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Prost: Reaching F1 without financial support 'very complicated'

Written by  Nov 17, 2018

Four-time Formula 1 champion Alain Prost has warned it is becoming "very complicated" for even talented drivers to come through the motorsport ranks without strong financial backing.

The power of money, particularly in F1, has frustrated plenty in recent years with a number of highly-rated names either failing to reach the grid or only lasting a handful of years at most before often being dropped in favour of drivers with more sponsorship.

Drivers like Esteban Gutierrez, Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado all made their way through the ranks thanks to strong financial support from companies in their homeland, while others, like Lance Stroll, have enjoyed the backing of their wealthy families.

"To reach F1 without any money is very complicated today," Prost told L'Equipe.

"Drivers' careers are starting increasingly earlier. A four-year-old kid is put into a kart before moving through racing's junior ranks, which requires a lot of financial support.

"A driver programme such as the one Elf offered no longer exists. Drivers coming from rich families are therefore advantaged."

It isn't just the drivers who have to think about the bottom line though, with the Frenchman all too aware of the challenge teams face and the decisions they must make.

"When I was a team owner, I was also confronted with the difficulty of choosing between a talented driver and one with money. If you take the former, you risk an economic death," Prost claimed.

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Today the only alternative for young drivers without the support is to get on the programs offered by the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull but they are no guarantee of success either.

"A junior programme is meant to accompany a driver to the top but if you don't put him in the right place at the right time, the system generates its own failures. So why keep a driver?" Prost argued.

Currently, the most talked about example is Esteban Ocon, who's not going to be on the grid in 2019 after Stroll's takeover at Force India and Renault backed down from taking the Frenchman.

"[Mercedes boss] Toto Wolff criticized Renault, but why didn't he replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes with Ocon?" Prost wondered, backing up his earlier point.

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