Prost unplugged rates the current generation of F1 drivers
26 May, 2012
May 26 (Reuters) Four time world champion Alain Prost tipped Jenson Button for the 2012 Formula One Word Drivers’ Champion title before the season started and the Frenchman is not changing his opinion five races later, even after seeing five different winners from five separate teams triumph so far, the little ‘Professor’ felt the McLaren driver was still a good bet to scoop his second championship.
“At the beginning of the season, before the first race, I said it could be a championship for Jenson Button because of the tyres,” he told reporters at a wet Monaco Grand Prix on Friday. “Today I don’t know but let’s say again Jenson because maybe he could be the more consistent driver during the year.”
“I like his attitude, I like it in the car and outside the car,” continued Prost, who was overall runner-up on the only other occasion (in 1983) when Formula One had five different winners in the first five races. “I like [Red Bull's] Mark Webber. I like these gentlemen. There are a lot of nice guys in F1 today. It’s quite a good generation.”
Button, the 2009 champion with Brawn GP, won the season-opening race in Australia but has scored just two points in the last two races. The 32-year-old Englishman, a great admirer of Prost and a similarly smooth driver who knows how to look after his tyres, is sixth overall but only 16 points off leaders Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
Button was fastest in Thursday practice, but largely because he managed to get a quick lap in on the super-soft tyres before the rain fell. Prost, who won his titles with McLaren and Williams and also ran his own team in F1, said Ferrari’s Alonso and 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen, for Lotus, were also ones to watch.
“Alonso’s season is a good example of consistency, always pushing and always there,” said the former Ferrari driver. “Even when the car was not that good at the beginning of the season, he took the opportunity when he had it…he finished in the points and that is typically how you can win a championship even if the car is maybe not the best.”
“Fernando is an expert at that,” he added. “And the other drivers, they know that Fernando is driving this way.”
Raikkonen returned this season after two years in rallying. Prost, the only Frenchman to win an F1 title, said he had been surprised by the Finn’s mentality.
“OK, it’s still Kimi. And I like him because at least he’s not playing a game or a role,” he said of a driver famed for his dislike of PR and media work and monosyllabic mutterings off the track and blistering speed on it. “We all know him but his positive attitude and the way he drives is not bad at all. It’s quite impressive. He could be quite a surprise this year.”
Raikkonen’s team mate Romain Grosjean was second fastest in both practice sessions on Friday and has also chalked up the first podium of his F1 career this season. France has not had a grand prix winner since Olivier Panis won in a wet Monaco in 1996 but Grosjean, last year’s GP2 champion, certainly has the tools to get a result.
“I think he has a chance because he is going quite well, his car is one of the best. It may be one of the most consistent cars since the beginning of the year,” said Prost, the winner of 51 races including four Monaco Grands Prix.
“In Monaco it could be his day. But Monaco is Monaco. It depends on the weather, the qualifying, but he looks very fast and very well in his head,” added the Frenchman. “He has the confidence now, he has been supported a lot inside the team and outside which gives him more confidence so he’s OK.”
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