Meeting a Formula 1 legend the day before a race could be fraught with tension. At that level – indeed, with any professional sportsperson – they go into a state of mind that mere mortals cannot comprehend. But the driver I’m meeting is semi-retired, and any tension would concern his son’s upcoming performance. The legend is Alain Prost.
All I need to do to put him into context, if F1 history isn’t your thing, is to cite two numbers: 51 career wins and four championship titles, a record bettered only by Michael Schumacher, with Juan Manuel Fangio having one more championship to his credit. This makes Prost genuine F1 royalty, and – still young at 61 – he remains passionate about the sport.
He’s also passionate about watches. It was watches that brought about this meeting, because Richard Mille is the partner of e.dams-Renault team, co-owned by Prost, and the brand supports the team’s drivers, Sébastien Buemi and Prost’s son Nicolas. With such a grand name in motor racing brought to Formula E – it’s like someone called Breguet or Ditisheim joining your watch company – the new race series acquires unassailable credibility, as well as a sage adviser.
“I knew about Richard Mille’s watches for many years,” said Prost, “because, yes, I am a ‘watch guy’. I have had so many – and I’ve also suffered a couple of robberies.” Among the watches he lost is a Rolex “Paul Newman” Cosmograph Daytona. The wry smile that accompanied him telling me this shows just how cool he is, in the sense of being in total control.