Motor Racing: Williams worried by pit-lane refuelling: Possibility of Prost returning haunts pre-season for Williams and McLaren

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The Independent Online
WILLIAMS' technical director, Patrick Head, fears that refuelling of Formula One cars could prove highly dangerous in narrow pit lanes at the world championship circuits.

'I don't want to talk up a storm but there is going to be a fuel fire in the pit-lane, it's just a question of when,' Head said yesterday at the Williams team's pre-season open day. 'The levels of danger are already not sensible with cars passing a yard from mechanics at 100mph.

'The equipment will obviously be of the highest standards but with 300 to 400 fuelling stops in a season, the percentages suggest there has got to be an accident - and probably down to human error,' he added.

'But there is no question that refuelling stops will mean better racing and a better spectacle for television.'

However Frank Williams, the champion team's head, was keen to avoid controversy. 'We don't want to be contentious or confrontational over anything this season,' he said. 'We just want to go racing.'

The question of whether the retired world champion, Alain Prost, wishes to do the same this season continues to haunt Williams and the Frenchman's would-be employers, McLaren, in the build-up to the season.

Williams, his former employers, are contemplating a third successive season of domination with their replacement for Prost, Ayrton Senna, and Damon Hill. But Prost's possible return, in a McLaren, could change the picture.

Both drivers know the Frenchman's decision could influence their future. 'If he gets into a McLaren he will take away points from us, no question,' Williams said, with a conviction borne out of last season's success in which they won two world championships together.

'Renault will be unhappy if the world champion turns up in a Peugeot-powered car,' he added. In an increasingly confusing issue McLaren has hinted Prost did not retire, but was pushed out and paid to stay out, to make room for Frank Williams' obsession to have Senna.

Was it true? Williams fudged and suggested otherwise yesterday. So who is playing Machiavelli? 'It is no secret that Alain was keen to become the owner of the Ligier team,' Williams said. 'But after he retired that road was blocked and he found himself at 38, in the prime of life, with nowhere to go.'