Thursday November 22nd, 2001
By Francois Thomazeau
Alain Prost's dream of a successful French Formula One team was close to collapse on Thursday when the team he bought in 1997 went into receivership.
Prost Grand Prix were placed in the hands of receivers - the first stage on the road to bankruptcy - by a court in Versailles, near the team's factory, a court spokeswoman said. The French constructor will be monitored by the court for a period of six months and judge Franck Michel has been named the team's administrator, the spokeswoman added.
The team are due to make a statement later and a news conference was being held at 1530 GMT by Prost, who won the world drivers title four times before retiring in 1993.
"I had a meeting with my staff on Wednesday to explain the situation and the possibilities. I have another meeting on Thursday but I cannot say anything," Prost told sports daily l'Equipe.
The decision does not mean that Prost Grand Prix must withdraw from the 2002 World Championship, only that it has failed so far to find funds to cover debts estimated at around 200 million francs ($30 million).
The International Automobile Federation (FIA) said on Thursday: "We received their application to participate next season before the 15 November deadline, but we won't be publishing the 2002 entry list until December 1st, as usual."
The team's future, however, looks grim as Prost seems unable to pay Ferrari for the engines the Italian constructor have been providing since last season.
No Wins, No Poles
The Formula One circus has 11 teams at present, including Prost, and Toyota will join next season. The court decision comes at the end of five seasons of disappointment for Prost.
The Frenchman seemed set to achieve the dream of a lifetime when he bought the team from Ligier in 1997 aiming to make it a fully French outfit with a French chassis, French engine and French drivers. Prost recruited compatriot Olivier Panis and the first season was promising, the team scoring 21 points and finishing sixth in the World Championship.
Panis's serious crash in Canada that season marked the beginning of the decline. After five seasons, the team's record is highly unimpressive - no wins in 83 races and not even a pole position. This season Jean Alesi managed only four points from 17 races before parting with his old friend Prost after a dispute.
Rumours of serious financial problems had circulated since the season-ending Japanese Grand Prix last month, which Alain Prost missed, and he had made it clear he was struggling to find sponsors. Prost met French sports minister Marie-George Buffet last month but he insisted then he had not asked her for any support.
"The arrival of a big sponsor would open the floodgates," he said. "Other, smaller ones, are ready to go ahead as soon as it is safe."
Prost said such a contributor would have to invest at least 150 million francs ($25 million) in his team.
Published at 12:11:11 GMT