AUGUST 28, 2000

Diniz on his way to Prost

BRAZIL's Pedro Diniz is expected to leave Sauber at the end of the year and move to Prost Grand Prix where he will partner Jean Alesi next season. Diniz is not happy with Sauber and hopes that a switch to Prost will improve his results. Diniz knows many of the team because he previously drove for Ligier and he is well acquainted with the Ferrari V10 engine which Prost is expected to use next season.

Diniz is expected to help out the team with his Parmalat sponsorship which will help the team to pay for the expensive Italian engines, which are believed to be costing in the region of $60m for a two-year deal. Jean Alesi has made it clear that if Prost gets a Ferrari deal he will be happy to stay on.

The future of the team will be settled later this week when Alain Prost decides between two bids for a percentage of the team. We hear that the two remaining options are a bank which is offering to buy a share in the team and will be the team's major sponsor; the other is thought to be an Indonesian group which will invest in the team but will then need to find sponsorship. Much depends on whether Prost wishes to continue his links with Gauloises, which is owned by the SEITAÊtobaccoÊcompany.

SEITA has been supporting the team since it began as Ligier in 1976 but it has recently been merged with Spain'sÊTabacalera to form a new company called Altadis. The Gauloises brand has a new marketing manager who is not French and so support for a French team may not be seen to be as important as it previously was.

Prost may want to continue his policy of gradually moving away from French connections to build up a more international team. This idea suffered a serious setback earlier in the year when Prost made the decision to dump technical director AlanÊJenkins when faced by a mutiny amongst old Ligier engineers. Since then many of the English specialist engineers who had moved to Paris to join Prost have departed and it will be very hard for Prost to convince others to move to France.

We hear that both groups intend to keep Alain Prost on to run the team, although he will probably become more of a figurehead than is currently the case.