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Prost sees both sides in F1 “entertainment vs sport” debate
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 May 2012   |  9:43 am GMT  |  47 comments

Four time world champion Alain Prost is in Monaco this weekend, working with Renault Sport to launch a concept car aimed at reviving the sporty Alpine brand. And he gave his verdict on the debate about F1 shifting towards entertainment and unpredictability which has been raging all season.

As a front running driver in his time, Prost would by instinct always be likely to prefer a dominant car package, but he said that he could see that the entertainment factor that comes with the unpredictability of F1 2012 is attractive to new audiences. But ultimately he feels, as many in F1 do, that’s it’s gone perhaps a bit too far. “It is not what I would like to see, but I can understand that the audience is going up a little bit and people are more interested in that, ” he said.

“If I talk for myself I would say yes it is maybe a little bit too unpredictable. You know F1, and you know you would like to understand a bit more about what is happening, but F1 has changed, and the public watching F1 has changed also at the same time. You cannot compare to what we had 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Now the public are quite pleased to see that it is not all the time the same driver or same car. That is the worst thing for F1 today – if one car or one driver is dominating too much.”

It was only last year that Sebastian Vettel totally dominated the championship in the Red Bull with the exhaust blown diffuser. Now the banning of that device and the narrow operating window of the Pirelli tyres means that it is very hard for teams to be consistent from race to race.

However the signs are that with every race that passes the teams learn more and in the second half of the season we should see more consistency from the top teams in particular, which will allow their developments parts to influence the performance of their car more, which will be a relief to the F1 engineers.

“If I think about the engineers in the teams it must be a nightmare, so it may be a little bit too much. But at least we have the show, we have the indecision and people are watching more and more F1, which is good.”

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Carlos Marques

Maybe he’s planning a come back! He would fit this era quite nicely with his consistency, speed, and brains.


Wow, I was sure this post would have hit 300 comments plus. I guess there is not much to comment on when everyone agrees?


I can’t believe that one of the greatest drivers of all time (4 WDC’s) is only referred to as “a front running driver in his time”. Prost has always had one of the sharpest minds in F1 and as can be seen in his commentry.

In short you can’t please all of the people all of the time. New vaiables come in every year whether it’s a design advantage like Red Bull’s blown diffuser last year or a regulatory change. F1 stays fascinating because it’s always a moving a target for teams to grasp in order to win the WDC & WCC.


Sport has always been about sport, about the ability of the individual to excel against his/her peers, the ability of the TEAM to overcome to work together, thats what makes sport fascinating.

Gimmicks only hurt the true spirit of sport. While F1 is a team sport and does require they all overcome the same obsticals the gimmicks (DRS, KERS, Tyres – the groved tyre was just as bad as these Pirellies) is hurting F1 IMO.

What made F1 compeling for me was the rivalries Senna/Prost, Mansel/Piquit(sp), Hill/Schumacher they drew you in, you were compelled to watch Its the same in all sport…..not anymore.

Managing, is rubbish – seeing the leaders today running 2secs slower than Perez who had nothing to lose tells you everything F1 needs to get back to basics.


As a long-term fan of the sport I’m still in two minds of the current instalment of the entertainment v. sport argument (bear in mind that F1’s been struggling with this inner termoil for at least 30-odd years now).

The argument about Maldonado being a pay driver doesn’t stack up for me. He isn’t a pay driver in the sense that Riccardo Rosset or Pedro Diniz were in the 90s; he brings sponsorship to a team – he doesn’t get billed directly for his race seat. Also no-one can deny how good a drive his Spanish race was – that wasn’t a lucky win.

A final thought is that the ‘great’ drivers (Hamilton, Alonso, etc.) are still viewed as the best despite the change in tyres so the current state of play isn’t enough to alter spectator’s views over who is the very best.

James Clayton

Pretty much everybody with a voice in F1 right now must be starting to get awful sore, what with all the splinters they must be getting from sitting so firmly on the fence for so long.

