Top F1 French Grand Prix moments at Paul Ricard

The French Grand Prix is one of the most historic and important motor races in the world. Indeed, the first running in 1906 started GP racing

Top F1 French Grand Prix moments at Paul Ricard

This article is brought to you by Motorsport Tickets


Since the beginning of the Formula 1 world championship in 1950, the French GP has been held at seven circuits. Its current home is Circuit Paul Ricard, which has so far held 16 GPs, the first of which came in 1971.

The mix of long straights and twisty sections has helped create some great races over the years. Time to pick out some of the milestone moments.

1973 - A special first win for Peterson, and a special home GP for Cevert

Paul Ricard's second French GP was dramatic and involved a star rookie, a clash between the leaders and a first victory for a legend.

Rookie Jody Scheckter took the lead from the off in McLaren's sensational M23. Lotus ace Ronnie Peterson, after a great getaway from row two, chased initially in a tight lead bunch that also included home hero Francois Cevert.

The M23 had prodigious straightline speed, allowing Scheckter to hold Peterson off. The Swede eventually decided to let team-mate and reigning world champion Emerson Fittipaldi through to attack the McLaren.

Somewhat surprisingly, Fittipaldi made an optimistic move into the final right-hander after Scheckter had been delayed in traffic. Scheckter held his ground and the two clashed, putting both out.

Poleman Jackie Stewart and Denny Hulme had already suffered tyre issues, leaving Peterson to take a very popular first F1 world championship victory at his 40th attempt.

1980 - 7 French drivers on the grid, Jones defeats the Ligier twins

Alan Jones was always a better race than a qualifier and he proved it at the 1980 French GP.

The Williams driver started fourth and ran in that spot during the early stages, while poleman Jacques Laffite's Ligier set the pace.

Jones, Rene Arnoux's Renault and the second Ligier of Didier Pironi engaged in a brilliant early battle, the trio swapping places several times before the Williams established itself at the front of the queue on lap eight.

At that stage Jones was eight seconds behind Laffite, but the Ligier was suffering from worsening understeer and the Williams closed in. With 20 laps to go Jones took the lead.

Pironi - one of seven French drivers in the race - overcame the struggling Laffite, but could not catch Jones, the Australian taking victory by 4.5s in what he believes was one of his best drives.

1982 - Home podium lockout

It's not often that drivers from one country fill an F1 podium and doing so at their home event is even rarer. But that's what happened in the 1982 French GP.

Once the engines had failed on the Brabham-BMWs of Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese, Rene Arnoux led Alain Prost home in a comfortable Renault 1-2, while Didier Pironi's Ferrari completed the podium. The French dominance extended beyond that, as Patrick Tambay was fourth in the second Ferrari!

Despite the success, not everyone was happy on the podium. Prost still had a realistic chance of winning the drivers' title and there had been a pre-race agreement that Arnoux would help him if the chance arose.

Arnoux didn't and damage to Prost's ground-effect 'skirt' meant there was nothing he could do about it.

1986 - Emotional return for Williams

Frank Williams was one of the leading team bosses of the 1980s and the Williams-Honda FW11 would put the team back on top in 1986. But before that season got underway, Williams suffered a terrible road accident returning from a Paul Ricard test, leaving him a tetraplegic.

When the team returned for the French GP, round eight of the season, it was leading the constructors' championship and Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet had already racked up three wins.

Ayrton Senna's Lotus took pole in France, but Mansell took the lead at the first corner. Alain Prost's one-stopping McLaren provided the toughest challenge, but the two-stopping Mansell took a clear victory by 17 seconds.

Team-mate Piquet came home third to add to the team's joy, helping Williams on its way to another constructors' crown.

1990 - Prost prevents an F1 shock

A Ferrari, two McLarens and another Ferrari in the top four. The grid for the 1990 French GP looked pretty familiar for the time, but the race itself almost gave F1 one of its biggest upsets.

The Leyton House-Judds were sporting a new aerodynamic package and it clearly worked, Ivan Capelli lining up seventh, Mauricio Gugelmin 10th. But more was to come.

Gerhard Berger grabbed the lead at the start, chased initially by poleman Nigel Mansell (Ferrari) and then his McLaren team-mate Ayrton Senna. Ferrari's Alain Prost had made a poor start and found himself stuck behind the Williams of Riccardo Patrese.

Just before one third distance Prost became the first of the frontrunners to stop for tyres, while Senna passed Berger for the lead. Both McLaren stops were poor, dropping them from contention, while Capelli and Gugelmin moved into first and second as all the other top drivers came in for fresh rubber. Would they stop again?

