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Prof Prost: 'Drivers must think'

2013-05-25 11:03

PROST THE PROFESSOR: Former French Formula 1 driver Alain Prost - grizzled but still handsome at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival - yet still "the professor" of modern Formula 1. Image: AFP

ALAN BALDWIN

MONACO - Alain Prost, four times World champion and 'professor' of Formula 1, says radical new engine rules for 2014 will reward drivers who can use brainpower as well as horsepower.

The little Frenchman, now an ambassador for Renault F1, earned his nickname in the turbo era of the 1980's for his analytical skill, strategic acumen and knack of preserving the tyres and brakes.

F1's regulations will undergo the biggest upheaval in decades in 2014 year with the current (2013) V8's disappearing to be replaced by 2.6 V6 turbocharged units from several manufacturers. They will have energy recovery systems.

DRIVERS 'MOE CURIOUS'

For Prost, who thrived on technological challenges in a career that saw classic battles with the late Brazilian triple champion Ayrton Senna, such change represents an opportunity to be embraced.

"It will be very interesting. You are going to see some drivers with different skills being more curious, closer to the engineers and technology," Prost told Reuters on Friday ahead of the 2013 Monaco GP, a race he won four times for McLaren between 1984 and 1988.

"It's not only being more focused," he added. "When a driver says: 'Oh, I went to the factory and did that'... the most important thing is to understand what they do. And 2014 will be different."

Some drivers stand out by extracting the most from a less than perfect car, muscling through the problems with innate talent. Prost always stood out for working closely with his engineers, patiently 'dialling-in' the car to go faster.

TYRE COMPLAINTS

Tyres are a hot topic of conversation this year, the mandatory Pirellis lasting only a handful of laps at some races and some teams complaining that drivers can no longer race properly.

Prost recognised it was different in his day.

"I don't know if I could do the same job," he admitted. "I don't think you can compare today's tyres with those of my period. I was always in favour, even if you have only one manufacturer, to have more or less what we had in the 1980's - two or three choices of compound and then you do what you want - and no obligation to stop.

"You only start the race with the tyres you qualify with and that's it. Even if you want to put hard tyres on the left and soft on the right. You do what you want."

Renault is committed to the new engine, with an annual budget of $150-million and a willingness to supply a maximum of five teams in 2014 instead of the four at present.

'GOING TO BE A CHALLENGE'

The change opens up the possibility of one manufacturer having a big advantage if it comes up with something innovative; Prost also welcomed that, even if the lack of testing made matters tougher.

"It's going to be a challenge for the engineers making the engine for performance, reliability and everything, a big challenge for people working on the track, for the strategy and a big, big challenge for the drivers," he said.

"We are going to talk about fuel consumption in a positive way, showing the people outside that for the same type of performance we have 30-40% less fuel consumption.

"The way you are going to use the engine, relative to the quantity of fuel and relative to the extra energy you get from the electrical side, will be a great challenge for the drivers and engineers."

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2013 Monaco F1 GP weekend.
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