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February 14, 2023

Some questions in life are not easy to answer and some are.

When it comes to the best deacade in F1 for me 1980 to 1989 comes 1st by a long way.

You name the ctiteria and the 80's ticks all the boxes and lets start.

Star names like Arnoux, Jones, Reutemann , Villeuneuve, Rosberg, Watson, De Angelis, Alboreto and Berger.

Then the Gang of four and what a Gang.... Piquet, Prost, Mansell and Senna and there is a reason for the order.

Piquet from his first full season in 1979 until his retirement at the end of 1991 was a major force to be reckoned with. His 3 World Titles are the stuff of legends.

While Piquet is my favourite there is no doubt in my mind that Prost is the best of all time. 4 World Championships against the best of the best.

Prost thrashed Arnoux, destroyed Rosberg and Anihalated Mansell in the same car. He comprehensively beat Hill and hugely outscored Lauda (84 85) and Senna (88 89) over two Seasons as team mates.

Mansell affectionately known by his legions of fans as Our Nige and Il Leone was an acquired taste but a superb driver who on the right day was quicker than anyone.

Senna is a legend and possibly the most revered F1 Driver of all time. I am not a fan of the man, but what a true ace behind the wheel.

There is no doubt that over a single lap Ayrton Senna Da Silva was the stand out of his and all time.

Then one more absolute legend and possibly the most well known name in F1 history Niki Lauda the 1984 world champion.

Niki's best years were no doubt 1974 to 1978 where he was champion in 75 and 77 and the moral victor in 76.

Lets look back at some of the other things that stand out in the 1980's.

The Iconic circuits that was the original Kyalami, the unmolested Paul Ricard Circuit at Le Castellet and the Adelaide street Circuit that made its debut in 1985.

Innovation and firsts. The stand out has to be BMW becoming the first team to win a Title with a Turbo engine.

Of course the honour for that goes to Nelson Piquet, the beautiful Brabham BT52 designed by Gordon Murray and powered by the 4 Cylinder 1500cc BMW monster that Paul Roche engineered.

Stand out moments are plentiful.

The 1984 Monacco Grand Prix alone has it all.

Nigel Mansell on route to his first GP Victory, over cooks it on the slippery white line and bins it.

Prost then leading but being caught rapidly by two youngsters who wrote their name on the "I have arrived list".

Ayrton Senna was magnificent in the rain and Stefan Belloff was even better still.

It finished 1 2 3 in that order and for many the start of the Prost Senna War had began.


There are 6 that stand out and while some where tame, some where unfriendly some where outright war.

Alan and Carlos These two had what I think was the first real rivalry in F1 amongst Team Mates. Carlos didnt like Alan much and Alan didnt give a continental S#$# about Carlos

However it never got dirty and while Alan and Carlos could have done better in 81 to work as teamamtes and deny Piquet the Title, I would describe them as tame :)

Didier Pironi and Gilles The two French speaking Drivers were actually friends and very good friends at that. 1981 was their first season as teamamtes at Ferrari as Didier joined Gilles in the team. Gilles had been at Ferrari Since late '78 and was a driver that Enzo loved.

In 1981 it was fair to say Gilles totally dominated and many put it down to pure ability. The fact was Gilles was in a different class it was felt to all but Prost, Piquet and Jones.

At the start of 1982 Pironi was a different animal and so was the 1982 Ferarri. Many where of the view that there were only two teams in Title contention Renault and Ferrari.

Herein was the the beginning of the end for the friendship and it all happened at Round 4 at the other Home race of Ferrari at the Imola circuit in the tiny Principality of San Marino.

The major British Teams which where Mclaren, Brabham, Williams and Lotus Boycotted the race.

The race was a straight fight between Prost and Arnoux in their Renault's (Get ready, these two are up next) and the two Ferraris.

While both Renaults read the script and retired with their customary engine failure, Gilles and Didier found themselves so far ahead of the 3rd Place Man Alboreto they were not sure he was still in the race.

Gilles was in the lead on lap 44 when Arnoux retired and he thought the last 16 laps or so would be a easy coast home with Didier as his loyal wingman.

There were a couple of reasons for this in Gilles mind. He was number 1 Driver, had proven to be the quicker of the two and was going for win number 7 all for Ferrari v 1 win for Didier in total (Zolder 1980 in a Ligier)

On the very next lap being lap 45 Didier overtook for the lead and Gilles put it down to giving the fans a spectacle and duly followed for 4 laps.

He then re took what he felt was his rightful place and eased back substantially and assumed that Ferrari would instruct Didier to do the same, which they in fact did.

The lead changed many times over the next 8 laps and at the start of the last lap Gilles was in front and he foolishly believed that Didier would not attack.

The rest as they say is history and Didier did the unthinkable in the eyes of Gilles and overtook while Gilles was cruising.

Didier won the race but little else and at the very next race in Belgium, Gilles lost his life in Practice.

The loss of Gilles was felt by fans, drivers and all involved in F1. Seldom was there a driver universally liked, but there once was and his name was Gilles Villeuneve.

Rene Arnoux and Alain Prost While at face value these two were totally mismatched in 1982 they were not. Like Gilles and Didier they were initially friends albeit they were polar opposites. Alain was smooth and class and Rene was not and we are not just talking about their driving it must be said.

