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Prost says being a team manager his 'biggest mistake'

Alain Prost: Two days before I signed the contract [to take over Ligier] I did not want to do it anymore...
Four-time Formula 1 World Champion Alain Prost says the 'biggest mistake' he made during his career was becoming the owner of his own team, revealing he wanted to scrap the deal days before he signed a contract.

Prost purchased the existing Ligier team ahead of the 1997 Formula 1 season to form Prost Grand Prix and enjoyed a positive start to life as the eponymous team manager, overseeing a pair of podium results with Olivier Panis in the first six races driving the Bridgestone-shod, Mugen-Honda-powered JS45, which had been designed before Prost came on board.

However, with its own car to design and a switch to Peugeot power as part of an exclusive deal for 1998, Prost Grand Prix began its decline, with points' finishes becoming scarce, a single further podium at the 1999 European Grand Prix being followed by an entirely point-less season in 2000.

Despite better fortune in 2001 with a switch to Ferrari power – under the Acer banner – Prost Grand Prix folded at the end of the year.

Indeed, Prost says he looks back on that period with the most regret, revealing in an interview to the FIA that he actually wanted to back out after the original five-year free engine deal with Peugeot was whittled down to a paid three-year contract.

“Three months after I started the team, we had some very good results and we almost won a race,” he said, referring to Panis' charge up the order in the Canadian Grand Prix, which many believe he would have won had he not crashed and broken his legs.

“But to my family and close friends I was saying 'I'm dead'. I knew from the beginning. I know Formula One too well. I know the country too well.

“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 engine… In the end, I was happy to stop.”

Prost also says he had joked with Ayrton Senna about the prospect of the pair coming together as team manager and driver, saying the talks with Ligier had started when the Brazilian was alive.

“It's funny, maybe one week before the accident [Senna's fatal crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix] we were talking on the phone and I said to Ayrton, 'You know, it would be funny one day if I had a team and you could be my driver. And we were laughing about that. We were talking at the time to buy Ligier already. At the start of '94. That would have been fantastic, definitely very good.”

Tagged as: alain prost , Prost

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August 13, 2015 7:33 PM

I was never a fan when he was driving as i was young and impressionable and he was cast as the villain in his rivalry with Senna and then Mansell,but having read many interviews and learnt more about him,he's obviously a great bloke. So glad he made his peace with,and became friends with Ayrton as that would have been his biggest regret. His team carried massive expectations as an unofficial French national team and he was up against the odds from the very start.I have no doubt he would have enjoyed greater success and longevity as a privateer. It would be good if he had some role in F1 right now as he is a good ambassador and has more to offer than just commentary.

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