F1: Five Classic French Grand Prix Moments

Circuit Paul Ricard first held the French Grand Prix in 1971. © Williams/LAT Images

After a ten-year hiatus from the calendar, F1 returned to France and the Paul Ricard Circuit in last year.

So as F1 rolls back down to Southern France in 2019, let’s look back at five classic moments from the French Grand Prix.

5: 2003 French Grand Prix – Ralf’s final career win
Ralf Schumacher celebrates his French Grand Prix win alongside Williams team-mate, Juan Pablo Montoya, and his brother, Michael Schumacher. Image sourced from IMDb.

Ralf Schumacher took his sixth and final career win at the 2003 French Grand Prix.

Racing at Magny-Cours, the German won from pole position – the only time in his career – and beat Williams-BMW teammate Juan Pablo Montoya.

To date, it is also the last time that Williams have achieved a 1-2 finish.

The weekend also saw Minardi top a Qualifying session for the only time, as Jos Verstappen went fastest on the Friday.

4: 2006 French Grand Prix – Schumacher’s reaches milestone
The Ferrari team are jubilant on the pit wall as Michael Schumacher claims an unprecedented eighth French Grand Prix victory. Image sourced from racefans.net

The 2006 French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours was a very special one for Michael Schumacher.

He took his 68th and final pole position (discounting pole in Monaco in 2012 with a grid penalty), a record which stood until the 2017 Italian Grand Prix.

The qualifying session was a memorable one, as the German ‘raced’ championship rival Fernando Alonso in Q3.

And on race day he became the first driver in F1 history to win the same Grand Prix on eight occasions.

Having previous won the French Grand Prix in 1994-95, 1997-98, 2001-02 and 2004, Schumacher also claimed the fastest lap en route to victory.

3: 1993 French Grand Prix – Prost’s final home win
The Williams-Renault of Alain Prost exits the Adelaide hairpin during the 1993 French Grand Prix. Image sourced from Pinterest.

Drivers can usually find that little bit extra during their home race, and Alain Prost was no different.

The Frenchman took victory in France six times, with the final triumph occurring in 1993.

Prost started second behind Williams team-mate Damon Hill, and got ahead of the Brit during the pit stop phase.

Le Professeur eventually crossed the line to take victory by just 0.342 seconds over Hill and became the first F1 driver to achieve 100 career podiums.

2: 2018 French Grand Prix – Vettel and Bottas collide

In 2018, F1 returned to Paul Ricard for the first time since 1990, and started with a bang at Turn 1.

It was a Mercedes front row lockout with Lewis Hamilton ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in third.

Vettel got a good start on softer tyres and got alongside Bottas.

But as Bottas braked later and got ahead, Vettel locked up and understeered into the back of the Mercedes.

The incident damaged Vettel’s front wing and gave Bottas a rear puncture, taking them both out of contention.

Vettel was deemed responsible for the collision and recieved a five-second time penalty, with the German finishing fifth.

Bottas’ Mercedes sustained floor damage and limped home in seventh place.

1: 1989 French Grand Prix – Trouble at Turn One
The Leyton House March of Mauricio Gugelmin skids its sidepod, as chaos unfolds at the start of the 1989 French Grand Prix. Image sourced from Pinterest.

The 1989 French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard saw carnage at turn 1, and brought out the red flag.

The two McLaren’s of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost led away at the front, but all the carnage was behind them.

Mauricio Gugelmin’s Leyton House locked up his brakes and veered into Thierry Boutsen’s Williams.

This flipped the car into the air and upside down, knocking off the rear wing of Nigel Mansell’s Ferrari in the process.

The crash saw debris fly everyone, with the remaining drivers doing their best to escape unscathed. Despite the severity of the incident, all 26 cars made the restart.

After Senna’s McLaren broke down on the opening lap, Prost was left unchallenged to claim victory.