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Prost and Pantano

PROST GRAND PRIX will test Italian rising star Giorgio Pantano in Spain in early December. The team, which is still looking for a second driver, would prefer not to settle for a pay-driver such as Pedro Diniz and is hoping to sign up a young star to partner veteran Jean Alesi. The French team is believed to have been in negotiation with Minardi over acquiring Fernando Alonso's four-year contract but it seems that the Spaniard has decided to join forces with Flavio Briatore.

The team is due to run only one test in December, using the 2000 cars with old Peugeot engines and will then not be in a position to test again until the new Prost-Ferrari AP04 is ready in January. The team had been expected to give Indonesia's Ananda Mikola a run in one of the cars, as the team continues to negotiate with a Far Eastern consortium.

Pantano, who won the German Formula 3 Championship at his first attempt this year, has already tested for Benetton and has had talks with both Williams and British American Racing but is believed to be planning to race next year in Formula 3000. If he does well in the Prost, however, he could end up in Formula 1 if Alain Prost can find the necessary sponsorship to run him. The Prost team needs to top up its budget having parted company with Gauloises and having to pay for engines in 2001. In addition the team will lose out on around $10m worth of TV money as it finished 11th in the Constructors' Championship. Alain Prost is confident that he can raise the money he needs and has some powerful marketing partners looking for big companies to back him. With Ferrari engines, McLaren's chief aerodynamicist Henri Durand and two good drivers, the team could be one of the surprises of the 2001 season if the money can be found.

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