Motor Racing: Prost in technical boost to McLaren

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The Independent Online
Alain Prost, four times world champion, ruled out a return to grand prix driving yesterday as he started a new job as a technical consultant with McLaren.

The 40-year-old Frenchman, who ended his ambassadorial relationship with Renault earlier this year, surprised many observers when he turned up at the Jerez test track in southern Spain, but soon made it clear that his racing days were behind him.

It had been thought he might step in for McLaren - with whom he won three of his four world titles - if Finland's Mika Hakkinen failed to make a full recovery from the head injuries he sustained during practice for the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide last month. Hakkinen is currently recovering at his Monaco home and is aiming to start the new season.

"Driving is all in the past," Prost said. "I now have a new role, a new job and I just hope that Mika will be OK for the first race. It is not really a question for me."

However, Prost made it clear he relishes the opportunity of trying to help McLaren revive their glory days after two seasons without a victory when the new season starts in Australia on 10 March.

"My new role will be more than test-driving the car," he said. "I will be evaluating the car, because when I speak to the drivers I want to know what they are talking about. I hope it is going to be an advantage for McLaren.

"I am not here to test the car this time. I don't know when I will test again, but that is something I will have to discuss with the team. I am here first of all to see what is going on, to meet the people and to build a relationship with David Coulthard. That is the most important thing for me."

Prost's new role will see him in a technical consultancy role similar to that which the three-times world champion, Niki Lauda of Austria, has filled at Ferrari in recent seasons.