JULY 31, 2001

Jordan says Alesi deal is speculation

JORDAN GRAND PRIX has put out a press statement saying that all stories about the team signing up Jean Alesi are "purely speculative".

JORDAN GRAND PRIX has put out a press statement saying that all stories about the team signing up Jean Alesi are "purely speculative". This is very misleading on the part of the team as there is absolutely no doubt that talks with the Frenchman are so advanced that he has already said good-bye to members of the Prost team. In all probability the Jordan team felt the need to make the statement because Alain Prost is threatening legal action if Alesi departs and Jordan does not wish to be seen linked to such a thing.

But the fact remains that by Wednesday this week - August 1 - Prost needs to come up with a huge amount of money to keep his supply of Ferrari engines for next year and to pay some of the team's outstanding bills. Alesi will be owed a salary payment as well. The suggestion at the moment is that if that is not paid Alesi will depart but we will have to wait and see if that happens. Some sources suggest that if on Wednesday Prost does not take up his option for Ferrari V10s next year, the Ferrari will have to pay back a large deposit made by the Prost at the start of this year to cover the second year of the deal. This is possible but the money is unlikely to arrive in time for Prost to pay Alesi on the same day.

It would also give Alain the problem of not having engines for next season. He knows that he can always fall back on a supply of Asiatechs but that deal would probably only happen if Alain agreed to swap shares in the team for the engines and he is unlikely to do that at the moment because it would mean that he would lose his controlling interest in the team.

The other option for Prost is to accept that he has lost Alesi but to try and get Jordan to pay him some money as part of the settlement. This would help the team through the next few weeks. Prost is hoping that there will be a new Concorde Agreement before then so that all the tams will get a bigger percentage of the income in F1. It is a nice idea but the reality is that such a deal will probably take months to sort out and the team's credit will also run for so long.

The danger for Alain is that by holding on he will use up his own personal wealth, accumulated in the course of his successful F1 career as a driver. This is a sizeable fortune but when it comes to funding F1 teams such riches do not last long and Alain will be very aware of the risk he is taking.

Despite Jordan's statement, therefore, we expect an announcement about Alesi and Jordan before the Hungarian GP.