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Friday favourite: The F1 legend who impressed in a short-lived McLaren partnership

His wealth of experience in Formula 1 and other categories means Stefan Johansson isn’t short on candidates to choose as his favourite team-mate. But despite their relatively short association, Alain Prost left an indelible impression during their single season together at McLaren in 1987

Stefan Johansson, McLaren MP4-3 TAG, with Alain Prost, McLaren MP4-3 TAG

Stefan Johansson drove for 10 different teams in Formula 1 before enjoying a successful IndyCar and sportscar career, capped by victory at Le Mans in 1997 with Tom Kristensen and Michele Alboreto. Now 67, the Swede points to a driver that he only partnered for 16 races, but someone he believes is a game changing F1 all-time great, as his favourite team-mate.

For his third full season in an F1 career that began with two non-descript appearances for Shadow in 1980, Johansson joined McLaren for 1987 to replacing the retiring 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg. He was teamed up with Alain Prost.

“I’ve had so many team-mates, and so many great guys too, that it’s hard to pick one,” says Johansson. “But I’d have to pick Prost.”

Prost had won his second consecutive world championship with McLaren in 1986. But Johansson’s arrival in the team from Ferrari, where he’d also partnered Alboreto, coincided with the rise of Williams-Honda as F1’s dominant force along with Ayrton Senna starring at Lotus. As Nelson Piquet came out in top in the intra-Williams battle to secure his third championship, Prost’s three wins (one more than Senna) put him only fourth in the points, two spots and 16 points ahead of his team-mate.

Johansson took five podium finishes, peaking with runner-up finishes at Spa and Hockenheim, and was left in awe of the Frenchman who would go on to add two more world titles in 1989 and 1993.

“It was amazing just how good he was,” Johansson adds. “I learned a massive amount from him, more than I’ve learned in my whole career really, just in that one year together. He was also a great guy, we had a lot of fun together, we became good friends and still are today – I had dinner with him just last month.

Johansson reckons he learned more from Prost than any other driver he raced with in his career

Johansson reckons he learned more from Prost than any other driver he raced with in his career

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

“We developed a great relationship. Back then, he was the master. His work ethic was above and beyond anybody else in the paddock. How we went about his work with the car and the team, and how he put the whole weekend together. He was at a totally different level than anybody else.”

Johansson made way for Senna at McLaren in 1988 – sparking one of the bitterest of intra-team rivalries of all time – but he got along perfectly well with Prost.

"He’s still one of the best in history, highly underrated compared to some of the other guys who were more flamboyant and spectacular"
Stefan Johansson

“He told me that the driver is the CEO of the car, all these people around you have to manage the car as best they can, extracting the most out of everybody led to the top of the podium on Sunday,” remembers Johansson, whose unfulfilling year at Ligier in 1988 preceded stints at Onyx, AGS and Footwork then five years of Indycar racing at Tony Bettenhausen Jr’s team. “It was a completely different process that I experienced with anyone else.

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“He’s still one of the best in history, highly underrated compared to some of the other guys who were more flamboyant and spectacular on the track. He was all about getting the job done, he was exceptional.”

Johansson, pictured with Prost after taking his Onyx to the podium at the 1989 Portuguese GP, still considers Prost as one of F1's greatest ever drivers

Johansson, pictured with Prost after taking his Onyx to the podium at the 1989 Portuguese GP, still considers Prost as one of F1's greatest ever drivers

Photo by: Motorsport Images

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