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Will anyone pay for Mr Prost?

THE European press has been full of rumors in recent weeks that Alain Prost is on the verge of taking control of the Ligier team - with backing from major French companies.

There is no question that France would very much like to regain control of the Ligier team - currently owned by Flavio Briatore - but there are few signs that there is anyone out there willing to pay. Tom Walkinshaw tried very hard to get the team, but a deal agreed with Briatore was blown out of the water by 12% shareholder Guy Ligier - who founded the team. He refused to sell his shares to Walkinshaw because he feared - rightly - that the Scotsman would take the team to England. This left Briatore stuck once more with the team.

Prost wants to buy it. He has tried before - when the team was up for sale in 1991 - but was unable to negotiate a deal to get what he wanted. This is not surprising as Alain was asking for extraordinary guarantees from French companies.

France is currently in a financial mess, with the strong French Franc causing serious economic difficulties for big French companies. This has led to the withdrawal of both Renault and Elf from Grand Prix racing and there is no obvious sign of companies which are willing to step in and fund Prost's dreams of glory.

Last week Prost confirmed that French President Jacques Chirac has asked him for advice on how to establish a competitive French F1 team - but this does not mean that the French premier is going to fund Prost. A little more work on the French economy will be needed before such a thing is politically possible...

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