Excerpt from “The Rivals” – The Legendary Challenges That Changed Sports

Excerpt from the collection of sports stories “Rivali” published by Einaudi.

We are publishing an excerpt from “Rivali”, our second collection of sports stories, published by Einaudi. you can buy it World Health Organization. Below is a portion of the story dedicated to Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Other competitors said are: Enzo Mallorca, Jacques Mayol, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Nadia Comaneci, Nellie Kim, Michael Phelps, Chad Le Clos, Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin, Diego Armando Maradona, Billy, Billie Jean King, Margaret Smith Court, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

It’s June 3, 1984, and it’s raining over the Principality of Monaco as if it were November. It’s not just a Sunday – how would any Sunday be in a place like Monte Carlo? – The Formula 1 Grand Prix is ​​operated by the Principality circuit consisting of roads removed from normal roads and three kilometers and three hundred meters of walls, depressions, sidewalks and guardrails. Doing it all on a sunny day is crazy, not to mention in the midst of a storm, when cars can’t drop many horses and spin tires, raising clouds of evaporating water that are impossible to see through. Despite the rain and poor visibility, the race is started regularly and almost all cars pass through the diversion in the first corner, in Santa Devota. But the race soon turns into a struggle for survival.

Alain Prost is a young French driver with extraordinary talent. McLaren, one of the finest teams, signed him to join Niki Lauda, ​​a two-time world champion who came out alive, like a phoenix, from his car’s flames a few years ago. The confrontation would have frightened anyone, but not Proust, who loves impossible challenges. Small in stature, with a hooked nose and sad eyes, Proust was such a footballer that he came to drive almost by accident. In Monte Carlo he starts from first place and in the first laps guarantees a certain distance from the second, the Englishman Nigel Mansell. He does not force command and does not respond when Mansell sinks his attack. Prost gives up the lead in the race because he knows Mansell will not be able to maintain that pace for long. On slippery Monte Carlo asphalt, going faster than Proust means accepting a very big risk. Only a few laps pass when Mansell puts his Williams against the barriers and Prost resumes pole position.

Alain Prost is the accuracy of the calculation.

Meanwhile, at the back of the race, a Brazilian boy, who made his debut at the Circuit de Monaco, lit the race. His name is Ayrton Senna and at Tolliman’s Wheel, a machine built by hand and with few resources, he beats one opponent after another. In a few laps, he went from thirteenth to second, and from that moment his race became a chase. Cena is athletic and has deep black eyes on an actor’s face. From an early age he was a kart phenomenon. His Monte Carlo car trembles, jumps and moves like a mechanical bull, spitting flames out from behind with every gear change. Senna eliminates Prost’s advantage with an ax, taking three seconds of space between him and the Frenchman on each lap, which is a colossal amount. Only a driver with magical sensitivity could attempt such an ambitious attack, on this kind of circuit and in the conditions where the asphalt is on that day.

Ayrton Senna is a subconscious beauty.

On each lap, a McLaren mechanic knocks out a table that shows the Senna is getting closer and closer. Proust sees him in the mirror and may begin to fear him. On lap 28, after a third of the race, Prost waves his arm outside his car. The rain has intensified, and continuing to run is very dangerous: from the launched car, Prost asks the commissioners to suspend the race. After two sessions he is satisfied. Prost stops on the main straight in front of the race director who displays the red flag and orders a stop. Senna takes the lead a few meters from the finish line, sure wins, but the regulation requires that the win be awarded taking into account the lap rating prior to suspension.

The failure to win the dwarf race was a very difficult setback for Senna: “Formula 1 is political. When you are young, this can happen to you, too.” No one knows Prost’s true motives, if it is his sincere concern about the futility of the track and the safety of drivers. He told himself that his Porsche’s engine was starting to slip, and his brakes were about to fail, as did his colleague Niki Lauda’s brakes. Whatever the real reasons, Prost had the power to stop the race and use it. On the podium, happy to hold the winner’s trophy, little did he know that he had made the biggest mistake of his sporting life.

Prost “le Professeur”, the calculator, although he did not win any of his world titles in 1984, was already the most powerful driver in the most powerful car. What threat could that Brazilian boy pose to a rising star in Formula 1? In the gray hell that the Principality of Monaco turned into on a Sunday in June, Proust miscalculated. If the race had been completed, and had Senna overtaken him, Prost would have scored six points. With the early break and the relative victory in half, he came home with four and a half. At the end of the year, Lauda won the title by half a point over Prost. But losing the World Cup was a small thing: Prost now had a sworn enemy, which he will forever have. Throughout his career, Senna dreamed of destroying Proust, becoming a stronger, more desirable and stronger driver than the Frenchman. The chase begins on that day in June in Monte Carlo, and does not end with a red flag, it continues in time and space, and reaches our days, because the showdown between Cena and Prost was the greatest rivalry that fans had ever seen. Circuits where Formula 1 races.