JULY 31, 1995
Prost quits Renault
ALAIN PROST has terminated his consultancy agreement with Renault, a role he has held since he retired from racing at the end of 1993. After Ayrton Senna was killed at Imola last year, Prost said that, out of respect for Senna, he would not race in F1 again; but he seems to be unable to adapt to a quiet life and wants to be involved in the sport again. "Racing is a passion which still burns inside me," he said. "I cannot shake it off."
The split with Renault has been portrayed as one which Prost needs because he is looking for a new direction in life; but there is little doubt for insiders that Alain is furious that Renault would not supply him with an F1 engine supply; and, indeed, he told French pressmen that the reason his team never got off the ground was because he could not get Renault to supply him with engines.
"I had an agreement in principal with some top engineers," he said. "I had also put together 75% of the necessary budget. I only needed to get a competitive engine for the next five seasons. I was going to present the new team on September 1, and the plan was to run a car in September, 1996, and so be ready for 1997. Renault did not want to follow me and so I preferred to give it up. In these conditions we no longer have anything to do together." Prost has always wanted to put together a team involving engineer John Barnard and team manager Hugues de Chaunac.
He also has recently found a new ally in financial manager Julian Jakoby, who worked with Ayrton Senna until his death and has recently been involved with the Senna Foundation. Jakoby is also understand to be interested in putting together an F1 team, which explains the rumors last autumn that there were long-term plans for a Senna F1 team.
Barnard is under contract with Ferrari until August, 1997, but could probably negotiate a release if Prost was to find an engine. De Chaunac is ready and waiting and, indeed, turned up at Hockenheim last weekend - wearing a Total pass. This added to the speculation that Alain has not given up his F1 team and is now trying to do a deal with Peugeot.
Jean-Pierre Jabouille, who was Prost's Renault Sport team mate in 1980, is now head of Peugeot Sport, and we hear that he is pushing hard to get Peugeot boss Jacques Calvet to support a Team Prost idea. Peugeot has an exclusive deal with Jordan until the end of 1996 but might supply two teams thereafter.
The Peugeot rumor remains the most likely, but there have been several others in recent weeks. Alain recently tested a Mercedes touring car and has been linked to a new racing career in that discipline (it does not seem very likely.)
There are also stories that Alain might do a deal to work as a consultant for the TAG/McLaren Group. There have even been attempts to float a rumor in the F1 paddock that Prost could make an F1 comeback as driver with McLaren. It would certainly help Ron Dennis to keep hold of his Marlboro sponsorship, but it is hard to imagine how the 40-year-old Prost could actually go back on his promise not to race in F1 again. But, in F1, one should always remember, anything is possible...
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