JANUARY 11, 2002
Prost's second driver
AS France waits for news as to whether or not Prost Grand Prix is going to be saved, there is speculation that as part of the deal the team will run a young French driver in the second car. Much will depend on who buys the team but the obvious candidates at the moment are three young men, only one of whom has actually raced in F1 before.
Stephane Sarrazin is now 27 and has been waiting for a break to get into F1 for three years. In 1999 Sarrazin deputized for the injured Luca Badoer in the Minardi team in Brazil and did an impressive job until a front wing failure caused him to have a very large accident, although he emerged unscathed. He was the Prost test driver again in 2000 but had a bad year in Formula 3000 with the McLaren Junior Team and since then he has been struggling to keep his career going.
Jonathan Cochet is younger than Sarrazin and won the French Formula 3 title in 2000. Since then he has acted as a test driver for Prost while racing only in a handful of international Formula 3 races. He has been very successful in these and his most recent victory was in Korea at the end of last year, where he beat all the 2001 stars of F3.
The third man to watch out for is Franck Montagny. He is just 24 but has had to fight his way through the junior formulae in France. He was on course to win the French Formula Renault title in 1996 when he broke both legs in a big accident but then came back to win in Formula 3 in 1997, winning four races. In 1998 he won eight times but was beaten to the title by David Saelens who had use of the new Renault engine. He moved to Formula 3000 in 1999 but struggled for money in 2000 and this year decided to switch to the Spanish Formula Nissan Open series and won the title. He is due to test for Minardi next week at Valencia but could be in the running for the Prost drive.
France, it should be remembered, has only one Grand Prix driver this year and Olivier Panis is no spring chicken. The arrival of Renault Sport should improve the situation for young French racers.
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