At the start of 1982 their second season as teamates Prost was even more dominant than Gilles had been over Didier. Prost won 3 times in 81 and had challenged Piquet for the title right until the end while Rene had set new standards on how to destroy his machinery.

Prost won the opening two rounds of the 82 Season and had established a 5 win to Zero (Over 81 82 Season) tally against Arnoux.

With Renault vying to be the first Turbo engine to win the title it is fair to assume that everyone including Rene's mother would have backed Alain.

Come round 11 at the magnificent Paul Ricard Circuit and Prost still in contention for the title the scene was set for team Renault to Dominate and that they did.

One Leetle problem though it was Rene doing the winning and Alain rightfully or wrongly believed Rene would honour his pre race agreement.

The Pre Race agreement was that if he was leading and Alain second he would give the win to Alain for the sake of the title fight.

One must not forget that in 1982 Rene was already 33 and in his case Alzheimers light set in and he duly won the race :)

What was strange is that despite the treachery Alain was made out to be the Villain and Rene who was super popular in France rode it all the way:)

Nelson Piquet and Alain Prost No two drivers epitomise the 1980's better than Nelson and Alain and few will argue the point.

At a time when the best results were to be achieved by being fast and smooth Nelson and Alain stood out.

They were clever thinking drivers who knew how to develop a car. They knew how to push a team forward and they knew what being clean on track meant.

Between 1980 and 1989 these two dominated with 6 Titles and 4 Second Place finishes as well 59 Race wins. There was not a single season in the 80's where one of the two did not fight for the title.

What made their rivalry incredible was there was never any needle and they to this day remain friends.

In 1983 they fought until the very last race with Piquet winning and the same in 86 until the last lap of the last race with Prost winning.

A fun story at the last race of the year at Kyalami. Nelson takes a Nelson Piquet Fan Club sticker and plasters it on Prost's car.

Alain peels it of a and pastes it on his overalls and poses with Nelson's Girl Friend Sylvia Tamsma (Mother of Kelly Piquet) It was a different time.

Piquet and Mansell Brains v Brawn others say natural talent v a fighting Spirit.

When Nelson joined Williams at the start of 1986 as Nigel's team mate, very few people who knew anything about F1 would have given Nigel a chance.

Nelson at that stage was considered either outright best or equal best with Prost. Nigel on the other hand had just recently won a race for the first time.

What Nelson had not factored in was while Nigel was no heavy drinker, had a acquired a taste for champagne.

The 1986 Mansell was a completely different animal to the ragged Mansell of years gone by. Armed with the magnificent Honda Powered Williams Fw11 Nigel was impressive.

The season unfolded to become what many consider the best ever season in F1. Nelson and Nigel fought week in week out to defeat each other and in the end they did just that.

Prost snuck through to take the title and Nigel and Nelson both realised the other plus the team plus themselves were to blame.

In 1987 Piquet took his 3rd title by taking a totally different stance v Nigel. Nelson went for points and Nigel was win or lose literally and that is why it was Piquet the Brain v Mansell the Brawn.

While they definitely didn't become house friends Nigel and Nelson today are friendly and both admire and acknowledge each others mega careers.

Funny story at the 1986 Mexican Grand Prix, Nigel was having Diahorea on a level that threatned the whole race weekend :)

Nelson being the caring symphathetic individual he was ensured Nigel had zero toilet paper around as he put it "so not to hurt his bum"... Nelson you legend!

Prost v Senna is like Ali v Foreman Tyson V Holyfield and Germany v the Allies...... It was war and World War three was put on hold so these two could have the limelight.

Few will argue that Prost v Senna is the definitive rivalry of all time between two drivers who were at the top of their game and didnt want to lose.

At the end of 1987 Mclaren signed Senna to join the team at start the new Honda Relationship after 4 incredible years with the Tag Porsche engine that had yielded the 84 85 and 86 Titles.

Prost claimed that while Ron Dennis wanted Nelson the reigning 3x World Champion Prost reccomended Senna as he felt Ayrton was stronger for the future.

I personally have always called BS on this one and I feel Alain thought Senna while quicker at that stage in their careers was less complete than Nelson and he would beat Ayrton easier.

From the moment Ayrton arrived Prost said he could feel Ayrton wanted to destroy him. Every practice, every test and certainly every race.

During 1988 the Mclaren was so dominant that Prost and Senna had only each other to beat and they won 15 out of 16 races.

The relationship in 1988 was actually pretty decent except for Ayrton trying to kill Prost by edging him into the pitwall at over 300km/h at Estoril.

It was in 1989 and 1990 that gloves were swopped for weapons and the weapons were their cars.

At the 1989 Title deciding Japanese Grand Prix Senna drove into Prost and got Disqualified. The reasons for the Disqualification are debated till today.

However take it from the writer Ayrton was at fault for the accident itself.

One year later the most disgusting incident in F1 history happened at the first corner at the start of the same race and again a Title Decider.

Senna viewing his title loss to Prost the year before as theft vowed that Alain will not make the first corner if he was behind and true to his word Ayrton used his Mclaren as a battering Ram.

Senna duly won the title by claiming his innocence.

One Year on in 1991 he admitted his "assault" and that ladies and gents is why I do not admire the late great albeit floored genuis that was Senna.

Who wants to argue that the 1980's was the greatest decade :)

Michael Pashut

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