When Prost conceded his F1 team to be his ‘biggest mistake’

It is 1997. As it stands, you are the most successful Formula 1 driver alive with 51 Grand Prix wins and four World Championships.

The best the current breed can offer is a two-timer, former go-karter and Mercedes sportscar driver from Kerpen in Germany with 22 wins to his name.

Meanwhile, the only other active World Champion has just been booted from his Williams seat and ends up taking his #1 to Arrows. No threats there.

Your legacy is already firmly secure, so what do you do? Start your own Grand Prix team of course.

That is what Alain Prost did in early 1997, taking over Ligier and fulfilling his long-time ambition to have Prost Grand Prix on the grid.

But the hopes of a French attack on F1 fell rather flat, with the adventure taking Prost to the brink and which came tumbling down on this day in 2002.

Prost’s second F1 career

Prost Grand Prix entered 83 races between 1997 and the end of 2001, coming away with three podiums but Prost himself would look back at the venture and call it his “biggest mistake.”

1997 was promising with Olivier Panis grabbing third in the team’s second race in Brazil and a second in Spain. After Round 6 in Barcelona, Panis was third in the standings on 15 points, only behind that season’s title rivals Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher.

That is about as good as it got for Prost GP, with Panis injured in Canada stalling the momentum being built, but for 1998, engine partner Mugen-Honda was out in favour of Peugeot.

As part of the all-French attack, Peugeot actually changed the terms of an engine deal, forcing Prost to pay for his engines instead of receiving them for free.

The team slipped down the order at an alarming rate, scoring just 10 points in the 1998 and 1999 seasons combined, with six of those coming via Jarno Trulli in the chaotic 1999 European GP won by Johnny Herbert of Sir Jackie Stewart’s team.

Nil poi was scored in 2000, with just four in 2001 as the team limped on amid financial difficulty as F1’s manufacturer era boomed with the likes of Toyota and BMW joining the fun.

Prost was faced with no choice but to close the team ahead of the 2002 season, reflecting: “If I made one mistake, it was this. It would have been better not to have done it. I should not have made the decision to do it at the last minute.

“Two days before I signed the contract I did not want to do it anymore. We had a plan with Peugeot and a contract for five years of free engines with lots of development.

“Then they came back two days before I signed it and it was only three years and I had to pay for the engineā€¦

“In the end, I was happy to stop.”

Prost would later become an advisor for Renault and Alpine, before acrimoniously departing the team ahead of the 2022 campaign.


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