Best French F1 Drivers – 5 Names to Remember


Posted: April 10, 2024

Updated: April 10, 2024

  • Alain Prost stands out as the most successful car race driver
  • He's not the only one who has left an impression on the sport

Although the French Grand Prix is no longer part of the Formula 1 calendar, the best French F1 drivers are still remembered. Alain Prost stands out as the most successful car race driver, but he’s not the only one in history who has left a lasting impression on the sport. Who were the others? After checking the biggest names in French motorsport, don’t forget to bet on the upcoming F1 races at online gambling sites in France.

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Olivier Panis

After successful appearances in challenging races at Hockenheim in 1994 and Adelaide in 1995, Olivier Panis experienced a career-defining moment during his impressive performance at Monaco in 1996. In early 1997, Panis demonstrated exceptional control thanks to Bridgestone tires, becoming the first French F1 driver to challenge for the title since Alain Prost in 1993. Despite a remarkable series of podium finishes, Panis’s momentum was halted by an unfortunate collision with barriers in Montreal, which broke his legs, and his F1 career was put on pause.

While he recovered from these setbacks, Panis struggled to reach the podium again. Despite showing speed and potential, his F1 career gradually declined after stints at BAR and Toyota. Panis stands out over any other French driver due to his memorable display of patriotism with the largest-ever French flag during his victory lap in Monaco in 1996.

Didier Pironi

In the late 1970s, Didier Pironi, a youthful-looking driver, emerged as a prominent figure among a group of highly talented French drivers. He became one of the best French F1 drivers in Ferrari, marking a significant step towards competing for the world championship. Pironi had already demonstrated his skill by winning the 1978 Le Mans 24 Hours driving a French car. Following his first victory with Ligier in 1980, Enzo Ferrari sought to recruit him.

The 1982 season was poised to be Pironi’s breakthrough. However, tragedy struck when his teammate and closest competitor, Gilles Villeneuve, died in circumstances that some attribute to Pironi’s disregard for team orders at the San Marino Grand Prix. This event left Pironi with the opportunity to clinch the world championship for France by accumulating points in his Ferrari 126C. Unfortunately, fate intervened. A preventable crash during qualifying for the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim nearly resulted in the loss of his legs. This incident, which abruptly ended his career, encapsulates the tragic narrative of Pironi—talented and daring yet plagued by misfortune.

Francois Cevert

A widely circulated photo of Francois Cevert from the early 1970s often resurfaces on social media. In the picture, he’s posing alongside Brigitte Bardot, both adorned in extravagant fur coats that were very much in vogue at the time. Pulling off such a dazzling look would be a challenge for anyone, but Cevert, as Nigel Roebuck eloquently put it, was “good-looking in a way that had girls gnawing at the back of their hands.” He effortlessly carried off the style.

However, beyond his charisma, Cevert had exceptional talent behind the wheel of a racing car. Had Vave Sportsbook existed back then, Francois would have topped the odds. This talent shone brightly at the Nurburgring and Watkins Glen in 1971, especially the latter, where he secured his only GP victory.

His potential was evident as he piloted the Tyrrell 006, the same car with which a young Jody Scheckter succeeded, including multiple wins and a shot at the championship.

Known for his impeccable car handling, charismatic appearance reminiscent of a movie star, and graciousness towards his devoted fans, Cevert, hailing from a family background in Parisian jewelry, was seen as the successor poised to follow in the footsteps of his Tyrrell teammate and mentor, Jackie Stewart, as a potential world champion in 1974. However, his accident at Watkins Glen’s qualifying session robbed the sport of a true icon.

Jean Alesi

Jean Alesi is one of the best French F1 drivers ever. He competed for various teams, including Tyrrell, Benetton, Sauber, Prost, Jordan, and Ferrari, where he gained immense popularity among the Tifosi. Despite his widespread appeal, his sole Formula One victory came at the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix.

Alesi began karting at 16, initially aspiring to rally racing. His journey into open-wheel racing started in 1983 with the French Renault 5 Turbo series. Following a triumph in the French Formula Three Championship in 1987, Alesi progressed to International Formula 3000 the following year. The competition no longer exists, but you can always follow F1 and F2 at online sportsbooks in France.

Despite initial challenges, Alesi’s standout performances for the Jordan Formula 3000 team in 1989 earned him a spot in Formula One with Tyrrell Racing, replacing Michele Alboreto. Alesi secured the International Formula 3000 championship with three wins, narrowly defeating his rival Erik Comas. Post-Formula One, Alesi entered the DTM championship from 2002 to 2006, achieving race wins and a notable fifth-place finish in the drivers’ standings. He also participated in the Speedcar Series (2008-2009), Le Mans (2010), and the Indianapolis 500 in 2012, setting a record as the oldest professional driver to undergo the rookie test for the event. Additionally, he served as a commentator for Italian TV.

Alain Prost

Alain Prost clinched the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship four times and had the most Grand Prix wins until Michael Schumacher surpassed him in 2001.

Prost’s journey in motorsport began at 14 when he discovered karting during a family vacation. He progressed through the ranks, triumphing in the French and European F3 championships before joining McLaren at the age of 24. His Formula One debut at the San Martin Autodrome in Buenos Aires saw him finish in the points, with his first podium and race victory coming soon after at his home Grand Prix in France, driving for Renault.

Prost engaged in fierce rivalries throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, notably with Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, and Nigel Mansell. His 1986 title win at Adelaide marked a significant triumph against Mansell and Piquet. Joining forces with Senna at McLaren in 1988, Prost faced controversial clashes, including the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix collision that secured his third Drivers’ Championship. A subsequent collision at the same venue in 1990, this time with Prost driving for Ferrari, saw him lose out.

After a turbulent season with Ferrari in 1991, one of the best French F1 drivers joined Williams in 1993, clinching the championship and retiring from Formula One at the end of the year. He later took over the French Ligier team, rebranding it as Prost Grand Prix until its bankruptcy in 2001. Prost’s driving style earned him the nickname “The Professor” for his analytical and pragmatic approach. Skilled at managing his car’s setup and conserving resources, Prost’s strategic cleverness defined his racing career.

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