Murchison may work together with Prost


SINGAPORE, the land of traffic lights, could well have a Formula One driver in the making as France's four-time Formula One world champion Alain Prost is eyeing Singaporean Christian Murchison.

In an exclusive meeting with Murchison and Timesport at the Sepang Grand Prix circuit on Saturday, Prost said he was looking for a "young driver who is not only fast but can work well with my Prostar F3000 team next year".

And he has called Murchison up for two tests next month. The F3000 series in Europe is the main hunting ground for talented drivers eyeing Formula One.

The fact that Prost made time immediately after Saturday's qualifying session to see Murchison in his office, is an indication of his keen interest in the 19-year-old.

Prost, known as the Professor for being the master of strategy in his heyday, won his world titles in 1985, 1986, 1989 and 1993. He now runs the Prost Formula One team.

Murchison had told Timesport earlier this year that his goal is to be in Formula One by 2005. He left for Perth at 11 to continue his studies and soon got into go-karting, Formula Ford, and then Australia's premier single-seater category - Formula Holden - this year.

In his debut, he led the championship for most of the season before finishing second. He was voted Rookie of the Year.

He tested for the Red Bull Marko F3000 team last month, and was called up by Prost's Prostar F3000 team for a private test at Le Mans.

There, Prostar pit him against Frenchman Sebastian Bourdais, who drove for it this year and has been signed for next year.

But Murchison's times immediately raised Prost's discerning eye when he got them from his engineers.

Bourdais clocked 1min 32.5sec, his best at the Bugatti circuit, his home track, in the cool morning when better times can be achieved.

But Murchison, in his first time in an unfamiliar car and track, clocked 1:33.6 in the hotter afternoon when times are usually about a second slower.

Said Murchison: "An F3000 car is so much more sensitive and powerful. When I tested the Red Bull Marko, I told myself that I should control myself, it being my first time and all. But that was a mistake.

"So when I drove the Prostar, I went flat out, so I could adjust myself to the shock of driving a more powerful car early and get used to it quickly. I then set down to do consistently quick laps."

Said Prost: "Now that I've met Christian, I find he's a nice boy. I heard about the way he approached the car and my team and got good times. All in one session too.

"I'm looking for a young driver who is not only fast, but is able to work with the team to get the best out of his time in the car. It's a quality I like."

Murchison said: "He has no airs at all, like what you would expect of a champion driver. I hope I can really squeeze out better times in my next two tests." - Ernest Luis