RENAULT SPORT, 19.10.2014

Alain Prost celebrates season ten of WSR with us

As the Marque’s Ambassador, there was no question of Alain Prost missing the last meeting of the 2014 World Series by Renault season at the Circuito de Jerez. As well as taking in the closing races of the year, the four-time Formula One world champion also took the Renault Sport R.S. 01 out for its track debut. Finding time for a chat at the final meeting of WSR’s tenth season, the legendary French driver spoke to us about his links with Renault.

What is the most memorable moment of your long association with Renault?
If I had to choose any, it would be the one that’s sustained me the most. I’m not talking about any of my victories, but my first season in Formula Renault in 1976. It was thanks to the development programme and the driving school that I became a racing driver, because I wasn’t that much into it initially. I was more into football. I won 12 races out of 13 that year, which got me known and gave me confidence. I’ve had a great relationship with Renault ever since, and we’ve done some great things in the nearly 40 years we’ve had together.

What have you discovered about Renault since becoming the marque’s Ambassador?
It’s a very symbolic role and it’s very much shaped by the way it’s been put together. Being an ambassador keeps me very busy. First up, I’m very involved at every level in terms of motorsport, which means World Series by Renault, Formula One and the Dacia projects. I’m also supporting Renault in developing countries. As an ambassador I’m right at the heart of the marque. I like what we’re doing together and that’s because I really feel I have a useful role to play and that I understand things.

What’s your impression of the World Series by Renault?
This tenth season has been a real success for Renault. It’s a unique formula, built around a major constructor. I think it’s great that so many fans are able to come along and watch races free, many of them for the first time. The meetings themselves give spectators the chance to make a real connection with the marque and its products. Aside from the single seaters, fans get to see the Clios, the Meganes and the new Renault Sport R.S. 01 as well.

Are you reminded of your early days in Formula Renault when you see the World Series by Renault drivers in action?
There are some similarities, but the world is different today and people’s outlooks have changed too. In my day you needed to have had a driving licence for a year to get into driving school and you had to work a lot on understanding the technical side of things, which you need less of today. With today’s drivers it’s more about simulation. You often hear people talking about a ‘video game generation’, and there’s a different approach to the ‘trade’ these days. Having said all that, the mental and psychological attributes you need to be a champion are pretty much the same and the current version of Formula Renault is still a springboard.

Is there any driver who’s caught your eye in particular this season?
Yes, of course. There’s someone every season. The Formula Renault 3.5 Series has been a nursery for F1 for some time now, and every year we see four or five drivers making the step up. More drivers have come through this series than any other. This season I’ve obviously been watching Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly – who I think is the French star of tomorrow – and Oliver Rowland. All three are very good drivers.

We’ve just seen the emergence of a new championship in Formula E, in which Renault is a technical partner. What did you make of its launch in Beijing?
To be honest, we were pretty scared before the first race, but everything went off really well in the end. I think it was a very good start. The championship’s generating a lot of expectation and an incredible buzz. It’s going to take time, as it will for production electric cars to make their breakthrough. We’ll need to manage the first two years really well, and I think we’ll start seeing more constructors and developers coming in from the third season. If we get the organisation, promotion and marketing right and we get some good races, then I can really see the championship taking off.

You took part in the launch of the Renault Sport R.S. 01 at the Moscow International Automobile Salon and you took it out for its first drive in public this weekend. What’s your opinion of this new race car?
The Renault Sport R.S. 01 is a magnificent car, and that’s important in terms of image. This is a new era for Renault, which is bringing what is a typical Endurance car into the World Series by Renault. Though it’s a genuine race car, it’s very closely linked to the product because a lot of the inspiration for its design has come from the new production models.

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Alain Prost-Infopage © by Oskar Schuler, Switzerland