The F1 star on how Alain Prost inspired him to become a world champion
My mentor didn’t initially know he was my mentor.
There was one driver who I always looked up to. I didn’t know him as a child growing up, but I loved his way of driving. He was definitely a mentor from afar, he just didn’t know it. His name was Alain Prost.
Alain was the one I identified with from an early age.
I started racing because my dad bought me a kart when I was seven. He was a real fan of Alain. We both loved watching him race against Ayrton Senna, who many people say was the best Formula 1 driver ever. Alain and Ayrton had some great battles, great duels during their careers – it was very special to have grown up at that time. But, for me, it was all about Alain’s approach to racing. People called him ‘The Professor’. For him, it was more than just what outright lap time he did; it was his way of driving, his skill, his way of building a team around him. He is a hero.
He was someone who gave everything and maximised what he had.
From the beginning of his career to its end, he was someone who got the best out of himself. That’s why I like him so much. Even without trying to copy his career, I’ve done exactly the same [in terms of] the way I drive the car and work with the team.
He inspired me away from the track, too.
I think it is always good to have someone to look up to. In sport – or even life in general – you have got to have someone who you look up to.
Nowadays, we’re cycling buddies – and he’s still as competitive as ever.
We’ve done quite a bit of cycling together. It’s always nice spending time with him away from the motor-racing world, and hearing lots of his great stories. He’s always interesting. This is a guy who won four World Championships, so
to hear his comments on situations in his career and how he went about it is great. He’ll be 60 next year and he is still a very competitive person – he was even talking about competing at the World Championships for his age group. Alain is a lovely guy, very quiet. He never really gives me tips or anything, though. I think he realises I pretty much know what I’m doing now!
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