The team's mistake, says Alain Prost

Alain Prost, the former world champion who quit McLaren after a stormy and bitter two-year partnership with Ayrton Senna, warns his former team of the potential problems of the Alonso-Hamilton tension. By Alan Henry.

Alain Prost, the four-time world champion, has warned his former employers McLaren of potential problems in giving Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso equal status. "I think now having two equal cars within the same team is a mistake. In the end it will hurt them because it generates too much tension," Prost told `El Pais'.

The Frenchman won three of his four world titles driving for McLaren but left at the end of 1989 after a stormy and bitter two-year partnership with Ayrton Senna.

Prost said that he felt Hamilton's championship lead, which has so antagonised Alonso, could be down to the extra time he had spent in the McLaren simulator. "The simulator has reached an amazing perfection, it's even capable of simulating weather conditions, the rain, the wet asphalt, everything," he said. "Hamilton has worked with the simulator a lot more than Alonso, and his driving style is very smooth, less rough than the Spaniard. I think that's why for McLaren it is easier to set up the car for Hamilton's style."

Prost, who retired in 1993 after winning his fourth championship in a Williams, admitted he was not happy with the way the sport was evolving. "Back in my days, the driver was more important than the car; now, it's technology first and then the driver's hands.

The cars are so equally matched because of the limitations and the technological advances that make overtaking so hard. The races are decided in the pits. The only thing that the teams can't take into account is driving errors."

McLaren's chief executive, Martin Whitmarsh, said he was relaxed about the intensity of the competition between Hamilton and Alonso. "Do I expect more speculation about our guys and their relationship? Yes," he said. "The reality is both our guys are winners, they want to win. If Fernando got out of the car and said he was delighted Lewis beat him today, I would be very worried. It can be a distraction but at the moment it isn't. But when you have two competitive drivers they're always going to have a go at each other.

"There's a lot a pressure on Fernando to have someone as young and as confident and seemingly invincible as Lewis is. Fernando is a phenomenal competitor and it's still a long season and he's still aiming to win the world championship."

The team is testing at Silverstone in preparation for the French and the British GPs — July 1 and July 8 respectively. McLaren expect their MP4-22 challengers to be even quicker following a new package of aerodynamic updates.

The calm after the storm

Fernando Alonso has signalled that he is feeling more comfortable at McLaren and that any tension which existed between him and Lewis Hamilton, the winner of the Canadian and US GPs, is beginning to subside. Relations threatened to boil over recently after Alonso accused the British team of favouring Hamilton and marshalling their resources behind the 22-year-old Formula One novice. McLaren's team principal Ron Dennis denied the claims and insisted both cars had been given equal treatment. But Alonso, who trails Hamilton by 10 points and finished second behind the Briton at Indianapolis, continued to express his doubts. Now, however, the winner of the last two world championships has revealed that parity has been restored behind the scenes and he is anxious to regain his status as the team's No. 1 driver. "Since I said that the team were happier for Hamilton's victories, they have taken more care in details," Alonso told the Spanish radio station Cadena Ser. "They are showing more manners and in the last race, all the team showed a genuine happiness for both drivers.

"We are better than two weeks ago," Alonso added. "We are showing a great reliability, the cars are fast and both drivers can fight for victory or the podium. Now my world championship really begins. France, Great Britain, Germany and Hungary are races that I like and that I have won at some point. I am confident that things will once again go well for me. I feel more comfortable in the car and everything is going better."

Alonso admitted he is not upset that McLaren give Hamilton all of his telemetry: "Hamilton gets my data but I also get his data," he said. "However, the one that gets the car ready on a Friday is me."

Meanwhile Alonso's former boss Flavio Briatore backed the Spanish driver to take a third consecutive world title. "Fernando will win, I'm 100% sure," said the Renault team principal in an interview with Spain's AS newspaper. "He knows what he needs to do. Last year there was a moment when it looked like he would lose the title. Everybody thought he was going to lose it. But pushing together we ended up winning."

@ Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007