VOLOKOLAMSK, Russia, July 15 (RIA Novosti)
At the new Moscow Raceway outside the Russian capital, four-time Formula One world champion Alain Prost sat down with R-Sport to discuss the battle for the F1 title, McLaren’s struggles this season and whether there could be a Moscow Grand Prix.
How do you see the F1 championship developing this year? Is it now just between Alonso and the Red Bulls?
“It looks like McLaren has lost some ground for different reasons, and obviously it looks like they do not understand what is happening with the new tires, which is not good news. I really thought that from the beginning of the year they would be the favorite because they started quite well, but they lost ground and it’s very difficult to understand. If they don’t come back immediately, from Hockenheim, the next race, I think it’s going to be difficult. In front, Red Bull and Ferrari are very motivated and it’s going to be tough.”
“Red Bull, for sure they will be there until the end of the championship, and it will be very competitive. Alonso and Ferrari, it was a big surprise for me because I could not imagine that they could be that competitive and they came back quite well. Alonso is really pushing hard, he’s No. 1 in the team and he’s going to be helped by Massa, you could say he’s going to be difficult to beat. But I still think Red Bull at the end are going to win the championship again.”
[Note: Prost works for Renault, who supply engines to four F1 teams including Red Bull.]
After the race in Valencia, Sebastian Vettel reportedly suggested that the safety car may have been brought out to cut his lead. Do you think those sort of comments are appropriate?
“Knowing the sort of people in charge of these kind of things at the moment, I don’t think it was deliberate. For sure, you could as a driver. I had one or two problems, especially in ‘93, where, when you start to think about this, you may feel a frustration, especially when you have such a lead. I don’t want to comment. I like Sebastian so I think maybe he was not happy about that and I don’t think it should happen again.”
A lot of drivers racing at the Moscow Raceway’s opening weekend have said it’s tricky to overtake. Do you agree?
“If you want to be objective, you must listen more to the drivers than the rest. I’ve done only a few laps this morning with the Megane. It is true that at least the infield part is very similar and very difficult to overtake. I was a bit surprised that at the end of the straight, it was not also that easy to overtake. On the other side, you need to wait a little bit to see when the track surface is a bit new, and maybe if you get more grip, that is possible. It’s always a problem today with the new tracks with this kind of problems.”
So it’s a typical Hermann Tilke track?
“I don’t want to blame anyone. It’s really a shame. Again, I don’t want to judge. I was really looking at all the races from now and it looks like it’s difficult. Maybe they may modify a few things, maybe a very technical corner before the straight or change a few things here. There’s some places where it’s quite nice, but overtaking is not easy.”
What does this sort of track mean to Russia?
“My opinion is it’s very important for many reasons, a bit complex. First of all, these countries like Russia, maybe other east countries, they were always big fans of Formula One. So they look at Formula One as something that they cannot touch. I think a race of this standard, a track of this standard, which is almost a Formula One standard, it’s quite important because at least they are touching the dream. Also, I don’t know what’s going to happen in two years with Sochi, but at least they can build also their culture of automobile sport. Slowly, they are closer to what we get … It’s going to be a tool, you know. This country, for the constructors, especially Renault, it is a big target. It is important to have this in place.”
You say the track is almost F1 standard - what could be improved?
“There is still a lot that they need to improve. The facilities are - I don’t know if you can ask much more than what we have. Maybe they have much more in countries where they have a huge amount of money like Singapore, maybe Abu Dhabi. At least it’s a good standard, especially the buildings … Maybe the track has to be modified if they want to accept Formula One. And the traffic, the roads.”
A Moscow city official suggested Saturday that the city could host an F1 street race. Do you think that could happen?
“What you can see is that you won’t have problems that you could have in Paris, for example. Paris would be impossible for many reasons. The first reason is they are always talking about the ecology and the environment and also you have all the big monuments that they are very afraid because you have vibration for the monuments, all kind of things. You will always have excuses, so it’s impossible. Here it looks like they have very wide avenues and it could be possible. I know that Bernie [Ecclestone] and some constructors would love it.”
“They are even talking about a race in London today and they have many, many tracks in England. Is it the way to go? I don’t know, but it is possible. Also, what really may be the best argument, if the country decides to do it, they will do it.”
So Russia has the ability to see something and make it happen?
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