The answer was no. After 35 of the 80 laps, Capelli led Guglemin by 7.5s, with a charging Prost right behind the second CG901. It took the Ferrari until the first corner of lap 54 to pass Gugelmin, at which point Capelli's lead was 5.8s.

Prost rapidly caught the surprise leader, but finding a way by proved much harder. Capelli held firm and a hesitant Ferrari engine made Prost's job harder. Finally, with less than three laps to go, Prost got a good run through Signes and dived down the inside at the Beausset right-hander to deny Capelli a dream victory.

Prost went on to take his fifth French GP victory and Ferrari's 100th world championship F1 win. Capelli's engine began to falter, but still he came home a heroic second, ahead of Senna. It was a fitting way to celebrate Paul Ricard's 20th birthday.

For all ticket options for the French Grand Prix, check out Motorsport Tickets' page here

shares
comments
Why F1 is the real winner of the DAS evolution

Previous article

Why F1 is the real winner of the DAS evolution

Next article

Ferrari restricts factory access/travel in response to coronavirus

Ferrari restricts factory access/travel in response to coronavirus
Load comments
How F1's biggest crisis helped trigger its exciting 2021 season Plus

How F1's biggest crisis helped trigger its exciting 2021 season

Formula 1's return to Austria this weekend comes under exceedingly different circumstances to its last Spielberg visit, when F1 took its first tentative steps out of the global COVID shutdown. But the tightrope F1 walked in 2020 has ultimately led to the most exciting season of the hybrid era

Can Red Bull really win anywhere now it’s toppled a Mercedes F1 stronghold? Plus

Can Red Bull really win anywhere now it’s toppled a Mercedes F1 stronghold?

OPINION: Red Bull team boss Christian Horner reckoned Max Verstappen winning the French Grand Prix – an event where Mercedes had previously been dominant – would signal “we can beat them anywhere”. Here’s how that claim stacks up looking at the rest of the 2021 season

Formula 1
Jun 23, 2021
The IndyCar feature that Paul Ricard desperately needs in F1 Plus

The IndyCar feature that Paul Ricard desperately needs in F1

OPINION: The French Grand Prix offered a surprisingly interesting spectacle, despite the headache-inducing nature of the circuit. But IndyCar's Road America race offered far more in terms of action - and the increased jeopardy at the Elkhart Lake venue might be something Paul Ricard needs in future...

Formula 1
Jun 22, 2021
French Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

French Grand Prix Driver Ratings

The French GP was a weekend decided by tiny margins both at the front of the field, as Red Bull inflicted a comeback defeat on Mercedes, and in the battle for the minor points places. That's reflected in our driver ratings, where several drivers came close to a maximum score

Formula 1
Jun 21, 2021
How Red Bull took French GP "payback" on a day of Mercedes mistakes Plus

How Red Bull took French GP "payback" on a day of Mercedes mistakes

The French GP has been a stronghold for Mercedes since Paul Ricard's return to the calendar in 2018. But that all changed on Sunday, as a clever two-stop strategy guided Red Bull's Max Verstappen to make a race-winning pass on the penultimate lap - for once leaving Mercedes to experience the pain of late defeat it has so often inflicted on Red Bull

Formula 1
Jun 21, 2021
The new age of sponsorship facilitated by F1’s relevancy push Plus

The new age of sponsorship facilitated by F1’s relevancy push

The age of the high-profile title sponsor is over, says JONATHAN NOBLE, but Formula 1’s commitment to technological innovation is attracting high-tech partners

Formula 1
Jun 20, 2021
How Britain’s lost Ferrari star epitomised a bygone F1 era Plus

How Britain’s lost Ferrari star epitomised a bygone F1 era

The 1956 Italian Grand Prix was over for Juan Manuel Fangio, along with his hopes of winning the world championship – until his Ferrari team-mate (and title rival) voluntarily surrendered his own car so Fangio could continue. NIGEL ROEBUCK recalls Peter Collins, a remarkable sportsman

Formula 1
Jun 19, 2021
The 'surprise' Mercedes time that puts F1's victory fight back on a knife-edge in France Plus

The 'surprise' Mercedes time that puts F1's victory fight back on a knife-edge in France

Red Bull led the way after the first two practice sessions for the 2021 French Grand Prix, but only just ahead of Mercedes. There was all the usual practice skulduggery complicating the performance picture, but one aspect seen at the world champion squad gave it a ‘surprise’ lift, as it looks to leave its street-circuit struggles firmly in the past

Formula 1
Jun 18, 2021