The first French Grand Prix was held in 1906 in Le Mans. It was won by Renault in a car driven by Ferenc Szisz, a Hungarian machinist.
Szisz ran a remarkable race, allying speed with reliability and respect for the car.
His achievement was particularly remarkable in the light of the difficult conditions. On June 27, 1906, it was so hot that the tarmac started to melt. It was heavy going not only for the cars, but also for the drivers, with tarmac splashing up from the road into their eyes.
On July 1, 1979, at the Grand Prix in Dijon, amazed spectators enjoyed one of the most memorable pieces of racing in the history of Formula 1: a spectacular dual between René Arnoux (Renault RS12) and Gilles Villeneuve (Ferrari 312T4).
During the final laps, the two drivers engaged in a fierce battle for second place, touching wheels and overtaking each other several times. The dual could have ended in tragedy, had it not been for the mutual complicity and trust between the two drivers.
“A dual like that could only have taken place between him and me. I couldn't have gone that far with any other driver.” - René Arnoux, third, twenty-four milliseconds behind Gilles Villeneuve.
All eyes were on this memorable dual, completely overshadowing the winner of this 1979 French Grand Prix: Jean-Pierre Jabouille. At the wheel of his Renault RS11, he finished 15 seconds ahead of Gilles Villeneuve.
People often say that Alain Prost was born on July 5, 1981, the date of his first win in a French Grand Prix. However, his success also owed a great deal to the efforts of all the mechanics and engineers, particularly Bernard Dudot, Technical Director of Renault Sport between 1980 and 1997.
To improve the performance of the engine, they had to cool it down. But there was no dry ice in 1981, so how could they do it? Deciding that they had nothing to lose, the Renault team bought a load of ice cubes and packed them into the air intake of the RE 30 engine. The first ever intercooler!
All the team members and journalists can still remember the foul smell of the ice, purchased directly from the fish shop! !
After finishing second the previous year, Alain Prost was out to win at the 1983 French Grand Prix.
However, after qualifying practice on Saturday April 16, his leg went numb. Secretly – to avoid alerting the other drivers to Prost’s condition – the Renault team decided to call in the doctors.
However, Prost refused to take any medication, as he was afraid that it could affect his capacities. With the race less than 24 hours away, he decided the best thing to do was to rest. Rest and care allowed him to take part in the race.
The 1983 French Grand Prix turned out to be the most significant for Alain Prost: pole position, victory and lap record!
On July 4, 1993, at the Magny-Cours Circuit, Alain Prost claimed his sixth and last French Grand Prix victory at the wheel of his Williams-Renault.
After a year away from the track in 1992, Prost made a strong comeback in 1993. After winning with Renault in Dijon (1981) and Le Castellet (1983), the sole ambition of the ‘Professor’ was to win his last French Grand Prix at the Magny-Cours Circuit.
Renault enjoyed a memorable year in 1993, claiming a world championship title alongside Alain Prost. A great flourish for a driver taking his final bow!
On his arrival at the Magny-Cours Circuit, Fernando Alonso lent only half an ear to Mireille Mathieu singing the French national anthem. He was determined to win the race that had escaped him twelve months previously.
At the wheel of his Renault R25, Alonso gave the team its first victory as a constructor on home ground since 1983. The Spanish driver took pole position with an average speed of 213 kph.
This success was a key step on the way to victory in the 2005 World Championship, with Renault and Fernando Alonso claiming the constructor and driver titles.
After a ten-year absence from the Formula 1 world championship calendar, the French Grand Prix is making a major comeback this year at the Paul-Ricard Circuit in Le Castellet.