Demise of Prost brings criticism and sympathy

On Monday the 28th of January Prost Grand Prix was declared bankrupt and Alain Prost's dream was over. The French media has been less than sympathetic: reports are scattered with the word "failure" and phrases such as "descent into hell". There...

On Monday the 28th of January Prost Grand Prix was declared bankrupt and Alain Prost's dream was over. The French media has been less than sympathetic: reports are scattered with the word "failure" and phrases such as "descent into hell". There have been equally harsh words from Prost's compatriots. Former Prost driver Jean Alesi had this to say: "Alain only has himself to blame. Everybody was behind him, including me, as I left Sauber to join him. But he ruined everything."

Fellow Frenchman Henri Pescarolo -- who competed in motorsport from 1968 to 1976 and ran a scholarship programme to help promote French drivers -- was also critical. "It's a personal failure for Prost. You can become a boss when you were a great champion but maybe not in charge of 300 people," he said. "You need qualities that, obviously, Prost did not have. I don't want people to get it wrong. It is not a handicap to be French. Prost's failure is above all his own." However, Alain Prost's former teammate Rene Arnoux was saddened by the situation: "I was expecting it, even if I had still a little hope left to see the "bleus" on the grid at Melbourne," said Arnoux. "When you love motor racing, you cannot help but be saddened by what is happening."

Team principals have shown concern, perhaps because they are all too aware their own positions are subject to continual financial pressures. Eddie Jordan expressed his sympathy, saying: "I am extremely sorry to hear this (about Prost's liquidation). Alain and I drove together in '79 and have been sparring partners ever since. This news is very sad." Minardi boss Paul Stoddart, who saved the ailing Minardi from possible bankruptcy at the end of 2000, also commiserated. "I am very sorry to see Prost go under, even though it will mean more money for us," he said, pointing out that Prost's share of television income will be redistributed to the other teams. "But this is a wake-up call for the sport," Stoddart continued, "I don't think we will see any other team go the same way as Prost this year but if one were to lose their major sponsor or, God forbid, we had a repeat of what happened last September 11, then who knows."

Jaguar Racing's Niki Lauda believes Prost would have survived if their financial difficulties had arisen when the economy was stronger. "His team went wrong at the wrong time," Lauda stated. "If you do not perform and the economy is strong, there is a chance to fight your way out of trouble. If you don't perform and there is a recession, you are in trouble. Normally in Formula One it is possible to ride the storm. But private teams such as Prost, which don't have a major manufacturer behind them, have a double problem."

FIA President Max Mosley believes there is little to keep other teams from facing financial difficulty the way Prost did: "There is not much that can be done to protect the smaller teams. The smaller teams are constantly in a difficult situation. The amount of media coverage they receive is significantly smaller than that of the big teams, but they need comparable budgets to compete. This has been the problem in Formula One for at least the last 50 years."

Alain Prost himself has declared that, despite the demise of his team, he is not finished with Formula One -- but he would not operate from France again. "Formula One is not over for me, but certainly I won't do it again in France," he stated. "I did this all for France. I thought I owed it to my country and now that there are no more French drivers coming it is a complete and utter waste." Prost established his team when he bought Ligier in 1997. After losing factory supplier Peugeot he was forced to pay for his own engines, which led to financial strain. He shrugs off the criticism from the French press. "The problem with France is that everybody shoots in every direction," he said. "This media lynching is not a surprise."

On the subject of Alesi's and Pescarolo's comments Prost was as blunt as they were: "Who can give any credit to what Pescarolo or Alesi say? What credit do they have to give lessons in management? Some people should shut up and work for motor racing in France." Prost did not give any clues about how or when he would return to Formula One, but he has not let recent events deter him. "I will rest for a short time and then bounce back."

Prost declared bankrupt

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jean Alesi , Henri Pescarolo , Eddie Jordan , Niki Lauda , Alain Prost , René Arnoux , Paul Stoddart
Teams Sauber , Minardi , Jaguar Racing , Jordan