Alain Prost's stunning win in 1990 and other memorable French Grand Prix

David Cooper 20/06/2018
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Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and the rest of Formula One’s elite drivers have descended on Marseille for the French Grand Prix this weekend.

Ahead of Sunday’s race, the first since 2008, we look back at five dramatic moments of the French Grand Prix.

1999

Starting from 14th, Mika Hakkinen produced a masterclass of overtaking and ended up finishing second.

The Finnish driver chased down Rubens Barrichello for the win after passing Jean Alesi, Michael Schumacher and Olivier Panis.

The two-time world champion attempted an overtaking manoeuvre on Barrichello before spinning and falling back to seventh.

He then made back the lost positions by lap 60 and held the lead briefly until pitting along with Barrichello, leaving a clear field for Heinz-Harald Frentzen to clinch the win.

The race concluded with 11 of the 22 drivers who started the race and Frentzen, Hakkinen and Barrichello sealing podium places.

1985

A race full of gearbox failures, with three of the top ten drivers retiring due to various mechanical issues.

Nelson Piquet started from fifth, but overtook four drivers and subsequently held the lead by nearly twenty seconds after 38 laps.

He went on to take his first win of the season, but the battle for second lasted until the final lap when Keke Robserg surged past Alain Prost.

Ayrton Senna, Niki Lauda and Jacques Laffite all suffered mechanical failures during the race and were forced to drop out.

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1981

A race of two halves, but one that would end up being the first of Prost’s eventual 51 Grand Prix wins.

In a race that stopped after 58 laps due to heavy rain and then restarted, Watson finished second, while Piquet finished third.

Piquet had been leading up until the restart, but his pace slowed and Prost stormed to a maiden win on home soil.

The Brazilian, meanwhile, went on to clinch the first of his three world titles that year.

1977

Mario Andretti managed a flawless race weekend in France – qualifying on pole position, running the fastest lap during the race and then going on to win it.

But for all his efforts, he did not have a stunning start, with James Hunt, Jacques Laffite and John Watson storming past him with ease.

The American continued to fight back for the rest of the race, and in the final frenetic laps, Watson’s engine slowed and Andretti immediately went past to take his third win of the season.

1990

An extraordinary race for more than one reason.

Starting on pole, Nigel Mansell led with Gerhard Berger and Senna close behind.

Remarkably, Ivan Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin, who started seventh and tenth respectively, seized control of the lead when opting not to pit for fresh tyres.

Unfortunately, Leyton House’s strategy backfired and Gugelmin was forced to retire on lap 58. Capelli, meanwhile, continued to lead despite pressure from Prost for more than 20 laps, until his own engine started giving problems.

The Italian driver finished second behind Prost, with Senna in third.

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Lewis Hamilton to step up and other talking points ahead of French Grand Prix

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The Formula One circus this week heads to Le Castellet for the eighth round of the season in France.

Defending champion Lewis Hamilton trails Sebastian Vettel by one point following the Ferrari driver’s victory last time out in Montreal.

Here, we take a look at the key talking points ahead of Sunday’s race.

French GP returns to calendar

Following a decade-long absence, Formula One makes its return to France. Magny-Cours was the home of the French Grand Prix for several years, but Paul Ricard – a track F1 has not visited since 1990 – will be the host for France’s comeback.

France is one of the founding fathers of the sport, and is among the original rounds of the world championship which started in 1950.

Paul Ricard is situated 25 miles to the east of Marseille in the south of France, and despite it not being a race venue for nearly 30 years, the circuit has been used by Pirelli for a number of tyre tests in recent seasons.

After two processional races in Monaco and Montreal, F1 is in need of an exciting race, and hopefully the unpredictable variables that are synonymous with a new track can provide just that.

Will we see the ‘real’ Hamilton?

Aside from his impressive displays in Australia and Spain, F1 is waiting for Hamilton to turn up this year.

Traditionally stronger in the second half of the season, the defending champion has made somewhat of a sluggish start.

Hamilton may have had an old engine in Canada, and admitted he was relieved to have finished fifth, but team-mate Valtteri Bottas was also down on power, and he managed to get his car over the line in second.

The Briton also made unusual mistakes on the Saturday in Montreal to qualify only fourth at a track where he usually excels.

The 33-year-old has not been poor this year, but he has not been at his best either.

