Pierre Gasly will write a new page in the history of French drivers in Renault and Alpine

Alpine has confirmed that Pierre Gasly will be the team’s second driver starting in the 2023 season alongside Esteban Ocon. The future former Alpha Tauri driver will become the 7th French driver in Renault history, having come to Formula 1 in 1977 and having had some breaks before adopting the Alpine name in 2021. For the first time since Arnoux-Prost (1981 and 1982), two Frenchmen will also be associated by the team. Note that two other Tricolors have driven for the French marque in F1 but for just one race, driving a third car each time: Philippe Streiff in 1984 and François Hesnault in 1985. Let’s go back to Gasly’s six predecessors.

Jean-Pierre Jabouille, the forerunner

From 1977 to 1980. 46 Grand Prix. 2 wins, 2 podiums.

An engineer as well as a driver, the Parisian carried out all the preparations for Renault’s entry into F1 in 1977. During the first two seasons he was even at the wheel of the only diamond-shaped car entered. In 1979 at Dijon, the scene of the French Grand Prix, he won his first victory, the first in Renault’s history but also the first for a single-seater with a turbocharged engine.

Clearing the casts from this new technology, you’ll be insane with dropouts (34). He scored a second win in Austria during the brand’s final season (1980). His career in yellow and black came to an abrupt end with an accident that broke both his legs at the Canadian GP (penultimate event of the season). That in F1 will end the following year after just five races in Ligier.

Jean-Pierre Jabouille (centre), winner of the 1979 French GP, surrounded by René Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve who fought a duel that has become legendary. (The team)

René Arnoux, the GP record holder

From 1979 to 1982. 59 Grand Prix. 4 wins, 10 podiums.

As soon as Renault entered two cars for the entire Championship in 1979, René Arnoux, then 30 years old, joined Jabouille. During the latter’s victory in France, he climbed onto the podium (3rd) after a battle with Gilles Villeneuve, who has since become a legend. He will have to wait until the following season to get his first victory, followed by a second one right after (Brazil and then South Africa). With four full seasons, he is the longest-serving French driver at Renault, but his departure to Ferrari comes in a bad mood over the increasingly toxic rivalry between him and Prost.

Alain Prost, the most productive

From 1981 to 1983, 46 Grand Prix, 9 wins, 17 podiums.

Landed in Formula 1 at the age of 26, he took the lead (3 wins to 0 and 5th in the championship) in the first season over René Arnoux, his seven-year partner, in 1981. The second season was difficult because of the relationship between the two men but Prost adds two wins to his list. After the departure of Arnoux, Prost is the clear leader of the team and fights for the 1983 Championship (4 wins) but fails by two points against Nelson Piquet.

The relationship with the management of the team was stretched more and more throughout this year, where three withdrawals in the last four races have sealed the title options, he left, on bad terms, for McLaren. He remains to this day the Frenchman who has won the most at the wheel of a French single-seater.

Patrick Tambay, the missed date

From 1984 to 1985, 32 Grand Prix, 3 podiums.

Author of six seasons in F1 (especially with McLaren and Ferrari), he was crowned with a fourth place in the 1983 Championship with the Scuderia, which however split. The two seasons with Renault were not crowned with the expected success, as he only managed to get three podium finishes (he had won once in the previous two years) and had to settle for 11th and then 12th place in the Drivers’ Championship. . After three consecutive podium finishes in the Constructors’ Championship, the grossly unreliable Renault fell back in the hierarchy during these two years. He will join Carl Haas in 1986 for one final season in F1.

Patrick Tambay in action during the 1984 season. (L'Équipe)

Patrick Tambay in action during the 1984 season. (L’Équipe)

Romain Grosjean, parenthesis

In 2009, 7 Grand Prix, 0 podiums.

Nelson Piquet Jr was sacked after an unsuccessful year and a half at the wheel, Grosjean, then the team’s test driver, was called up during the 2009 season. He joined Renault in the European Grand Prix with seven races still on the calendar and becomes the first Frenchman at the wheel of a diamond-shaped car in 24 years. He will not score a point with a best result of thirteenth and will have to return to the GP2 garage (from which he won the title in 2011) before returning to Formula 1 in 2012 with the Lotus team.

Esteban Ocon, the winning lap

Since 2020, 46 GPs, 1 victory, 2 podiums.

After a year of forced rest (he had been fired from Racing Point following the takeover of Lawrence Stroll), he joined Renault in 2020 (signing a podium finish) and participated in the transition to Alpine the following season. His victory in Hungary last year was the first for the Viry-Châtillon team since 2008 (Alonso in Japan) and the first with a French driver since Alain Prost in Austria in 1983, that is almost 38 years. Currently eighth in the Championship, he is in a position to match his best season this year (8th in 2017) before finding himself up against a teammate he knows well who grew up with him on the tracks, creating some friction in the era.

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