, you need to be trained to do that after the karting. You never brake with the right foot, you brake with the left foot, you never change the gear like this so, in fact, when you have learned so much, and when you have experimented so much, these types of cars, this one is not for you, so you have less fun.”
Prost went on to give an example about the gap between his generation of drivers and the current generation, giving his son Nico’s experience driving his father’s 1983 Renault at Paul Ricard, as an example.
“I remember when Nico [Prost] came and drove my car from ’83 at Paul Ricard, he did only two or three laps and he said it was s**t!” he recalled.
“We had to stop because it would break the gearbox, because they never change the gear with the clutch, with a clutch pedal.
“That is why it is really the proof that you need to live with your time, with your generation, and you can’t have both – it’s almost impossible,” the Professor concluded.
During his involvement in F1 as a driver, Prost has won a total of 51 races and scored 33 pole positions on his way to his four Fomula 1 drivers’ titles.