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Prost Grand Prix were the last French team to come from the country. Taken over from Guy Ligier's Equipe Ligier, the team were heavily hyped up after the team's buy-in at the end of 1996. The team did start their 5-year career in style, when they signed up top driver Olivier Panis (who had actually scored his first win in the older team-at Monaco). He had also snapped up Japanese rookie Shinji Nakano as Panis' second driver. The team folded at the end of the 2001 season.
History[edit | edit source]
1997: First season[edit | edit source]
The team were at the height of their success when they started out in 1997. The team got off to a good start at Australia, with Panis finishing 5th and Nakano 7th. In Brazil, the team could show what it was capable of with Olivier finishing in 3rd place. In the next few races, both drivers retired at Argentina. However, in Spain, the team was just something different altogether. Panis was a threat and could have won the race had it not been for a foul pit stop. He ended up finishing second behind Jacques Villeneuve who, after the race, said that Panis could be a seriously deathly threat throughout the season.
Unfortunately, this warning from Jacques was obliverated when it all went downhill in Montreal. Panis had had a massive crash on the exit of Turn 3. This massive accident was enough to break both of his legs and put him out for months. However, there was a consolation as Nakano scored his first points of his career by finishing 6th, due to the crash which the race was eventually red-flagged. But it was not enough to rescue the team that season, as there was only another point from Nakano and a fourth from Panis' replacement, Jarno Trulli. There was some hope when Trulli was leading in Austria, but his gearbox cut out towards the end.
Panis fully recovered and returned for the Nürburgring race. The result eventually was a 6th place for Panis.
1998: Peugeot engines[edit | edit source]
After an encouraging first season in Formula One, Alain Prost set the intention of his team was "to win the World Championship as quickly as possible". He had also noted that his former teammate Damon Hill had made a mistake in not signing for Prost ahead of the new season. The team was well-financed through a number of big sponsorship parties which was setting high expectations for the Prost team in 1998.
The team were also in the process of moving from the old base in Magny-Cours that had been used since the Ligier days to moving to a newly built headquarters at Guyancourt near Versailles. Prost had notably invested a lot of his sponsorship money in the construction of the new team headquarters.
Despite the high expectations, the team looked to be struggling with gearbox problems throughout pre-season testing. Whilst the team were able to rectify the problems before Albert Park, the team had little time to focus on making performance gains during testing. Nonetheless there were positives, the drivers were pleased with the handling of the car and remained hopeful of being competitive.
The team scored only a single point at a rainy and chaotic Belgian Grand Prix, which was scored by Trulli.
1999[edit | edit source]
The 1999 season marked a small improvement for the team. With only 3 6th-places being scored by both drivers, Trulli even managed to get a 2nd place-finish at the chaotic European Grand Prix.
2000: Line-up change[edit | edit source]
After the previous season, Panis was released from the team, and Trulli moved to Jordan, replacing the retired Damon Hill. They would eventually be replaced by Jean Alesi and new rookie Nick Heidfeld.
The 2000 season was noted for an incident which happened at the Austrian Grand Prix, which both team-mates collided coming into Turn 1.
At the end of the season, the team ended their relationship with engine supplier Peugeot, as the engine was unreliable throughout the season. The title sponsor, Gauloises, also departed with other few sponsors.
2001[edit | edit source]
Notes[edit | edit source]
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