OCTOBER 28, 1996
Prost and Ligier
THERE has been much excitement in recent days about a possible announcement about the future of Ligier from Alain Prost.
Briatore wants to get rid of Ligier because he is busy trying to keep Benetton together and now has other responsibilities having recently become the major shareholder in Minardi - but he wants a good price for the deal.
Briatore knows that he must keep up a decent level of competitiveness in 1997 if he wants to get a good price from Prost and so has turned his attention to Japan in an effort to raise money - or reduce engine bills - by hiring Mugen prot?g? ShinjiÊNakano. Such a move will greatly reduce the $8m being demanded by Mugen to supply its V10 engines next year. Gauloises Blondes is continuing but its budget contribution is not thought to be more than $8m and with Elf pulling out next year Ligier needs more cash. The defection of Pedro Diniz (and his $10m Parmalat deal) to TWR Arrows was thus a major blow to Briatore.
To make things more difficult Ligier needs a new chassis this year if it wishes to be more competitive. The JS43 was nothing more than a tidied-up version of the JS41 which was, itself, little more than a copy of the Benetton-Ford B194, which was designed in the autumn of 1993.
The earliest we would expect a Prost takeover is after the team has completed putting together its 1997 package and, more than likely, it will not be until the mid-season - perhaps at the French Grand Prix in July.