'Drivers closer to the engineers could get an advantage over the others': Alain Prost predicts turbocharged change

Former champion says new engines will make ‘brain power’ as vital as horsepower for drivers

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The Independent Online

While this year’s protagonists prepare for the biggest weekend in the Formula One calendar, one of the sport’s legendary drivers took to the Monaco stage to deliver his verdict on next year’s proposed technical changes.

Alain Prost, four times a winner around the streets of the principality and quadruple world champion, expects radical new engine rules for 2014 will reward drivers who can add brain power to the horsepower at their disposal. “The Professor”, now an ambassador for Renault F1, earned his nickname in the turbo era of the 1980s for his analytical skill, strategic acumen and knack of preserving his tyres and brakes.

The regulations will undergo the biggest upheaval in decades next year, with the old V8 engines replaced by a new 2.6-litre V6 turbocharged unit with energy recovery systems. For Prost, who thrived on technological challenges in a career that saw classic battles with the late Brazilian triple champion, Ayrton Senna, such change represents an opportunity to be embraced.

“It will be very interesting. You are going to see some drivers with different skills being more curious, closer to the engineers and technology,” Prost said.

“Maybe they could get this advantage or understanding better than the others. Because it is not only being more focused. When a driver says, ‘Oh, I went to the factory and did that’, the most important thing is to understand what they do. And next year will be different.”

Tyres are a hot topic of conversation this year, with the Pirellis lasting only a handful of laps at some races and certain teams complaining that drivers can no longer race properly. Prost recognised that things were totally different in his day.

“I don’t know if I could do the same job,” he said. “I don’t think you can compare the tyres today to the tyres in my period.

“I was always in favour, even if you have only one manufacturer, to have more or less what we had in the 1980s – two or three choices of compound and then you do what you want. And no obligation to stop.

“You only start the race with the tyres you qualify with and that’s it, even if you want to put hard tyres on the left and soft on the right. And you do what you want.”

In tomorrow’s grand prix, Red Bull’s Mark Webber, after beating Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg to the chequered flag last year, will hope to set up his third Monaco victory in today’s final qualifying session despite struggling for pace in Thursday’s practice session.

“You will never come to Monte Carlo and have the perfect day or perfect set-up,” he said. “We were not really in the window here last year up until my last lap in third qualifying. We need to rediscover that if I can and be towards the front [of the grid] – you need to be there [at this circuit].”