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Prost: Rosberg would be worthy F1 champ for his resilience

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Although four-time world champion Alain Prost rates Lewis Hamilton as “one of the best” Formula One drivers ever, he would be happy to see Nico Rosberg clinch the championship on Sunday as a credit to his resilience and mental strength.

“For one reason: He deserves it,” Prost said on Saturday. “Lewis is an exceptional driver, we all know that. Rosberg had to work hard to be close to him.”

Rosberg leads Hamilton by 12 points heading into Sunday’s title decider, with both winning nine races this year.

The German driver is odds on to seal his first world championship, needing only to finish the race third if Hamilton wins.

“Depending on how they start, it can be an easy race for Nico,” Prost said. “Maybe Ferrari or the Red Bull is much closer to the Mercedes and we have a fight with three, four cars. That would be a little bit different in terms of pressure.”

Prost cautioned Rosberg against racing too conservatively, as it could leave him open to getting caught in the middle of other drivers.

“The pressure is on his shoulders, not Hamilton’s. For Nico, it is difficult to push at the maximum, it’s better to be second and not risk too much,” Prost said. “That’s normal, you cannot reproach him that. The problem is that if you start to have (Sebastian) Vettel, (Max) Verstappen, (Kimi) Raikkonen, and (Daniel) Ricciardo beside you. The pressure is difficult.”

Should Hamilton upset the odds, the British driver will join Prost as a four-time F1 champion.

“He’s right at the top … I would never say `This driver is No. 1.’ But he’s one of the best,” the 61-year-old Frenchman said in the Yas Marina paddock area. “He’s an exceptional driver, so I would prefer to have him (getting four titles) because he deserves what he gets.”

Hamilton has won 52 races, one more than Prost in an outstanding career with McLaren, Renault, Ferrari and Williams.

Prost won his championships in 1985, `86, `89 and `93, and during his heyday was involved in red-hot tussles with Ayrton Senna.

The tension ebbed and flowed before reaching breaking point when they were rivals on the same McLaren team during the `89 campaign.

The flamboyant, charismatic, and thrilling Senna was much loved and a huge fans’ favorite with worldwide appeal, whereas the more stoic Prost was nicknamed “The Professor” for his meticulous, almost surgically precise approach to driving.

He was seen as the antithesis to Senna and sees this juxtaposition somewhat reflected in the Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry.

“The media, the public, all think he (Rosberg) is very below Lewis Hamilton. Psychologically, it’s very difficult to manage that, especially when you fight against Lewis,” Prost said.

“In a way, I was in the situation in `89 when (everyone) was really behind Ayrton. It’s very difficult to manage that psychologically. I have sympathy with Nico, because he’s considered like this and I can understand how he can feel.”

While he considers Rosberg still to be “a little bit behind” Hamilton in terms of their driving ability, he thinks Rosberg does not get enough credit. A title win, Prost says, would have a liberating effect and might enable Rosberg to go up a gear next year.

“If Rosberg wins then maybe next year we have a different situation,” he said. “(Could) he be better if he had the support of everybody? We don’t know. That’s why, in a way I would like to see him champion because then we can see.”

Reports: Fernando Alonso to test on September 5 at Barber Motorsports Park

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According to a number of media stories Thursday afternoon and evening, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will reportedly test an Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park on Wednesday, September 5.

The 2.38-mile permanent road course just outside Birmingham, Alabama, per those stories, will play host to Alonso as he reportedly tests with IndyCar’s Andretti Autosport team and Honda.

Honda Performance Development (HPD) President Art St. Cyr issued a statement late Thursday afternoon about Alonso’s reported upcoming test:

“Fernando Alonso is one of the premier racing drivers of this generation, and we very much enjoyed working with him at the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

“He has shown that he can be very competitive right off the bat, and it would be great for IndyCar if he were to decide to drive here full-time after his F1 career. Having Alonso as a driver would be an obvious benefit for any team or manufacturer.”

However, St. Cyr’s statement also included a reference to Honda potentially not being able to field a new engine for Alonso in the IndyCar series in 2019.

“Our engine lease agreements are made between HPD and specific teams,” St. Cyr’s statement said. “Several of our current IndyCar Series teams already have agreements in place with HPD for the 2019 season, and we have been operating near maximum capacity all year long to properly provide powerful, reliable engines for all of our teams.

“We have had discussions with several current and potential teams for 2019, and those discussions are ongoing.”

Rumors of Alonso potentially racing for a hybrid operation that would include Andretti Autosport, McLaren and Harding Racing have been picking up speed. But there’s one potential major hurdle: Harding’s Dallara’s are powered by Chevrolet engines.

Alonso announced earlier this week that he’d be retiring from Formula One at season’s end, saying he’s looking forward to new adventures.

Because of his loyalty to McLaren, it’s increasingly looking as if Alonso comes to IndyCar, McLaren will have some involvement – although perhaps not as much as it potentially could do if it went all-in with a full-time effort immediately in 2019.

There is no word whether Chevrolet or Harding Racing could potentially be on hand at the Sept. 5 test at BMP, even in just an observation role.

Since being part of the winning team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, Alonso’s desire to become only the second driver to win motorsport’s triple crown – the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 – has increased exponentially.

He’s already won the first two; just a Indy 500 triumph remains on his bucket list.

The late Graham Hill is the only driver to have accomplished the triple crown feat to date.

Alonso, who turned 37 on July 29, has made just one prior IndyCar start, in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. He led 27 laps of the 200-lap event and appeared to have a car strong enough to win before it suffered engine failure with 21 laps remaining.

Instead of what likely could have been a top-five finish, if not a win, Alonso’s first foray into IndyCar racing ended disappointingly with a 24th-place finish.

In addition to being courted by IndyCar, NASCAR has also jumped into the Alonso sweepstakes, saying he’d be welcome to race in the 2019 Daytona 500.

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