Prost in F1 comeback speculation

Four times world champion Alain Prost has been linked with a return to Formula 1 team management, with sources claiming that the Frenchman is seriously considering a comeback as team boss just three years after his own outfit folded

Prost in F1 comeback speculation

Although Prost eagerly distanced himself from speculation that he wanted to make a return to F1 in the immediate aftermath of Prost Grand Prix folding at the end of 2001, it is understood that regulation and political changes planned for F1's immediate future have softened his resolve. The arrival of new outfits, allied to imminent personnel changes throughout the field, are further factors that are believed to have helped changed his mind.

Prost has kept well away from any involvement in F1 in recent years, but last year he refused to completely rule out a return in the future - providing that circumstances were right.

Speaking exclusively to Autosport last December he said: "I don't need to be involved in F1 just to say I am there. At the moment everything is possible...but whatever I do in motorsport from now on I want to enjoy it. I need to have some fun."

Although there is no suggestion that Prost wants to start his own team from scratch, or is even close to agreeing a position with a team, sources claim that he is eyeing up the possibility of taking on a senior role at a well-established outfit - with Renault believed to be his number one target.

The speculation about Prost's possible future involvement with Renault comes just a week after the Frenchman made a rare public criticism of the team's current management and its decision to not hire Frenchman Franck Montagny as replacement for Jarno Trulli.

Speaking on French television, Prost said: "One can regret that it was not him (Montagny) for the last three races. Honestly, I cannot understand Renault's choice and (team boss) Flavio Briatore's decision. It's his driver (Montagny) who is under contract and independently of the fact that he's French, he is a reserve driver who deserved the experience."

Prost's aggressive stance at the current running of Renault comes against the backdrop of a possible massive shake-up of Renault's Formula 1 activities under the new company president of its road car division Carlos Ghosn.

With Flavio Briatore having admitted that he will walk away from the F1 team when his contract expires next year, the team will be looking for a replacement and it is possible that Prost could be considered a candidate for the role - primarily because of his personality and nationality.

Olivier Panis' retirement from F1, allied to the fact that Renault test driver Franck Montagny looks unlikely to land a race seat in 2005, means the team could face a backlash in its home country about the lack of French involvement at the top level of motor racing.

Appointing Prost into a role with the team, even if he was not involved in the day-to-day running of the outfit, could help ease some of that pressure.

The big question mark about Prost, however, is his actual abilities in running an outfit. His failure to keep Prost Grand Prix afloat was blamed almost entirely at his feet - although any job with Renault would not necessarily require him to bring in much needed finance that he failed to get at Prost.

Another outside possibility for Prost is with a role at Toyota. The Frenchman has enjoyed some success in his forays into ice-racing with Toyota, after signing a two-year deal with the Japanese manufacturer last season.

Toyota is looking at making serious progress up the grid and, in current team leaders John Howett and Tsutomu Tomita, it has two men without a great deal of experience in the motor sport field.

Prost could certainly help fill the void and, with the signing of Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli, it is clear that the team is now ready to make a major push forwards.

Only this week Tomita admitted that the outfit had under-performed. "It is fair to say that all of us at Panasonic Toyota Racing are disappointed and frustrated that we have not been able to get better results in 2004," he said.

"However, this is the end of only our third season. We are continuing to make our way up from the bottom, and the improvements that we make on a race-by-race basis can only lead us up the grid in the future."

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