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I feared I would die every time I raced; F1 LEGEND'S HIDDEN TORMENT EXCLUSIVE: SAYS PROST ALAIN.

Byline: Byron Young sport@dailyrecord.co.uk

F1 LEGEND Alain Prost admits his glorious career was haunted by a fear of dying in the cockpit.

He says modern drivers have the luxury of racing much safer cars at 200mph.

And Prost insists the sport's so-called Golden Era of the 1980s was - as far as he is concerned - the Era of Fear.

As the world salivated at the prospect of another chapter in his gripping rivalry with Ayrton Senna, Prost's concern was it could cost his life.

Before each race he'd ask himself: "Am I going to be coming back tonight?" The 57-year-old Frenchman said: "When I look at the past I'm not thinking about whether it's good or bad, just that it was bloody dangerous.

"I'm just pleased to be here today and in good health."

record Prost has more qualifications than any man alive - except Michael Schumacher - to reflect on the state of modern F1.

After 13 years in Grand Prix, Prost retired in 1993 as a fourtimes champion with a record 51 victories. One year later Senna was killed at San Marino.

Prost's winning run stood for a decade. And the man who would beat it, Schumacher, did so in a career that included just a single aging champion as team-mate, Nelson Piquet.

Prost's achievements came against a roll call of greats - Senna, Niki Lauda, Nigel Mansell and Keke Rosberg were all team-mates.

More than half the 199 GPs he contested ended on the podium and he won four titles, scoring more points each season than all his team-mates except John Watson, who beat him by a point in his debut year, and Lauda who bettered him by just half a point to become champion.

But ultimately Prost was defined by a handful of years going wheel to wheel with the man many regard as the greatest - and twice championship battles between them were decided by controversial crashes.

He said: "The only privilege I feel is to be here and to be able to talk to you. Honestly.

"Since Ayrton died in 1994 F1 has had a different philosophy.

"We've limited a few things, we've talked about safety. All these drivers today have never had a bad accident or injury or never saw a bad accident of their friends.

"It's a different philosophy so you don't live in the emotion. I remember at one stage, every morning you're going from hotel to track thinking, 'Oh shit'.

"You see your kit bag and think, 'Am I going to be coming back tonight?' I'm not saying it was better in my time - only different.

"I'm not sure I'd like to drive this kind of car now in terms of the technical challenge. But obviously in terms of safety and money return, I say, 'Yes' I'd like to drive them.

"Now they start at 20 and race until 40 without risk and are paid a huge amount."

But his praise of McLaren's Jenson Button is unfaltering - a driver he gave his first F1 break to and whose smooth driving style is modelled on his own.

As Button prepares for Sunday's USA Grand Prix, Prost said: "Jenson is like I was, very easy on the car. With my driving style I really had a big problem with qualifying tyres.

"Sometimes we've seen it gives Jenson a good advantage and sometimes problems."

"He deserves to be world champion again but it depends on the tyres and the car."

Button's rivalry with teammate Lewis Hamilton is often compared to his struggles against Senna.

But Prost said: "You cannot compare Lewis to Ayrton - maybe a little in driving style but the approach and personality is so different. I don't like to compare Jenson and Lewis with Ayrton and I. It's a completely different story."

'It's just a privilege to be here and able to talk to you'

CAPTION(S):

BEST OF 3 RIVALS But Prost says the competition of McLaren mates Button, inset left, and Hamilton is nothing like the track battle he had with Senna

THE GREATEST 3 Brazilian F1 ace Senna
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 16, 2012
Words:678
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