Greatest French Formula 1 drivers: Charles Leclerc won his second Grand Prix of the season on April 10. So it’s true, Charles Leclerc isn’t French, he’s Monegasque (like, that’s a country), but it still inspired me for a little top on the best French drivers.
Especially since the French Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were respectively 7th and 9th, which is not disgusting, for once we can be a little chauvinistic, we are not going to deprive ourselves.
1. Alain Prost
Pole position (lol, I’m funny) obviously goes to Alain Prost because he’s the only French driver to have won 4 Formula 1 world championship titles (and even to have been world champion in fact).
Alain Prost is one of the best drivers in the history of Formula 1, and his rivalry with the Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna has long fueled the Formula 1 Grands Prix. A guy who discovered karting like that with his family and became quadruple world champion, we can’t do better in terms of success story.
2. Rene Arnoux
After Alain Prost who makes everyone agree, there will necessarily be a little more debate on all the following, but hey who cares. So I decided to put René Arnoux in second position, and since I’m always right… ok, I’ll stop.
More seriously, René Arnoux recorded 7 Grand Prix victories in the 1980s, and that’s not nothing. It is also the second best score after Alain Prost who has 51, yes he is far behind, but it remains the second best Frenchman.
3. Jacques Laffite
Jacques Laffite (still a driver from the 80s) won 6 Grand Prix during his career. He is the first French driver to win a victory with a French car, which is not negligible for the French racing world. Formula 1.
His best score in a world championship is 4th place (the place of the con, it’s a shame) and maybe if he had started his career in formula 1 a little earlier (he started at 33) , he could have hoped for a better record. But as they say, with “ifs” and “buts” we would bottle Paris (I swear, I’m not 50).
I let you see his head just below, sorry, I couldn’t find a picture of him in the 80s.
4. Didier Pironi
Three Grand Prix victories for Didier Pironi, which is the 4th best French score. On top of that, he still had a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1968, that’s not nothing.
What I’m about to say is atrocious, but it’s true: many were waiting for Didier Pironi to become world champion, after the death of his rival Gilles Villeneuve in an accident. Except that instead, during the 1982 German Grand Prix, Pironi drove too fast while it was raining, skidded and suffered a serious accident with his car. The pilot almost lost his legs that day, fortunately that will not be the case, but this accident still marks the end of his career.
5. Maurice Trintignant
Little Momo, also nicknamed “Pétoulet” (don’t ask me why, it was another time), became the first Frenchman to win a Grand Prix in 1955 thanks to his victory in Monaco. And guess what? His second victory will also be in Monaco in 1958.
Like what Monaco is not just a city (or country or principality, I don’t know) of the big rich, it’s also a place where French pilots have been able to shine.
6. Jean-Pierre Jabouille
Jean-Pierre Jabouille is a driver from the 70s/80s, who has a rather funny story. He first worked at Renault in the development of the turbo engine, before becoming a driver.
And he did well to become a driver, because he was the author of Renault’s first victory in Formula 1. He also won 2 Grand Prix during his career and started from pole position 6 times at the start of Grand Prix.
7. Jean Alesi
Jean Alesi has the record for Grands Prix contested (more than 200), and he won the Canadian Grand Prix in 1995. He was one of the favorite drivers of Ferrari fans, the car with which he won his only Grand Prix title. He also caused a sensation in 1990 at Phoenix during the United States Grand Prix by overtaking Ayrton Senna, with a car that was not very powerful.
Jean Alesi is one of the greatest French pilots, even if out of 200 races, a single victory may seem anecdotal, he still climbed thirty times on the Grand Prix podiums.
8. Francois Cevert
François Cevert nicknamed “the Little Prince” has a sad story, because he is one of those drivers who died on a racing circuit. He was a hope of the French formula 1 and the French public awaited his coronation of world champion in 1974. Cevert died during the Grand Prix of the United States in 1973, and won only one Grand Prix in his too short career.
9. Patrick Depailler
Another driver with a dark fate… Patrick Depailler died at the age of 35 while testing on the Hockenheimring at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo.
He was the first French driver to start from pole position at the start of a Grand Prix and he is also one of the rare French drivers to have won two Grands Prix during his career.
10. Pierre Gasly
The young Pierre Gasly, with his victory at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 2020, is already one of the best French drivers.
He is the latest to have won a Grand Prix, and he is the youngest Frenchman (at 24) to win a Grand Prix title. Not bad, we can’t wait for the sequel.