Yesterday, we reported on the fact that how a driver speaks of his car may be just as important as how he performs. The focus was the Honey Badger himself, Daniel Ricciardo, and the positive nature he was displaying about Renault’s challenger for the 2020 F1 season. Daniel Ricciardo need only figuratively look above him at Renault’s Special Advisor, Alain Prost, aka The Professor - to learn from history…especially when it comes to Ferrari.
Alain Prost is indeed a legend of Formula 1 and the 64-year-old Frenchman has a total of 4 world titles to his name due to success in 1985, 1986 and 1989, winning titles for McLaren and finally in 1993 winning a World F1 title with Williams. However, there was of course one season when Alain Prost came incredibly close to a world title in Ferrari colours – 1990 when it went to the wire in Suzuka…or rather the first corner due to a title winning collision bringing another title to an equally remarkable legend of Formula One – Ayrton Senna. However, what followed next is a lesson that Daniel Ricciardo and any other racer on the grid feeling their machinery does not match their might, could learn from.
Having come so close in 1990, in his first season racing under the flag of the Prancing Horse, 1991 brought no victory to the (at that time) three-time World Champion Alain Prost and he was not shy about his feelings on the matter. Although, having a contract with Williams already tied up for 1993 probably meant he would be more honest than usual. Having openly highlighted Ferrari’s shortcomings, The Professor became the pupil as Ferrari wasted no time in telling him off through the action of firing him from an elite marque of motorsport.
As published by grandprix.com Ferrari’s Team Director of the time, Claudio Lombardi, made clear his thoughts on Ferrari’s French talisman slating the team and the car in such a demeaning manner.
"Ferrari took this decision to stop with Alain Prost both for the last Grand Prix and for next season. The relationship between a top driver and a top team involves the performance of the driver and then the behaviour of the driver. For the first point we are very happy with the performance of Alain Prost. I personally worked with Alain for the last four months and I think he is really a very good driver and a fantastic test driver. The second point is behaviour. The behaviour of Alain Prost during this season has not been at the level that Ferrari would like from a top driver. His behaviour inside and outside the team meant that Ferrari had to stop the relationship."
In more recent times, Ferrari’s President, during the 2013 season, Luca di Montezemolo publicly criticized Fernando Alonso following the Hungarian Grand Prix:
"All the great champions who have driven for Ferrari have always been asked to put the interests of the team above their own…This is the moment to stay calm, avoid polemics and show humility and determination in making one's own contribution, standing alongside the team and its people both at the track and outside it."
So, should Ferrari be monitoring the potential departure of Daniel Ricciardo at the close of the season – if Sebastian Vettel were to retire – Ricciardo knows what they value. Therefore, the stock value in the Perth native will be in no danger as long as the kind of comments heard this week at Barcelona’s pre – season testing - It was a bit of familiarity you know, obviously getting into the car the second year now, but it certainly did have initial good impressions - continue to flow from the beaming mouth of the much-loved Aussie.