At least Schumacher (“the tyres are rubbish”) and Kimmi (“No worries, it’s the same for everybody, get on with it”) hold firm solid opinions and aren’t treading eggshells, worried about upsetting the wrong people…

Sad times.


The cream always rises to the top. Ask people who their top 3 drivers on the grid are and the vast majority would answer Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso (we could argue in which order all day long)!

Look at the championship standings and look at who the top 3 are after 5 races. Is it a coincidence also that the guy in 4th is the 2007 world champion and regarded as probably the fastest guy out there 2003-2005?

As I said, the cream rises to the top. We should enjoy the individual races and the surprise podium visitors.



The tyres are grand. Its a challenge for the engineers sure – but we like challenges…


Further to the above.

I would be in more favour of the DRS being abandoned and the KERS unit having greatly increased energy storage and discharge capabilities – but retain the total time of use per lap to what it is now*. Make KERS a real tactical weapon for the driver behind to try and overtake with. That way, at least the guy in front has a fighting chance and its up to the following driver to wrong-foot him.

*or even adjust it race by race to suit the track. For instance, in Monaco there are only really two places to pass, the start/finish straight and through the tunnel down to the sea-front. So make the KERS unit only run long enough to last for say 2/3rds of the shortest full throttle run – but make it discharge at an equivalent 200 bhp or so.


Good to hear Alain Prost’s comments about current F1 and really he just underlines what everyone else that want’s proper racing is thinking and in some cases saying rather than be swayed by this ridiculously unpredictable formula. On another level it makes it all so bland because it has become a lottery as to which team or even driver within a team will get their car balance and set up within the operating bandwidth of these tyres. In other words the sport is all over the place, and while teams may glean a better understanding they will be powerless to do much about it before the season ends.


My F1childhood hero, always good to hear his balanced views. What a fabulous racing driver!


Agreed, there’s only 2 stand outs at the moment, Hamilton and Alonso.

What happened to this “greatest” ever Vettel? He’s all over the place


Keep the degradation, but lose the “going off the cliff” aspect of the tyres. Lose 70% of the marbles and get rid of the temperature lottery.


I remember reading an article about Mark Webber and Alain Prost cycling up Alpe D’Heuz together last summer. I believe Prost holds a team up the mountain that isn’t much short of a professional cyclist. What a great athlete the guy is!!


What a legend Alain is – In my opinion probably one of the best drivers ever. I heard Mark Webber cycled with him in France last hear – what a fantastic day that would be- I would have a thousand questions for the “professor “.

Respect his opinion on current season and he politely confirmed what most f1 follows views are. I’m sure he is view is much stronger of air. I don’t agree on Jenson though – I think Lewis will be more consistent and quicker.

Tornillo Amarillo

Most people missed the point that F1 is not just like any other sport, it is the FASTEST sport, so having such a Pirelli tyre designed in a way you have to nurse it is a big big contradiction that hurts fans feelings.

It is like boxing if it is trying NOT to knock-out the opponent, what is the point?


I TOTALLY AGREE, Tornilo, the tyres are a joke!



Tornillo and Paul… I strongly disagree! Apart from the Bridgestone era – where they built tyres to last for what seemed like forever (perhaps they should have had 5 races on each set of tyres back then?) – tyres have always degraded and part of F1 was to nurture them whilst going as fast as possible. You wreck your tyres, your not going to go very fast!

Besides, Pirelli have been asked to provide this type of tyre – Bridgestone refused.

And then on top of that, we no longer in-season test. Certain teams would spend hours, days, weeks just purely working on tyre set-up when constant in-season testing was allowed. This cannot be done now and I prefer it this way.

Oh and plenty of boxers win on points – it’s called TACTICS! And your tactics vary with each opponent you face. In F1 that goes for each track you drive, different tactics for different circuits.

I do think that at this moment, the teams\drivers are a little dumbfounded by the tyres but it’s good to see (I like to see them challenged and I like a “random element”)… however, give the teams some time and they will get a handle on them, and then we’ll eventually end up with processions again and you’ll both be happy.

