EXCLUSIVE: Alain Prost On Williams' Lap Of Legends, Verstappen's Dominance, Hamilton's Ferrari Move, And More

Alain Prost - VCARB
Alain Prost - VCARB / Red Bull Content Pool

In an exclusive interview with Sports Illustrated's Lydia Mee for Williams Racing and Michelob ULTRA's "Lap of Legends" campaign, four-time F1 champion Alain Prost delves into the history of motorsport, underscored by the legacy of the British team.

Reflecting on his era's technological milestones, notably during his tenure at Williams, Prost highlights the transformative impact of innovations like active suspension and the advent of artificial intelligence in racing analytics. He also discusses the shifting landscape of Formula One fandom, influenced by modern media phenomena such as "Drive to Survive" and social media. Prost reminisces about his legendary rivalry with Ayrton Senna, contrasting it with today's dynamics.

Lap of Legends - Williams Racing - Michelob ULTRA
Lap of Legends - Williams Racing - Michelob ULTRA / Williams Racing - Michelob ULTRA

Michelob ULTRA and Williams Racing have collaborated to create "Lap of Legends," a groundbreaking real vs. virtual Formula 1 race that honors the legacy of Williams Racing and its iconic drivers. Featuring Logan Sargeant and virtual avatars of F1 legends like Mario Andretti, Alain Prost, and Jacques Villeneuve, the event showcases the fusion of sports heritage and modern technology.

Utilizing advanced AI and augmented reality, the race accurately replicates the legends' racing styles. This unique experience, enriched with innovative augmented reality helmets and extensive camera work, brings fans an immersive blend of past and present F1 excitement.

Lydia Mee: The Lap of Legends celebrates the history of Williams Racing. How important do you think it is for Formula One to have a team with such a rich heritage?

Alain Prost: “I think it's very important. I'm already the older generation but even when I was racing, I always thought that the tradition was very important. [It] was taking care of the past, the past drivers, the past teams and obviously when we had this proposition from Michelob ULTRA, and to be all together with the Williams team, with all the drivers, I was very excited because I thought it was a way to celebrate the tradition of the biggest and the most successful team in Formula One.

“And being all together with all the racing drivers, but also with the young generation, because I [had] never met Logan [Sargeant] very closely, that was the first time. So it's also the occasion to be part of the team. I still have some old guys in the racing team and the new generation of drivers being together. I mean, having fun all together, but with a different way of looking at races. 

“When I was there at Silverstone, it was really interesting for me. I was really curious about the technology all the time during my career, but it went very far today - the way they are doing that using the 1,200 hours of footage plus. Today you could use all the data that you have on your cars and we never had that before. For me, the best car in terms of technology was in Williams in ‘93 because we had the active suspension, we had a lot of different things on the car.

“In ‘93, I realized that obviously we were going, step after step, in the direction of technology. So, when I was there at Silverstone, I just realized that it's a combination of technology, a new technology now with artificial intelligence and everything you can do.

“But at the end, it's only to get the people all together - young generation, new generation also to have the fans. I look forward to see what the fans are going to look at this program with the old racing drivers and the new racing drivers with different technology, but always with one team, you know, Williams and with a sponsor, Michelob ULTRA, they are doing quite a lot of things with Williams in the last few years. I'm very interested about that.” 

Alain Prost - VCARB
Alain Prost - VCARB / Red Bull Content Pool

LM: We have seen a large increase in fans following Drive to Survive. How do you feel Williams’ partnership with Michelob Ultra has opened up fans to the history of Formula 1?

AP: “I think it was one thing I really thought about very often because it's very simple in our generation. We only had fans of Formula One and obviously we were passionate, but mechanics, engineers, drivers obviously, but even the media, they were really passionate about our sports. You know, let's say the old generation.

“And now slowly we came to the, let's say, Netflix story during the Covid time, which made Formula One very interesting because we had a lot of people and really young generation very interested about our sport. But, you can be a fan, but are they going to be traditional lovers of our sport?

“Are they going to be more and more interested about the human side? The technology? You have a little bit of the whole part of this story. And that's why I think this program [Lap of Legends] brings everything all together. 

“It's going to be very interesting. At least they can see what it was before, the old generation, and then they may be even more interested to look at the past. And that is why the Williams story is also very, very interesting.”  

LM: The Lap of Legends is set around the iconic Silverstone circuit. With the news of Silverstone’s 10 year contract extension, do you think it’s important to retain the legendary tracks as more street circuits are added to the calendar?

AP: “I mean drivers of my generation, we have some ideas. And we have some conviction that maybe it's not good for the present and the future. We have to be honest. It's more for the young generation. If you ask me the question, I would say yes, we need to keep a part of traditional circuits, a part of tradition in our sport. I think it is very important. 

