AUGUST 2, 1999
ALAIN PROST's relationship with Peugeot remains strained as the two parties wheel and deal to try to decide whether to continue their relationship. The two parties have a contract until the end of the 2000 season but Peugeot seems to be much more interested in rallying and Prost is not happy with the level of commitment from the car company.
We hear that the planned new V10 engine, which is due to be raced next year, has been rather disappointing to date in dyno testing at Peugeot Sport headquarters at Velizy, near Paris, and that there are even suggestions that the company is suggesting that Prost use an updated version of the old V10 next year. This suggestion has not gone down well at Prost because although the old Peugeot is a strong engine, it is heavy and large in comparison to the new units.
Prost wants Peugeot to increase its involvement - and maybe even take a shareholding in the team - but Peugeot is balking at the idea as it is keen to use available money on its World Rally Championship program.
The result of this stand-off is that the F1 paddock is alive with all manner of rumors about what Prost will do for an engine with stories linking the team to deals with Mercedes-Benz (or Chrysler), Ferrari, Honda and Supertec. The only likely scenario is that if Peugeot pulls out Prost will pay for Supertec V10 engines. This would be expensive and is unlikely that they would be badged. A customer Ferrari deal is possible but the engines being used by Sauber Petronas have not been very competitive this year and the deal is quite expensive.
The problem with either deal is that Prost will not only have to pay but will also slip backwards on the grid, so we expect that Alain will continue to push Peugeot to increase its investment while looking for a company to help him pay for engine development by Peugeot - the obvious one being the oil company TotalFina. It was interesting to note that at Hockenheim one of Prost's VIP guests was Peter Miller of the investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston, which has a deal to develop the team's international financial strategy. The perfect deal for Alain would be to find a backer to help fund the development of the Peugeot program for a few more years, giving him time to look for a better long-term deal with a car company which will be more committed to F1.
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