Peace! And enjoy the Monaco GP 🙂


Prost impressed me because he must be an incredibly tough character. He rocked up in South Africa 4 weeks ago and did the toughest 8 day Mountain bike race in the world called the Cape epic. Apparently he did that on somthing like 3 weeks of training. Look like he suffered badly but never gave in, very impressed, true sporting great.


Impressive, didn’t know he was into mountain bike racing!


He told me about it, was very proud of it.

He looks super fit


A brief word, James, on a point not important for everyone but huge for a lot of your fans and listeners.

Friends whose hearing is less than perfect are having a lot of trouble hearing what’s said during F1 sessions broadcast. I myself couldn’t hear all that Prost was saying to you, and hardly any of Garry’s spots. Pitlane noise drowns out everything.

I KNOW you can’t avoid the noise at a GP.

But can you please speak to the tech people on behalf of the many who would like to hear and enjoy the experience of watching F1?

It’s a balance which has tilted too far toward ambient noise.

Maybe it’s possible to convey the atmos and still allow for audio to be audible?

I think it was easier to achieve in the days of human sound engineers rather than auto software..

Hope you can pass this on, James

Sorry for the long post


I am no expert but one contributor to this is that, depending on your broadcast, your TV and speakers may need to be adjusted. The F1 is broadcast with 5.1 surround-sound, and the centre channel is used for spoken word/voice. If your centre channel is low volume compared to your front and rear speakers, or if your TV is bad at downmixing the surround sound to stereo output, the centre channel can be drowned out. You need to check the volume levels of your channels on your home theatre or TV.


I’ll have a word. We hear them just fine and your comment is the only one like this. Would be interested to know if anyone else has this problem


Sometimes an “in race” interview, with a retired (from the race) driver or a Pirelli technician, for example, can be swamped by the noise of the engines… but guys they’re at an F1 race!!!

The engines are loud and at Monaco that sound reverberates of the buildings too. So give them (the sound engineers) a break. If they turned the mics up and then someone spoke, during a quiet moment (i.e. no engine noise in the background) that would deafen us.

My suggestion would be to have someone overviewing the TV feed, so that if an interview or car radio or whatever is drowned out, the commentators (i.e. James on R5) are informed of it and he\she can fill us in (that, of course, is provided that they heard it properly too! ;-)).


Please let me add my vote to the call for a better balance between ambient (car) sound and commentary. My hearing is significantly less than perfect yet I can hear commentary from most sports – it’s just in F1 (my absolutely favourite sport since my teen years – Moss, Clark, etc) – that the commentary is drowned by external noise.


I find that there is a huge difference in sound quality between listening to the small speakers on the TV and listening through a pair of quality headphones. Do sound engineers only listen through headphones?


Good point


While I didn’t hear the broadcast in question, I would like to add my vote to wanting better speech vs background-noise ratio. I regard my hearing as ‘normal’ (for a 59-year-old!) but find myself staining sometimes with, for example, some of Cravitz’ pitlane reports during a race.

And I always wonder why the TV commentators have to stand in front of the pit garages while they are revving the engines in pre-race comments. OK, I get most of it, (and of course they can’t predict when an engine will be revved!) but surely they could stand a bit further away, and have a ‘long shot’ photographically, for a similar view but better voice/noise ratio?!


Yes, James, I am finding the same difficulty as RD from Perth in hearing interviews etc. over background sounds of those glorious engines!

I believe that there are also trackside mikes which are invariably at too much ‘level’ & tend to drown out commentary to some extent.

A few (?) years ago, lip-mikes were used to give prominence to the spoken word against background.

I don’t know if these exist any more, but they did seem to be pretty good. I haven’t a specific hearing problem (recently checked out)

but I guess as you get older, distinguishing multiple sounds becomes more difficult.

RD from Perth

Thank you, James.

It’s really only a problem if your hearing is less than 100%, so as you say, won’t be apparent otherwise. You would be surprised, though, how many people this does affect.

btw Your commentary comes over absolutely fine.