“How much? 80%, 50%, 20%? I don't know. You have some iconic races and iconic places and it's very important to keep that. And that is why it’s very important to keep the tradition of big names also.

“I mean, for example, I don't like some names of new racing teams, I don't like that because you're losing the tradition of our sport. So everything is important. It's all in the details.”

Alain Prost
Alain Prost / Red Bull Content Pool

LM: You described your time with Renault in 1981-83 as one of the “worst situations in your life” partly due to the reception with the French fans and media. From your point of view, what impact has social media and the likes of Drive to Survive had on the sport and its drivers?

AP: “I think it's two different things. I think Drive to Survive was really quite a big thing. I only have one question to myself - that was COVID. If we had not had COVID, do you think the impact would be as much? I don't know, because during COVID, I've seen a lot of series that normally I never look at. So, you have to be a bit careful about the message. 

“Obviously social media is very different because you can touch a lot more people but there's always a negative part of it, you know, because the messages that you can show and the good or bad things, you don't know. It's very difficult to judge.

“You know, as I was saying about the passion of media in our time, you knew that when they were talking about the car, when they were talking about technology, for example, they understand. So, now with social media in a way, you can almost spread messages and so it's good for the volume. It may be not as good for the quality.

“But, it is also a part of our generation, our society is a little bit like this. So, you just have to be conscious that you need to get the best of that. With social media, I ask myself very often, what could have been our fight with Ayrton [Senna] with social media at the time? I mean, that would have been, I think, a disaster.”

LM: Speaking of your relationship with Senna as one of the most iconic rivalries in the history of the sport. How do you feel about Max Verstappen’s dominance since 2023 without anyone really threatening him, apart from Sainz’s win in Australia and Singapore? Do you feel it is impacting the sport for fans?

AP: “It's different. I mean the fight with Ayrton [Senna] was also because we were teammates for two years and our rivalry went after our teammate period, so it's very different. 

“Today, the big teams are organized a little bit more like a number one driver, number two, especially with Max [Verstappen], for example, at Red Bull. So, it's a little bit different, but I still think that if you have a fight for a championship with two or three different teams, the value of the winning driver is always better. But, it's always a difficult thing because, for example, Max is one of the best drivers today. Maybe the best, you have to accept that. 

“If you look at the perception that people can have - he’s winning because of this car, so in fact, it’s not as good for himself, which is a shame because I think he's really part of the success.

“But the big teams like Ferrari, like Mercedes, like Red Bull obviously, they are going to be more organized and have more chance to win if they have a number one driver, a favorite driver in the team. And then they concentrate on that. So it's a little bit of a shame at the moment, we do not have that.

“We did not have that as much, Ayrton started and Michael [Schumacher] and Lewis [Hamilton] and now it's Max. It's not always the decision of the driver, it's part of the game today. But again, if Ferrari can join the fight and maybe Mercedes later on or next year, it's going to be quite a nice fight.

“Especially with Ferrari, because Ferrari is a big name in Formula One. If they start to fight again for a title, especially with Lewis next year, it is going to be a big thing. Then social media is going to work well for sure.”

Alain Prost
Alain Prost / Red Bull Content Pool

LM: You touched on it slightly then about Lewis Hamilton moving to Ferrari. Do you think his decision to move gives an indication that he’s seen something within the team for 2025/2026 and do you think it is possible for him to win an eighth title with Ferrari?

AP: “I can understand his decision because obviously when you are in a team like Mercedes, when they did not win a race for two years and they are really struggling to go back to the front, and at his age he has said, ‘Okay, why not try something different’.’

“I mean, I’m not sure if he had the possibility to go to Red Bull, but not with Max for sure. So that's not possible. Then you can go to Ferrari, especially with the regulation change in ‘26. Then you only have one year, ‘25, that way you can [settle into the team].

“After ‘26, he will be 42, I think, maybe even 43 so it's going to be another story. But I can understand, if you don't want to stop racing. The question is, is it a good move? Is it going to be a good choice? Also, for Ferrari, you could ask the question.

“It’s good for the sport because everybody's going to watch. You could have an idea, but the idea or the perception you could have today is going to be different next year at the same stage, because he will be one year older and will he find his motivation back being at Ferrari?

“It is possible because if it's for a short time, maybe only one year, if Ferrari is going well, I think he could find the motivation back. The relation with Charles [Leclerc], you know, the ambience at Ferrari is also [important]. [He has had] such a long period with an English team, Mercedes, with a way of working and then you go to an Italian team, especially with the different pressure, different way of thinking, he is under pressure from the media. I think it's not that easy.” 


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Lydia Mee

LYDIA MEE

Lydia is the lead editor of F1 editorial. After following the sport for several years, she was finally able to attend the British Grand Prix in person in 2017. Since then, she's been addicted to not only the racing, but the atmosphere the fans bring to each event. She's a strong advocate for women in motorsport and a more diverse industry.