PARIS: Four-time Formula One world champion Alain Prost has backed Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel to equal his tally of titles this season.
Frenchman Prost won his championships with two teams over nine years but Vettel is aiming for four in a row, a feat achieved before only by Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
Only three drivers have ever won four or more titles since the championship started in 1950.
“Oh yes, although I hope he doesn’t have a start to the season like he did two years ago when he won four or five races in a row,” the 58-year-old told reporters at a Renault engine event on the outskirts of Paris when asked whether Vettel would chalk up his fourth crown.
Vettel won five of the first six races in 2011 when he romped to his second title but he had a much tougher time last year, being taken down to the wire in Brazil by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
“He is still the favourite. Behind him, it’s hard to say,” said Prost who won his titles with McLaren and Williams.
“Will losing (Lewis) Hamilton and having a young driver in his place be destabilising (for McLaren)? Mercedes will not be challenging for the title, I don’t think so. Alonso could be the most dangerous behind Vettel and why not an outsider like (Lotus’s Kimi) Raikkonen or (Romain) Grosjean?” Prost’s son Nicolas is a development driver with Lotus.
Asked what conclusions he had drawn from the first two pre-season tests in Spain, Prost said Red Bull were still clearly the team to beat while Hamilton’s Mercedes team would be fighting to catch the other front-runners. “Red Bull are still there and certainly better than last year at the same time,” he said.
Senna’s gloves auctioned
A pair of regular racing gloves worn by the late Ayrton Senna in the 1991 season when he won his third Formula One title sold for 22,000 pounds ($33,200) at a charity auction for grand prix mechanics on Monday.
The framed gloves, donated by former McLaren team co-ordinator Jo Ramirez who was a friend and colleague, were bought by Gerard Lopez - owner of the current Lotus team that traces its lineage back to the Toleman outfit that the Brazilian made his F1 debut with in 1984.
The 11 lots in the auction at London’s Royal Opera House raised more than £92,000 for the Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust, chaired by triple champion Jackie Stewart.
Former F1 champions Niki Lauda, Damon Hill and his late father Graham — represented by his racing grandson Josh who is moving up through the junior series — were inducted into the Motor Sport magazine Hall of Fame.
“The entire Hill family is delighted to have not one but two family members inducted at once,” said 1996 champion Damon Hill, the only son of a world champion to also win the title.