by Russell Atkins

TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE

Four-time Formula 1 World Champion Alain Prost is a man who has been there, done that and got the T-shirt to prove it all in the top flight, so who better to cast a glance over the state of Formula 1 in 2008..?

The Frenchman - a driver with a staggering 51 victories, more than 100 podium finishes, 33 pole positions and 41 fastest laps under his belt from a 13-year career in the uppermost echelon - chatted to Crash.net Radio during last weekend's A1GP season finale at Brands Hatch about how he views the current cream of the grand prix crop...

Q:
Alain, looking at the 2008 Formula 1 season - obviously a four-time world champion yourself and a man who drove for both Ferrari and McLaren - Ferrari look on the surface to be running away with things. Is that the way you see it too?

Alain Prost:
It's always difficult to judge what's going to happen, because the season is very long. At the moment Ferrari looks to be a little bit more competitive and a little bit more consistent with the tyres - especially during long runs - and the reliability of the car is there, but after two races where McLaren were a little bit down, they came back quite well in Barcelona. You just don't know, but it's going to be between those two teams. It's difficult to judge without knowing the development programmes of the cars, but it's going to be tough for anyone to beat Ferrari again this year.

Q:
As someone who drove for McLaren for six seasons during your grand prix career, you in particular know how strong they are and how capable they are of fighting back, don't you?

AP:
Yeah; they want to win again. They deserve to win again to be honest, after what happened last year. After Alonso's departure for Renault they may have lost a little bit in terms of experience from one of the drivers, but Lewis is definitely a top driver too. He is feeling the pressure more this year - after Fernando left he was supposed to be the favourite for the championship. It's going to stabilise over the next few races, and if Lewis can get some big points or wins then we can hope that McLaren will be back to fight for the title.

Q:
So do you think McLaren's slump in form in 2008 has more to do with Alonso having left the team than the spy scandal last year?

AP:
I think it's a little bit of everything, because they had a very, very tough season last year - maybe even more tough for Ron Dennis - and after Alonso's departure they were a bit disrupted and it's difficult to motivate yourself. Obviously they want to have revenge, which is understandable, and they deserve to have this revenge, but Formula 1 is so difficult that you need to have everything perfect and everyone working in the right place at the right moment. Maybe McLaren haven't been fantastic at the beginning of the year, but they're still in the competition which is important.

Q:
You talk about Ferrari and McLaren being the top two teams, but BMW-Sauber have been there as well so far in 2008. Can they win a race this year do you think?

AP:
If you had asked me the question at the beginning of the year, I would have said no. Today it looks like it could be possible; they still need some good circumstances, but they are not too far away. They're the big surprise of the beginning of the season, especially after what we saw during the winter, when they were not so competitive. They came back quite well, they have the reliability now and they are getting better and better, but in Formula 1 to get the last two or three tenths to win a race is difficult. Again, we are going to see over the next few races in Europe - with Turkey and then Monaco - what will happen, but yes, they may have a better chance now.

Q:
You also raced for Renault from 1981 to 1983. They seemingly took a big step forward at the Spanish Grand Prix - how much further forward can they and Fernando Alonso go this year do you think?

AP:
Again with Renault, I would like to wait until the Turkish Grand Prix, because Alonso was on a three-stop strategy in Barcelona, and before he got to that stage he had the problem with his engine. I don't know how much of their new competitiveness was due to that strategy, and how much the car was better. Don't forget that we were in Barcelona and Alonso was very motivated, so we have to wait a little bit. I think they have made an improvement, but I personally don't think the improvement is that big. I don't think they will be fighting for a winning position in the next few races.

Q:
Are there any drivers or teams that have surprised or disappointed you so far this season?

AP:
Not really. I think what we see is what we expected back at the beginning of the year. Even if they have changed the regulations, with less driver aids, it doesn't change very much. We are seeing many more small mistakes, depending on the tracks, but we haven't seen a race in the wet yet. That will be very interesting - especially the first one - but overall we have fewer and fewer surprises in Formula 1.

Q:
Obviously one of the biggest talking points this year so far has been the scandal surrounding Max Mosley. Some people have been saying he should resign; others have been coming out in support of him - what's your view on the subject?

AP:
My view is very simple. On the one side you have a private affair, as everybody says, and I don't want to interfere too much in that. Secondly, I'm not inside Formula 1 - I'm not in the position of one of the big constructors - and it's these kind of people who must decide if it's a problem for the future of the sport or not. That's not up to people like me - you cannot judge from outside.

Q:
And finally, you're back at Brands Hatch for the A1GP season finale. You've raced here and won here before - does it bring back happy memories for you?

AP:
It's a good memory, because in 1985 I became champion for the first time here and in '86 they held the last race at Brands. It's quite a complicated circuit, and it's nice to be back here and to see the crowd. There are a lot of people here - in England they love motor racing, and I would like to have this same thing in France.

TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW WITH ALAIN PROST IN FULL: CLICK HERE

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