CRASH.NET, 05.05.2008

Q&A: Alain Prost - EXCLUSIVE for Radio

by Russell Atkins

The man who held the record for most grand prix victories before Michael Schumacher broke it speaks exclusively to Radio about Formula 1, 2008-style...

Four-time Formula 1 World Champion Alain Prost is a man who has been there, done that and got the T-shirt to prove it all in the top flight, so who better to cast a glance over the state of Formula 1 in 2008..?

The Frenchman Ė a driver with a staggering 51 victories, more than 100 podium finishes, 33 pole positions and 41 fastest laps under his belt from a 13-year career in the uppermost echelon Ė chatted to Radio during last weekendís A1GP season finale at Brands Hatch about how he views the current cream of the grand prix cropÖ

Alain, looking at the 2008 Formula 1 season Ė obviously a four-time world champion yourself and a man who drove for both Ferrari and McLaren Ė Ferrari look on the surface to be running away with things. Is that the way you see it too?
Itís always difficult to judge whatís going to happen, because the season is very long. At the moment Ferrari looks to be a little bit more competitive and a little bit more consistent with the tyres Ė especially during long runs Ė and the reliability of the car is there, but after two races where McLaren were a little bit down, they came back quite well in Barcelona. You just donít know, but itís going to be between those two teams. Itís difficult to judge without knowing the development programmes of the cars, but itís going to be tough for anyone to beat Ferrari again this year.

As someone who drove for McLaren for six seasons during your grand prix career, you in particular know how strong they are and how capable they are of fighting back, donít you?
Yeah; they want to win again. They deserve to win again to be honest, after what happened last year. After Alonsoís departure for Renault they may have lost a little bit in terms of experience from one of the drivers, but Lewis is definitely a top driver too. He is feeling the pressure more this year Ė after Fernando left he was supposed to be the favourite for the championship. Itís going to stabilise over the next few races, and if Lewis can get some big points or wins then we can hope that McLaren will be back to fight for the title.

So do you think McLarenís slump in form in 2008 has more to do with Alonso having left the team than the spy scandal last year?
I think itís a little bit of everything, because they had a very, very tough season last year Ė maybe even more tough for Ron Dennis Ė and after Alonsoís departure they were a bit disrupted and itís difficult to motivate yourself. Obviously they want to have revenge, which is understandable, and they deserve to have this revenge, but Formula 1 is so difficult that you need to have everything perfect and everyone working in the right place at the right moment. Maybe McLaren havenít been fantastic at the beginning of the year, but theyíre still in the competition which is important.

You talk about Ferrari and McLaren being the top two teams, but BMW-Sauber have been there as well so far in 2008. Can they win a race this year do you think?
If you had asked me the question at the beginning of the year, I would have said no. Today it looks like it could be possible; they still need some good circumstances, but they are not too far away. Theyíre the big surprise of the beginning of the season, especially after what we saw during the winter, when they were not so competitive. They came back quite well, they have the reliability now and they are getting better and better, but in Formula 1 to get the last two or three tenths to win a race is difficult. Again, we are going to see over the next few races in Europe Ė with Turkey and then Monaco Ė what will happen, but yes, they may have a better chance now.

You also raced for Renault from 1981 to 1983. They seemingly took a big step forward at the Spanish Grand Prix Ė how much further forward can they and Fernando Alonso go this year do you think?
Again with Renault, I would like to wait until the Turkish Grand Prix, because Alonso was on a three-stop strategy in Barcelona, and before he got to that stage he had the problem with his engine. I donít know how much of their new competitiveness was due to that strategy, and how much the car was better. Donít forget that we were in Barcelona and Alonso was very motivated, so we have to wait a little bit. I think they have made an improvement, but I personally donít think the improvement is that big. I donít think they will be fighting for a winning position in the next few races.

Are there any drivers or teams that have surprised or disappointed you so far this season?
Not really. I think what we see is what we expected back at the beginning of the year. Even if they have changed the regulations, with less driver aids, it doesnít change very much. We are seeing many more small mistakes, depending on the tracks, but we havenít seen a race in the wet yet. That will be very interesting Ė especially the first one Ė but overall we have fewer and fewer surprises in Formula 1.

Obviously one of the biggest talking points this year so far has been the scandal surrounding Max Mosley. Some people have been saying he should resign; others have been coming out in support of him Ė whatís your view on the subject?
My view is very simple. On the one side you have a private affair, as everybody says, and I donít want to interfere too much in that. Secondly, Iím not inside Formula 1 Ė Iím not in the position of one of the big constructors Ė and itís these kind of people who must decide if itís a problem for the future of the sport or not. Thatís not up to people like me Ė you cannot judge from outside.

And finally, youíre back at Brands Hatch for the A1GP season finale. Youíve raced here and won here before Ė does it bring back happy memories for you?
Itís a good memory, because in 1985 I became champion for the first time here and in í86 they held the last race at Brands. Itís quite a complicated circuit, and itís nice to be back here and to see the crowd. There are a lot of people here Ė in England they love motor racing, and I would like to have this same thing in France.

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Alain Prost-Infopage © by Oskar Schuler, Switzerland