SEPTEMBER 1, 1997
Prost and his drivers
ALAIN PROST is currently deciding what to do about his second drive next season. The former World Champion has Olivier Panis under contract until the end of 1999 and needs a Frenchman in the team as part of his contract with Gauloises Blondes, his principal backer.
He also has an option on the services of Jarno Trulli but appears to be questioning whether or not the promising Italian is sufficiently consistent to be a top line driver. Trulli, who shot from karting to F1 in 18 months, has finished all his races with the team to date, taking fourth place at the German GP. In a number of events, however, he has not raced as well as the team expected.
Prost says that he is looking to sign up the best possible driver available "on condition that he is not too expensive." Prost says he had a budget planned and he is going to stick to that. This would probably rule out the hiring of Damon Hill - who is likely to cost more than Prost can afford. Alain is known to have been impressed by Hill when they were Williams team-mates in 1993.
Another reason not to employ Hill is that his arrival would probably destabilize Panis, who is used to being the team's number one driver. Panis had similar problems in 1995 when Tom Walkinshaw was running the team and insisted on having Martin Brundle as one of the drivers. Panis found this hard to cope with and was sometimes disappointing.
There are rumors doing the rounds in France that Alain is looking for a test driver for next year and the names of FormulaŹ3000 drivers Laurent Redon and Soheil Ayari have both been mentioned. Redon is well-connected and well-funded but Ayari has had better results without any major financial backing.
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