Formula One drivers from France

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Alain Prost in 2012

There have been 71 Formula One drivers from France, the most successful of them being Alain Prost who won the World Drivers' Championship four times.

World champions and race winners[edit]

The title has been won by a French driver on four occasions, all of which were victories for Alain Prost.[1] Eleven other drivers have won at least one race, though they are all far behind Prost's tally of 51 wins.[2] Olivier Panis is the most recent French driver to have secured a race victory, being first to take the chequered flag at the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix.[3]

Current drivers[edit]

In the 2014 Formula One season there are three French drivers.

Romain Grosjean was born in Geneva, Switzerland but races as a French driver. He came through the Renault driver development programme, becoming a test driver for the team in 2008. When Nelson Piquet, Jr. was dropped in 2009 Grosjean was promoted into the racing seat but failed to impress, being dropped for the following year. He was brought back into the team for the 2012 season.[4]

Jean-Éric Vergne made his race debut at the 2012 Australian Grand Prix with Toro Rosso. He had taken part in the Abu Dhabi Young Driver Test in 2010 and was a practice driver for the final races of the following season.[5]

Jules Bianchi made his race debut with Marussia at the 2013 Australian Grand Prix.

Romain Grosjean, 2012
Romain Grosjean
2014 season position: 14th 
Jean-Éric Vergne, 2011
Jean-Éric Vergne
2014 season position: 13th 
Jules Bianchi
2014 season position: 16th 

Former drivers[edit]

Notable former drivers[edit]

Alain Prost debuted with McLaren in 1980. He finished in the points on four occasions but only finished 16th overall, moving to Renault for the following season. After three successful years, including finishing the 1983 season as the championship runner-up, he returned to McLaren. Prost drove with the team between 1984 and 1989, winning the championship three times and coming second twice. During this time McLaren introduced a new team-mate for Prost – Ayrton Senna. Their relationship was difficult and the pair clashed on and off the track, leading to it being described as "one of the sport's greatest ever rivalries".[2] Prost joined Ferrari in 1990 and resumed his battle with Senna, losing the championship at the final race of the season after the pair collided. In 1991 the Ferrari was uncompetitive and for the first time since his debut season Prost was unable to win a race. He publicly slated the team for their performances and was subsequently fired before the end of the year. He took a year off in 1992 and returned for one last season in 1993, winning his fourth championship.[2]

René Arnoux won seven races during a career than spanned 12 years, having made his debut in 1978 with Martini. The team folded part way through the season, and he secured a drive with Renault for the following year. For some of his time there he partnered Alain Prost, and he controversially ignored team orders to win the 1982 French Grand Prix ahead of his favoured team mate. He moved to Ferrari and enjoyed his most successful season, winning three races and finishing third in the championship. Ligier signed Arnoux for four seasons from 1986 and he retired after several years of poor performance.[6]

Jacques Laffite won six races and finished fourth in the drivers title in three successive seasons (1979–1981). His Formula One career began in 1974 and ended with a serious accident at the 1986 British Grand Prix, though he still raced in other disciplines.[7]

Maurice Trintignant competed in the inaugural season of the Formula One World Championship, debuting at the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix in a Simca-Gordini. Five years later he became the first French driver to win a World Championship Grand Prix at the same circuit. His only other race win also came at Monaco when he took the chequered flag in the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix. He retired in 1964 having raced with ten different teams.[8][9]

Jean Alesi is the only French driver to be in the "200-plus club", having competed in 201 races and being one of only a small number of drivers to reach the landmark. He made his debut in 1989 and raced with a variety of teams until his retirement in 2001. He scored 31 podium finishes but only won one race - the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix.[10]

Olivier Panis competed in 158 races between 1994 and 2004. He is the most recent French driver to win a race, driving a Ligier to victory in Monaco in 1996. He drove for the Prost team for three seasons.[3]

Patrick Tambay made his Formula One debut in 1977 with Ensign. He signed for McLaren for his second year in the sport but the car was never particularly competitive. He left the team at the end of 1979, being replaced by Alain Prost for his first year in the sport. Tambay returned in 1981 after a year in the US but was dropped at the end of the season. He announced his retirement but was asked to drive for Ferrari for the second half of the 1982 season after the death their driver, and close friend of Tambay, Gilles Villeneuve. He won one race and stayed with Ferrari for the following season, winning once more. After two years with Renault and one with Lola he retired for a second time.[11]

Didier Pironi started his Formula One career in 1978 with Tyrrell. He moved to Ligier in 1980 alongside compatriot Jacques Laffite, frequently outpacing the team leader. He won that year's Belgian Grand Prix and finished fifth in the championship. He signed with Ferrari as partner to Gilles Villeneuve but could not keep pace with the French-Canadian. In 1982, the year of Villeneuve's death, Pironi looked set to win the championship having won two races and finished on the podium six times. At the German Grand Prix he crashed during a practice session, breaking his legs and ending both his title challenge and his career.[12]

Other former drivers[edit]

Additional to those detailed above the following drivers started at least ten races:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Drivers". EPSN F1. ESPN EMEA Ltd. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "Alain Prost". EPSN F1. ESPN EMEA Ltd. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Williamson, Martin. "Olivier Panis". EPSN F1. ESPN EMEA Ltd. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  4. ^ "Romain Grosjean (biography)". Formula1.com. Formula One World Championship Limited. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  5. ^ "Jean-Éric Vergne". EPSN F1. ESPN EMEA Ltd. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  6. ^ "René Arnoux". EPSN F1. ESPN EMEA Ltd. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "Jacques Laffite". EPSN F1. ESPN EMEA Ltd. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Williamson, Martin. "Maurice Trintignant". EPSN F1. ESPN EMEA Ltd. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  9. ^ "Drivers: Maurice Trintignant". GrandPrix.com. Inside F1, Inc. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  10. ^ "Big hitters - Button joins the 200-plus club". Formula1.com. Formula One World Championship Limited. July 2011. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  11. ^ "Patrick Tambay". EPSN F1. ESPN EMEA Ltd. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  12. ^ "Didier Pironi". EPSN F1. ESPN EMEA Ltd. Retrieved 30 October 2012.