And with Vettel, who dominated in Canada, now one point clear in the championship race, the Brit can ill-afford another off-colour weekend.

Red Bull take Honda gamble

Red Bull confirmed on Tuesday that they will be powered by Honda engines next year.

It is a gamble, but one Red Bull believe they must take to stand any chance of usurping Mercedes and Ferrari. It works financially for Red Bull, too.

Indeed unlike their previous deal with Renault, the former world champions will not have to pay Honda for their engines.

McLaren pinned the blame of their miserable run on Honda, and paid roughly £60million to sever ties with the Japanese manufacturer and switch to Renault power this term.

But while McLaren have made little to no improvement, Honda have steadily impressed with Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso this year, and Red Bull have seen enough positives to make the switch.

Imagine the embarrassment at McLaren if Red Bull and Honda become a winning combination in 2019?

What next for Alonso?

Fernando Alonso completed the second leg in his pursuit of motorsport’s Triple Crown last Sunday by winning at Le Mans.

Alonso, 37 next month, now needs the Indianapolis 500 to add to his Monaco Grand Prix and Le Mans wins and emulate Britain’s Graham Hill as the only driver to have triumphed at all three prestigious races.

The Spaniard is out of contract with McLaren next year, and there are suggestions the Spaniard will turn his back on F1 and make the permanent switch to IndyCar.

Alonso, however, pockets upwards of £20million-a-year racing for McLaren, and he will struggle to get even 10 per cent of that in the inferior IndyCar series.

One would not be surprised to see him stay at McLaren, and instead miss next year’s Monaco Grand Prix (as he did in 2017) to take on the Indy 500.

Start time moved for World Cup

The French Grand Prix has been pushed back by two hours with F1 keen for the race not to clash with England’s World Cup group match against Panama.

The race will now start at 4:10pm local time (6.10pm in the UAE). Qualifying will also take place at 4pm (6pm in UAE).

The French GP kicks off F1’s first triple-header with the Austrian and British Grands Prix to follow on consecutive weekends.

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McLaren reserve river Lando Norris could still make Formula One debut this season despite Toro Rosso setback

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Lando Norris was close to joining Toro Rosso.

McLaren have left the door ajar for their teenage reserve driver Lando Norris to become Britain’s youngest Formula One debutant this season.

It emerged before the Canadian Grand Prix that Norris, 18, has been approached by Red Bull‘s junior team Toro Rosso to race for them for the remainder of the campaign.

McLaren blocked the proposed loan move because Toro Rosso wanted the deal to extend into 2019. The British team’s plans for next year are still undetermined, and they may yet call on Norris to step up to their race team if Fernando Alonso, who is 37 next month, leaves at the end of the season, or Stoffel Vandoorne is released.

Zak Brown, McLaren’s CEO, is, however, keen for Norris to gain experience before he is awarded a full-time seat, and did not rule out the option of a return to the negotiating table with Toro Rosso.

“If there was an opportunity for Lando to gain experience then that’s something we would consider,” said Brown when asked if he would be interested in loaning Norris to Toro Rosso this season.

“Lando is a McLaren driver. He has a bright future here, but we do not have an interest in letting Lando go anywhere on a long-term deal.”

Norris, from Glastonbury in Somerset, has already been earmarked as the next Lewis Hamilton after he won last year’s Formula Three series.

The teenager holds a 27-point lead in this season’s Formula Two championship, the feeder series to F1, and won impressively on his debut in Bahrain in April.

Norris is held in high regard by those at McLaren, but while he is under consideration for a full-time drive, they are wary of thrusting the youngster into the limelight prematurely.

Toro Rosso are interested in Norris replacing Brendon Hartley – the under-performing New Zealander who was given the all clear in a Montreal hospital on Sunday night following his 170mph crash with Lance Stroll.

Hartley’s opening-lap accident with the Canadian teenager was one of few flashpoints in a race won by Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton finished only fifth to fall one point behind his Ferrari rival in the standings following a weekend to forget for the defending champion and his Mercedes team.

“My mind is not weak and I am still here to win,” Hamilton said. “I still believe we can win the championship.
“I have got complete confidence in my guys and I am putting my energy towards them. If you look across the tennis net, and you think I might lose this, then you have already lost.

“I don’t look at any driver and think I might lose to that person, but instead how I can beat them and how can I be better. I am going to keep doing that until I die.”

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