JUNE 5, 2000

Prost and Jenkins

ALAN JENKINS, the technical director of Prost Grand Prix, has departed the team following a power struggle between the Englishman and a group of Prost's managers in France. Alain Prost bowed to French pressure when the 10 or so critics of Jenkins threatened to resign. The departure of Jenkins is a major blow to the team and to Prost's ambitions of turning the operation around. There are not many experienced technical directors around at the moment and there is no obvious choice as a replacement for Jenkins. Most of the existing technical directors do not want to work in Paris while Prost cannot easily move his operations out of France because of political repercussions with his sponsors. For the time being at least the job will be handled by designer Jean-Paul Gousset, who previously worked with several British F1 teams, notably Team Lotus and Arrows.

Jenkins is unlikely to be out of work for long and our sources suggest that he may well end up going to Jaguar Racing where he used to work before the operation - then known as Stewart Grand Prix - was taken over by the Ford Motor Company. At the time Ford was very unhappy that Jenkins had departed but - as the team was being run by the Stewart family - could not greatly influence the decision.

The most significant aspect of the affair is that Prost felt unable to back Jenkins for fear of the bad publicity if he were lose French staff. With Monaco being the most important race for Prost, the team issued a highly misleading statement saying that Jenkins had not resigned from the team but would not be present at the Monaco GP.

The decision could have major long-term implications as it indicates that Alain cannot overcome the French influence in the team and as a result may now lose British staff, who were hoping that Prost would anglicize the team in order to make it more competitive. This may eventually happen but Prost may only be a figurehead by the time that happens as there was intense speculation at Monaco that the team is up for sale.