The chassis had been designed by Loic Bigois with a brand new gearbox designed by George Ryton. In the first year of Prost's partnership with Peugeot, Jean-Pierre Boudy had provided the brand new A16 engine for the team to use.
To avoid the French anti-tobacco sponsorship laws, Prost launched the Gauloises sponsored AP01 at the Circuit de Catalunya in mid-January 1998. Prost immediately set out an ambitious plan to "win the World Championship as quickly as possible."
The Prost Peugeot AP01 underwent pre-season testing at the Magny-Cours circuit ahead of the 1998 season. It had become immediately evident that the car was struggling with reliability in the gearbox.
Alain Prost had remained calm and collected despite his team's reliability problems, noting "this isn't a surprise, not even an unpleasant surprise. Looking at the radical changes here, the car's design, the new gearbox and the new sporting and technical rules such as the crash test, one can say that this situation was predictable."
The team's lead driver, Olivier Panis offered encouragement, noting "The tests have gone well. Our gearbox problems have been almost completely solved. Even if the first Grand Prix looks like it will be difficult, I know that the Prost Peugeot AP01 is competitive."
Although the team were largely able to fix their gearbox problems ahead of the start of the season, it was believed that the Prost team were unable to spend much time and resources on improving the performance due to the reliability concerns ahead of the first race. The Prost team had managed to pass its sidepod crash tests only a few hours before the first practice session at Albert Park.
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