Prost looks to Ferrari for help…

Prost Grand Prix is looking to Ferrari to help solve its engine supply crisis for 2001, but could find it harder to pay for the engines as its long term tobacco sponsor Gauloises considers its Formula 1 future

Prost looks to Ferrari for help…

Relations with current engine supplier Peugeot are becoming increasingly fraught - with a lightning strike by Peugeot technicians in Magny-Cours last weekend the latest twist - and the French company are set to pull out at the end of the season, leaving Prost without an engine supply. With Mugen no longer an option, team boss Alain Prost has asked old friend and Ferrari Sporting director Jean Todt for help.

"We have to make sure we have the human and technical capacity to do it," explained Todt, "and we have to make sure we get a team that can afford to pay for it. It's not our priority. Our priority is to try to do well in the championship, and then deliver a good service for (existing customer) Sauber."

With Ferrari already supplying Sauber, it may take more than Prost's friendship with Todt to persuade Ferrari to take on a second customer. The main obstacle could be raising the funds to pay for any deal, as a supply of year-old V10s from Maranello does not come cheap at £15million per year.

Paying for a customer engine will be even harder if Prost loses it's Gauloises backing. SEITA, the French company which owns the French tobacco brand, is rumoured to be increasingly disillusioned with the returns it gets from being involved in F1.

With the loss of Technical Director Alan Jenkins and the lack of any championship points so far this season, Prost has little to bargain with in terms of persuading SEITA to stay on. Insiders suggest that the tobacco giant could stay if it is given a say on driver line-up, which it had in its contract until last year.

Prost is said to be unconcerned about the loss of the £10 million he receives from SEITA compared to the amount received from other title sponsors, despite the fact that it would pay for two thirds of a Ferrari customer deal.

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