In early 1997, Alain Prost purchased the Ligier team from Flavio Briatore and even before the start of the season changed the name to Prost Grand Prix. For 1998, the team announced their exclusive contract with Peugeot to deliver them engines. For 1997 Prost Grand Prix drove with the planned Mugen-Honda engine and uses the JS45 designed by Loïc Bigois. However, did you know already in 1989 Alain Prost was to start his ow team?
Alain Prost is one of the best drivers the Formula One ever saw. Who doesn’t remember his fights on the track with Ayrton Senna and Niki Lauda? The first time we knew about Alain’s plans to run his own Formula One team appeared in mid-1989, when he had fallen out with Ayrton Senna and was on the verge of leaving Mclaren. It has been said that Alain Prost and engineer John Barnard came close to doing a deal for Renault Engines, and debut their team, probably Prost Grand prix, in 1990 or 1991. However, due the economic recession that time they could not find enough sponsorship.
A year later Alain would drive for the Scuderia in the Formula One. Two years later Prost found himself fired by Ferrari. Without any decent seat, instead of driving for Minardi or Larrousse he once again began to look at doing his own team on the grid. In early 1992, Alain Prost had his first negotiation with Guy Ligier, team owner of the Ligier team. However, the negotiations to take over the team failed. With no seat for 1992, he signed a deal with Williams for 1993.
In 1993, Prost would win his fourth title and retire from racing. However, he almost appeared on the grid in 1994. When McLaren drove with the Peugeot engines, Peugeot did their best to bring Alain Prost back to McLaren. Forgotten is that Peugeot was on the verge to appear on the grid in 1993 with their own team under the lead of Jean Todt.
Alain Prost did test with the McLaren-Peugeot MP4/9 at Estoril but decided eventually not to join the new alliance. Instead, Prost became television commentator and a special ambassador for Renault. However, the Renault agreement was short lived. In July 1995 it was suddenly cancelled.
Where Renault announced in the media via a press statement that Prost was looking for a new direction in his life. However, insiders said that there was no doubt Alain was furious at Renault. The reason, Renault failed to give Alain Prost it’s competitive engines for a period of five years. In Mid-1994 Prost Grand Prix already existed on paper it just only didn’t as team. Renault was the reality Prost Grand Prix was still not on the grid. To quote Alain Prost;
“I had an agreement in principal with some top engineers,” he said. “I had also put together 75% of the necessary budget. I only needed to get a competitive engine for the next five seasons. I was going to present the new team on September 1 and the plan was to run a car in August 1996 and so be ready for the 1997 season. Renault did not want to follow me. In these conditions we no longer have anything to do together.”
The first Prost AP01 was to shown for the media on 1 September 1995. This of course did not happen, as Renault did not want to supply Alain Prost with engines for the 1996 season. To bring Prost Grand Prix on the grid Alain moved his attention to Peugeot. The manufacturer who earlier tried to bring Prost back on board with McLaren. The only problem was that Peugeot had an exclusive deal with Jordan Grand Prix until the end of 1997. Alain Prost became frustrated he could not bring Prost Grand Prix on time on the grid, and decided to stay as consultant, and sometimes test driver, for the McLaren team in 1996.
In the mean time Guy Ligier had sold his Ligier team to Flavio Briatore. For years Guy received governance money because French president Francois Mitterand’s term ended. Mitterand and Ligier were close friends. However, Alain Prost and Jacques Chirac were close pals as well. After Chirac became president of France, he ordered his minister of sports, Guy Drut, to find a way to get the Ligier team back. To use it as propaganda tool and showcase for French technology.
During 1996 Alain Prost together with Guy Drut and several others he managed to purchase the Ligier team from Flavio Briatore on the 13th of February 1997 in Geneva. John Barnard would become the technical man of the team. However, for Prost Grand Prix it was short day to design their own Formula one car. Instead, Prost Grand Prix would use the Ligier JS45, designed by Loïc Bigois and simply rebranded it to Prost JS45. However, many kept saying it as the Ligier JS45.
Prost Grand Prix, showed some good results with Olivier Panis, Jarno Trulli and Shinji Nakano behind the wheels. During the second race held in Brazil, Prost Grand Prix with Olivier Panis arrived on the podium as third, later in the season during the Spanish Grand Prix Olivier Panis finished second.
For 1998, Prost Grand Prix was secured with the Peugeot engine, looking back after it the engine was far from good and only a few good results were scored between 1998 and 2000. At the end of 2001 Prost Grand Prix would end up in bankruptcy, while Tom Walkinshaw and Charles Nickerson bought the assets of the folded Prost Grand Prix and tried to debut in 2002 with the dubious Phoenix Grand Prix team.
Trivia; In October 1993 it was said that Alain Prost was to buy the Ligier team, rename it to Prost Grand Prix, to eventually serve as the Williams Junior team.
Trivia; Did you know that after Olivier Panis broke both his legs during the Canadian Grand Prix Alain Prost was to race all the races himself until Panis would return.