Quite often I struggle to comprehend what’s said by Gary, Jaime and most of the drivers via the radio. My hearing isn’t great but it’s not damaged – I have my tv turned up louder than the rest of my family, apart from my who has it on a completely different level!


Great comments from Prost, rough summary on the current tyre situation being – great for those who dont care too much about F1, a nightmare for those who do.


Always nice to hear the Professor’s opinion. As a former World Champion great, as well as a former team owner he has an excellent perspective on the sport.

Always intelligent and well spoken.


Thinking about this question, it occurs to me that *I* certainly would never be one of the winners since I can’t race a car at all. It is totally irrelevant to me whether the cars are the same or different. So all these frustrated drivers, winning only one race apiece, must be near-perfect equals, racing in near-perfect equal cars. That’s the real problem, not that the regulations have finally forced the teams to all play the same game. 2012 rules have just revealed the truth – that there are nearly a dozen winners in this sport of 24 players. What a wonderful problem to have!


Then watch GP2, F1 is about car development and innovation as much as the drivers.

“2012 rules have just revealed the truth” – this comment shows you have no idea what youre talking about.


““2012 rules have just revealed the truth” – this comment shows you have no idea what youre talking about.”

Feels a bit rude. The reminder that the 2012 rules are in part giving:

That even if they do bring some sponsorship these 24 guys are among the very best drivers in the world – and can win on the right day under the right conditions.

Seems to be forgotten sometimes.

This season will still be won (most likely) by one of the 6 world champions on the grid, the cream rises to the top. But sometimes it can be nice to let the underdog have his day.

Two of the races that stick with me the most are Olivier Panis winning in Monaco in 96 and Damon Hill driving the wheels off an Arrows at the Hungaroring in 97.


appologies for sounding rude – just fed up with seeing positive comments about the tyres coupled with comments like – “It is totally irrelevant to me whether the cars are the same or different” – That isnt F1


I don’t see what’s untrue about there being numerous winners in F1. There *are* numerous winners and champions of this and other formulae and their quality isn’t hidden behind such diverse cars as it has been in previous years. Stating the obvious perhaps, but objectively true. So in what way do I not know what I’m talking about?


Just to back up previous reply – Ross Brawn – “I dont think its possible to get on top of these tyres.” Martin Whitmarsh – ” We have no idea whats going on with these tyres.” – (Whitmarsh’s quote given by Brundle during the GP.)


its always been common knowledge that most F1 drivers are capeable of winning a race with the right package, the 2012 tyres havent revealed anything new, they are making a lottery of what is motorsports most exact science.


I see Maldonado’s win in the last race hurt a lot of people who don’t feel a GP2 champion (that’s paying for his seat) deserves to ever win ~ That’s the feeling this boy gets

But sport should be about entertainment, full stop and no, it should never be entertaining for the drivers, those that want to disappear off into the sunset with their perfect tyres but rather it should first & foremost be entertaining for the average fans for without the average fans, this sport will soon enter a museum & the history books.

I like the way professor has spoken, i.e. Him as a driver (and engineers in the paddock) hate unpredictablilty for they would like to win races & titles as easily as possible but he’s still clever enough to realize that the sport can’t afford to venture to head back to the Schumi-Ferrari or the Williams years from 20 years ago especially when you have kids with so many distractions & gadgets who can easily get bored with monopolies.

So yeah, may the Pirelli/DRS good times continue lets just hope the FIA won’t tinker with this fans 2012 wet dream.


Oh and Jenson is Prost’s pick for the title for he believes this year is all about consistency & he believes Jenson will be the most consistent.


Well Button is consistently slower than Hamilton. Kartikeyan is pretty consistent too.


Heh! Well people expected Button to continue with his strong consistency and pace of last year, which is what Alonso is doing right now. Hasn’t worked out that way. But I wouldn’t count him or any any of the top 8 out yet. It’s still too close. The leader has less than 50% of the total points on offer! Mental!


Christ, he’s aged well.

Matthew S (from Texas)

Yeah, he stays in shape. He recently beat Mark Webber on a bike up a moutain that’s part of the Tour de France route.

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