Hidden Ayrton Senna contract clause unearthed in bitter F1 rival dispute

Thomas Maher
Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost pictured on the podium at the 1993 Australian Grand Prix.

Alain Prost said he never pushed for a clause to ensure Ayrton Senna couldn't be his teammate at Williams in 1993.

Alain Prost has cleared up a contract clause misconception that he would not accept Ayrton Senna as his teammate at Williams in 1993.

Having sat on the sidelines for the 1992 F1 season, multiple World Champion Alain Prost agreed a deal to return to the sport with the dominant Williams team.

With McLaren having lost their Honda engine supply, Ayrton Senna was antsy to have a competitive car for 1993 and approached Williams to drive – allegedly for free – but the move couldn’t happen due to Prost having already been signed and vetoing the Brazilian as his teammate.

Alain Prost clears up Ayrton Senna veto misconception

With Senna and Prost having not worked together as teammates during their spell at McLaren in the late 1980s, the two titans of F1 had the clout to be able to make demands of that nature.

With Prost already on-board at Williams, Senna found his way into the same team blocked – leading Senna to brand Prost “a coward.”

But Prost has explained that, while such a clause was included in his contract, it was not him who had pushed for its inclusion.

“When I signed the contract – if I remember – it was January or February so it was really, really soon in the [1993] season,” Prost said on the Beyond the Grid podcast.

“The discussion was very clear and it said the only one I do not want as a teammate is Ayrton. You understand why.

“I even do not remember if it was not Frank who proposed that because he knew that it wouldn’t be possible. I had no idea about my teammate, and I was sure that it would be Nigel [Mansell] at the time.

“I did not know that it would be Damon [Hill]. That was January or February. I had no problem with that. I could not understand, I couldn’t believe they would change two drivers together at the team.”

With Mansell dropped by Williams ahead of 1993, despite being the reigning World Champion, Prost said he had signed his contract without any knowledge of who his teammate would end up being and that he had not signed on the provision of being guaranteed the number one position within the team.

But Prost was adamant that he had never told Sir Frank Williams or Sir Patrick Head that he would veto Senna as a teammate and that any inclusions of the clause in his contract were inserted by the team ahead of signing.

“No, no, I did not try to, myself,” he said.

“He [Frank] was using the media about that but he knew for a long time that was the case.

“I really felt bad about this story because it’s normal when he goes into a team, like many others, they all ask for a number one driver contract.

“I never asked for a number one driver contract, I have never been number one – I have even been number two behind Niki [Lauda] when I signed up for the first year in ’84 – that was really clear on the contract.

“But I mean, you can understand and everybody should realise and accept that, I could not go to another team being a teammate with Ayrton.

“I had no problem fighting against him myself at Ferrari and himself at McLaren. Not doing what I’d done with him on the same team – you know, working twice as hard, doing all the tests in the winter when he was resting in Brazil and whatever. You know, all these things – you don’t want to have it.

“It’s very important to have a good relationship with a teammate but a very balanced relationship. I had a fantastic relationship with Niki, with Keke [Rosberg], with Stefan [Johansson] and, for sure, with Damon.

“Much more than we think and that is good for the team, obviously. OK, some people would say it’s easy because [I] had the advantage, but you can create your advantage. I knew that, with Ayrton, I could not work the same way.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

PlanetF1’s Hall of Fame: Ayrton Senna – The father, son and Holy Ghost of F1

Ayrton Senna: Seven things you may not know about the iconic F1 racer

Alain Prost: Ayrton Senna really wanted me to continue

By year-end, Senna would get his wish as he secured a Williams seat for 1994 – albeit to replace the retiring Prost as the French driver secured a fourth title in ’93.

Announcing his retirement at the close of season in Adelaide, Prost revealed Senna – after a year of not talking to each other despite plenty of shared podiums – had asked him to stay on in F1.

“Nothing, because we did not talk!” Prost said, when asked what Senna’s reaction to his retirement announcement had been.

“The only thing Ayrton said, the first time he talked to me again it was on the podium first. But especially after the podium, he asked me already that he wanted me to come back!

“One hour later, he said ‘Yeah, we don’t want to stop’ and ‘you’re going to get fat’ and ‘why?’

“A week after he called me when he heard that Ron [Dennis] asked me to test the car and said ‘Oh, yeah, that would be good, please come back, we’d be more motivated.’

“That was a very nice discussion. But I could not expect that. It was so different.”

While the infamously bitter Senna/Prost relationship had softened by the end of Senna’s life just a few months later, Prost said he doesn’t believe that he and his rival were more similar than they’d ever have cared to admit.

“No, I would not say that. No, we were very different,” he said.

“Very different driving styles, especially at the beginning – maybe not at the end. A very different way of working inside the team, very different thinking, different education. Different in our mentality also. I would say no, we were very different.”

Read Next: ‘Adrian Newey unleashed’ – £5million RB17 hypercar release date revealed