Prost sees trouble brewing for Mercedes

May 24, 2014 - 4:03:07 am

MONACO: Title-chasing Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will struggle to stay friends this season and it may not take much for the relationship to sour, according to four-times Formula One world champion Alain Prost (pictured).

While reluctant to make too many comparisons with his own past, and his famous title duels with McLaren team-mate Ayrton Senna in 1988 and 1989, the Frenchman could see some similarities.

Both pairings were dominant, both fighting team mates for the crown.

“It is difficult,” Prost said when asked how hard it was to stay on good terms with a team mate in such a battle.

“One little problem inside the team, or a little bit outside, and then it (the feuding) could start really very quickly,” he told reporters at the Monaco Grand Prix, where he won for McLaren 30 years ago.

“It is very rare that you have a full friendship until the end. Especially if you are really fighting very hard...It looks like the team know how to approach it, but we’ll see. It also depends on the characters of the drivers.”

Nicknamed ‘The Professor’ for his calculating and analytical approach to the sport, Prost was a very different character to Senna - much as the technically-minded Rosberg is to Hamilton, for whom Senna was a boyhood hero.

Together they dominated the 1988 championship, much as Mercedes are threatening to do with the current one, with 15 wins from 16 races.

Mercedes have won five out of five races, and started all from pole, with championship leader Hamilton chasing his fifth successive win on Sunday to stretch his three-point lead over Rosberg.

Senna won the title in 1988, although Prost actually scored more points in a season where drivers could only count their best 11 results, but Prost took the 1989 crown in highly controversial circumstances when they collided in Japan.

By then, both champions had fallen out completely.

“In 1988 with Ayrton, we had quite a good relationship. It was not a problem,” recalled the Frenchman. “It (the breakdown of relations) only started when we had the agreement in Imola and the agreement fell away. It started from this point.”

At the 1989 San Marino Grand Prix, second round of the season, Senna won the re-started race with Prost second and smarting at what he felt had been a broken promise by the Brazilian.

According to the Frenchman, they had agreed whoever was first into the first corner should be allowed to stay ahead.REUTERS 

F1: Ferrari heading in right direction: Allison

MONACO: Ferrari’s 2014 Formula One car is not as good as it needs to be  but the Italian team are now moving in the right direction, technical director James Allison said yesterday.

“I don’t think that we could claim to have produced a chassis that is at the moment the equal of either the Mercedes or the Red Bull,” the Briton told reporters during the Monaco Grand Prix rest day.

“We’re not lagging hugely behind but there is nevertheless work for us to do before we can hold our hand up and say that we were completely happy with the chassis performance.”

Ferrari, the oldest and most successful team in Formula One history, have not won a race for more than a year and have had just one podium finish in five starts this season - Fernando Alonso’s third in China.

The sport’s glamour team changed principal just before the race in Shanghai, with Stefano Domenicali quitting and Marco Mattiacci drafted in from the car company’s North American operations to replace him.

Mercedes have been dominant, winning all five races with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg finishing the last four in a row  first and second respectively. Red Bull have won the last four championships and also the last nine races of 2013 with Sebastian Vettel.

Allison, who joined Ferrari last September after being a key figure at Lotus, said it would take time for the once-dominant team to fight its way back to the top.

“Ferrari is extremely supportive of me, of the direction I would like to take the car in technically and take the company in technically,” he said.

“Much of what Ferrari does is already right. There were some things that when I arrived I wished to change direction on and improve upon, and time will tell whether my judgement is correct.

While Alonso is third in the championship, his Finnish team mate - and 2007 champion - Kimi Raikkonen is 11th and has scored only 17 points to the Spaniard’s 49. Allison rejected however a suggestion that Raikkonen was struggling more than Alonso.

“They both have similar feedback with the car. 

“The sort of problems that Kimi has with the car in traction, the braking, downshifting - all those problems are pretty much the same as Fernando and I would imagine similar to those experienced by other teams,” he opined. REUTERS 

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