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Now what happens to Prost?

THE future of Prost Grand Prix remains clouded with various rumors circulating to suggest that the team will not now be sold because the team's new marketing company Hamburg-based UFA has come up with a huge new sponsor. Prost is rumored to be staying on as a figurehead but will have less of an active role in running the company. Other stories suggest that UFA, which is part of the massive Bertelsmann Group, will be acquiring the majority shareholding in the team. There continue to be stories about several consortia which may or may not be buying the team. Whatever the case, Alain Prost was much more relaxed in Hungary than he has been at recent races and so clearly some form of agreement has been reached.

Our spies in the team suggest that the most likely deal is one that will see a big new sponsor coming in to replace Gauloises (which is expected to go with Peugeot in the World Rally Championship). This sponsor appears to have come from UFA's connections but there are no hints as to who or what it may be although it is quite likely to be some form of telecommunications or electronic media company. Bertelsmann is heavily involved in the electronic media business as the owner of AOL Europe and Lycos. These would not fit in with the team's current sponsorship deal with Yahoo!

In addition to this we have heard stories of Canadian, American and Indonesian groups who are (or have been) talking to Prost. There are also stories circulating about a bid for the team from David Hunt, who is trying to revive the old Team Lotus.

Even if Hunt does have the money, there are still questions over who owns the trademarks to the Lotus name, which was founded in 1950 by Colin Chapman and it should not be ruled out that the Chapman Family would take legal action to stop the name being revived. Things are further confused by the fact that Group Lotus, originally the sister company of the racing team, is now owned by Malaysia's Proton car company, which is itself owned by Petronas, a sponsor of the Sauber team. Group Lotus owns the rights to the name Lotus Racing.

It should also be added that Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone sees the sport as having moved on from the old days and would prefer that the Lotus and Brabham names are not revived.

The question of Prost's engine is still to be decided but we hear that the new sponsorship deal will help Alain foot the massive $25m a year bill to get hold of a third supply of Ferrari V10 engines.

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