JULY 31, 2001

So who drives for Prost in Hungary?

IF, as expected, Jean Alesi leaves Prost Grand Prix to become a Jordan driver, Alain Prost will need to find a replacement.

IF, as expected, Jean Alesi leaves Prost Grand Prix to become a Jordan driver, Alain Prost will need to find a replacement. It would be nice if the replacement has money behind him but there are not many pay-drivers on the market at the moment. One option might be Formula 3000 ace Tomas Enge. He has a fair bit of backing from the Czech Republic (and from Coca Cola Eastern Europe) and there were originally plans for him to do several races at the end of this season in preparation for a full F1 program next year. Those plans were put on hold when it looked like he might be in with a chance of the F3000 title but after the German GP support event Enge's hopes of winning are slim at best. There are three races to go and he has 13 points fewer than Justin Wilson the current title leader. In recent races Wilson has picked up 18 points and Enge has scored only 8. His third place in the championship is not assured but he has a 14 point advantage over Antonio Pizzonia and 15 points in hand over Sebastien Bourdais.

The other option is for Prost to negotiate money from Jordan to allow Alesi to depart and this would mean that he would raise some more money for the team. In that scenario he would be able to run a young cheap driver such as Stephane Sarrazin or perhaps even Bourdais, in the hope that he would be able to raise some money from France.

Prost is in a good position in that Jean Alesi's good performances have netted the team four points this year. That is three more than Arrows and four more than Minardi. That means that next year the team will benefit from the TV money which is made available only to the teams which finish in the top 10 in the Constructors' Championship. Those four points are worth around $15m to Prost.

There have been stories suggesting that Alesi might be swapped with Ricardo Zonta but it is hard to see why Prost would do such a thing unless there was money involved in the deal. Having two Brazilians might help convince the Diniz Family to put more money into the team but that is not likely as relations with Prost are cool and the family stands to take over the team if Alain gives up the fight.

The other option for Prost is to find more money but his efforts to date have not been very successful although we hear that cheap deals are now being offered for space on the cars with a number of banks and oil companies having been targeted. Unfortunately a deal will have to be done very quickly if Prost is going to be successful with this policy.