APRIL 21, 1997
RUMORS in France are suggesting that Japanese driver Shinji Nakano will be dropped by Prost in the weeks ahead. Nakano was signed by the team before Alain took control as part of a deal to reduce the cost of the Mugen Honda V10 engines to the then owner of the team Flavio Briatore. Nakano is engaged to be married to Mugen boss Hirotoshi Honda's daughter.
Prost has different goals to Briatore and while dropping Nakano might prove to be expensive - Alain would no doubt have to pay full price for the engines for the rest of the year - there is no doubt that putting a different driver in the second Prost would make the car much more competitive.
With the current financial structures in F1, it would probably be more profitable if Alain had two drivers fighting for points rather than just Olivier Panis. The obvious candidate would be French youngster Emmanuel Collard - an old rival of Panis and a man with vast experience as an F1 test driver, despite the fact that he has never actually started a Grand Prix.
It is expected that Nakano will be given the chance to show his skill at a few more races before a decision is taken, but unless there is a dramatic improvement in performance it is unlikely that the amiable Shinji will remain a Prost driver.
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