F1 - Historica

The history of the French Grand Prix

After a ten-year absence, the French Grand Prix returns this weekend. MotorLat.com goes back in time to look at some of the biggest moments from previous events.

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The history of the French Grand Prix
Fuente imagen: @F1

For the first time since 1990, the French Grand Prix will be held at the Paul Ricard Circuit. Local hero Alain Prost is the most successful driver at the venue: He collected four wins, including three in a row between 1988-1990. He won six French Grands Prix overall. 

From 1991-2008, the race was held at Magny-Cours and it produced some fantastic races over that period of time. 

Villeneuve vs Arnoux 

However, the first classic that would come to mind for most people would be the 1979 French Grand Prix held at Dijon. In the closing stages of the race, Gilles Villeneuve and Rene Arnoux would have an iconic duel for 2nd place. 

The Canadian in the Ferrari came under huge pressure from the Frenchman in the Renault in the closing stages and they would get involved in an unbelievable tussle. Arnoux made the first move with four laps to go – but Villeneuve wasn't about to give up.  

Villeneuve pulled off an astonishing move into T1 with 2 laps to go to take back P2. Yet, the massive drama came on the final lap of the Grand Prix.  

The two of them swapped positions on multiple occasions and also made contact in a no holds barred contest between the pair. Ultimately, Villeneuve came out on top in an absolutely amazing battle. Check it out on YouTube if you haven't seen it! 

Frentzen wins wet weather classic  

The 1999 French Grand Prix was one of a number of crazy races to occur in the 1999 season. In appalling conditions in qualifying, reigning world champion Mika Hakkinen found himself down in 14th on the grid. The top 3 was a shock, too: Barrichello in the Stewart, Alesi in the Sauber and Panis driving a Prost was the order. 

Nonetheless, normal service looked like it would be restored as David Coulthard in his McLaren took the lead in the early stages and pulled away from the field. Heartbreakingly for DC, an electrical problem ended his race on lap 9.  

Following a dry start, a torrential downpour happened around just after lap 20 began. Cars went off on the flooded track as aquaplaning became a huge problem. Frentzen's pitstop for wet tyres on lap 22 won him the race. 

The German would have enough fuel to go all the way to the end of the race and got some helped from a long Safety Car period because of the terrible conditions.   

While he constantly kept his car in the top 5, it was all changing around him. Mika Hakkinen had stormed through from P14 to P2 but spun when trying to overtake Barrichello for the lead.  

Michael Schumacher eventually got to the front but issues with his steering wheel, electrical problems and radio gremlins took him out of contention for the victory. 

Hakkinen came back again and took the lead but both Barrichello and himself had to pit for fuel which left the door wide open for Frentzen to take a remarkable win for Jordan. It was the second win in his career and a second win for the Irish owned team. Hakkinen and long-time leader Barrichello completed the podium places in an amazing race. 

Coulthard and Schumacher go to war 

At this stage of the 2000 season, David Coulthard was very much McLaren's leading driver in the championship and in terms of performance. He took on Michael Schumacher for the victory at this GP back in 2000 and won out. 

The German was struggling badly with rear tyres and it allowed the Scotsman to have a go. His first attempt into the Adelaide hairpin on lap 33 ended in wheel banging between the pair as Schumacher defended firmly. Coulthard was seething and gave Schumacher the bird gesture to show his anger. 

Eventually, DC got his man. A superb late braking move at the same hairpin on lap 40 saw him take the lead and he'd run off to win the race from stablemate Mika Hakkinen. A late engine failure cost Schumacher a podium.  

Schumacher and Ferrari domination 

Despite Coulthard's win in 2000, the remainder of the 00's was almost completely ruled by Schumacher and Ferrari. 

Michael equalled Juan Manuel Fangio's record-breaking five titles at the 2002 edition of the race and scored three wins in four races from 2001-2004. His brother Ralf broke up the run of victories by taking out the win in 2003 as Williams scored their last 1-2 finish in F1 at present. The elder Schumacher brother scored his eighth and final victory in France at the 2006 meeting. 

Raikkonen's win in 2007 and Massa's victory in 2008 completed a dominant period for Ferrari in France before the race was taken off the calendar.  

French GP stats 

Most wins: Michael Schumacher (8); Ferrari (17) 

Most poles: Juan Manuel Fangio (5); Ferrari (17) 

Fastest laps: David Coulthard, Michael Schumacher (5) 

Last pole sitter: Kimi Raikkonen (2008)  

Last winnerFelipe Massa (2008) 

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