FRENCH F1 TEST
Which of these three pilotes knows most about their country’s proud contribution to Formule Un? We set Esteban Ocon, Romain Grosjean and Pierre Gasly a French F1 test to find out…
Grosjean, Gasly and Ocon face off in our fierce test of knowledge
Renault, Ligier. Matra, Elf, Talbot and Michelin. Paul Ricard. Magny-cours. Reims.
Then Behra, Beltoise, Cevert, Laffite, Tambay, Pironi, Arnoux and Prost, to name but a few.
The French contribution to Formula 1 is rich and deep – indeed the very first grand prix was the French race, in 1906, and it was won by Renault.
Latterly there has been a renaissance of French interest in F1, thanks largely to the full works involvement of the Renault team, but also due to a new generation of fresh French talent. There are now five Francophone drivers with F1 seats: Romain Grosjean (Haas), Esteban Ocon (Force India), Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso), Charles Leclerc (Sauber) and Lance Stroll (Williams). Only the first three, however, race under the Tricolore: Leclerc is Monegasque, while Stroll is a proud Canadian. Grosjean was actually born in Switzerland but competes under a French racing licence.
So it’s to Rogro, Esteban and Pierre that we pitch a clutch of ‘French F1’ questions, with the aim of finding out which of them is the truest standard bearer for their country.
Our quiz has a ‘game show’ flavour and F1 Racing presents each contestant with a buzzer, a sheet of paper, and a place marker. Their first challenge is to draw an outline of the configuration of the Paul Ricard circuit that will be used for this June’s French GP. Since last hosting the race in 1990, Ricard was extensively renovated at the turn of the millennium, before re-opening primarily as a testing venue. Over the past decade it has held an increasing number of events and last year it was confirmed that it would once again host the French Grand Prix.
Knowledge of Paul Ricard therefore seems the perfect place to begin our quiz, but drawing its outline is a trickier proposition than might be imagined, since it can be configured in 167 alternative layouts. While Gasly and Grosjean quietly go about their sketches, very quickly they realise there are some rather dubious attempts coming from Ocon, who has made a very odd creation. Grosjean can’t help but ask whether he was trying to draw Abu Dhabi instead…
“Merde. I’m not good at this,” Ocon admits, and there is much mirth at his efforts. “I have a problem with the corners… and the straights!”
After their dubious recreations are finished (Gasly wins the point for the best likeness) fingers are on the buzzers for our first quick-fire round, starting with an easy pitch: How many world championships has Alain Prost won?
Immediately we realise our buzzers are of little use as all three men hit them and shout as loudly as possible to drown out their compatriots. “FOUR!” they all scream in unison. Sacré bleu! This could be a long afternoon…
Your humble quizmaster has no choice but to remind the contestants that they must use the buzzers provided. Once the rules of engagement are agreed, it’s on to question two: How many grands prix did Prost win? Grosjean slaps his buzzer immediately… and then pauses for about six seconds to give himself time to think of an answer. Surely that’s not in the rules either? Finally, he blurts out: “57?”
The Toro Rosso driver on Romain’s left spots the injustice of what has just occurred. Gasly enquires hopefully: “If you give the wrong answer, do you lose a point?” Since Grosjean is currently on zero, we answer, that isn’t possible… Ocon, without using his buzzer, seizes a chance to score: “44?” Gasly then reacts: “59!” Nul points
I’M NOT REALLY VERY GOOD AT THIS. I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THE CORNERS… AND THE STRAIGHTS! ESTEBAN OCON
to anyone – 51 is the correct answer. “Shhhhhh… I knew it!” exclaims Grosjean.
Question three: In which year was the first ever French Grand Prix held? Technically, this was the first time the ‘Grand Prize’ title was ever used to describe an international motor race, thanks to the 45,000 francs awarded to the winner. Known as the Grand Prix de L’ACF, it was organised in 1906 by the Automobile Club de France and run to a time-trial format on the roads around Le Mans. This is the answer we’re looking for – not the first race after the inception of the Formula 1 world championship in 1950, which that year was held on roads in the champagne region, close to Reims.
This time Ocon hits the buzzer and answers first: “Le Mans 1901.” The venue was not part of the question, but we think he deserves a point for his knowledge. Grosjean then can’t help challenging the awarding of the point. “It wasn’t Reims?” We simply ignore the interjection and reiterate what’s expected: the year the first ever French Grand Prix was held – and that “1901” was close to being correct.
“Nineteen-0-five, six, seven! Eight! NINE! TEN!” shouts Grosjean immediately.
Correct – 1906! One point to Romain. Esteban flounces at the injustice. “Oh come on,” he pouts in disgruntlement at the years just being shouted out in sequence. “That was my point!”
Without further ado, we move onto the next quiz question: What was Bugatti driver Louis Chiron famous for doing at Monaco? Suddenly, the Pirelli hospitality unit we’re sitting in (incidentally, the perfect neutral territory for such an exercise, so no one has a home advantage) goes oddly quiet.
Finally, Grosjean breaks the silence with: “Drinking Cognac?” Doing our best to produce a withering Jeremy Paxman-style “Nope,” we set in motion further seconds of Gallic shrugging and glances to the ceiling, perhaps in hope of divine intervention.
After a small clue, whereby your quizmaster holds his right arm aloft, Ocon has an epiphany: “He was the man who started the race with the flag. I watched the Jackie Stewart documentary from the 1970s where he talks about him rising up to his tip-toes before waving the flag.”
Excellent detail. Another point to Esteban. Grosjean then scores another for correctly
identifying Guy Ligier as the former French rugby player who established an F1 team in 1976, and another for knowing where Jean Alesi scored his one and only GP victory (Canada in 1995).
Now on to the picture round. For this, we present five mugshots of former French F1 racers and the first to name each one gets a point:
F1R: [shows picture of François Cevert (1)…] Ocon: François Cevert.
F1R: [shows picture of Jean Behra (2)…] Grosjean: Comment s’appelle? If you tell me, I’ll know his name…
F1R: Jean Behra.
Ocon: Jean who?
F1R: [shows picture of Franck Montagny (3)…] Grosjean: Montagny!
F1R: [Shows picture of Jean-pierre Jarier (4)…] Ocon: Jabouille?
F1R: Jean-pierre Jarier
F1R: [Shows picture of Didier Pironi (5)…] Ocon: Jabouille?
F1R: He drove for Ferrari in the early 1980s… Grosjean: [Laughing] Arnoux?
F1R: [With a sigh] Didier Pironi
F1R: [Shows picture of Olivier Panis (6) winning at Monaco…]
All: Panis, Monaco, ’96!
Grosjean: In MAY!
F1R: Well done. A point each.
With this quick-fire round done, we move to the final part of our quiz – this one requiring less speed but greater clarity of thought. Each driver in turn has to convince the quizmaster with their answer: the first relating to cuisine; the second to travel; and the third the French GP itself. There is no ‘correct’ answer to the first question, but the most delicious-sounding French recipe each driver can provide will take the winning point.
Grosjean, we suspect, will start with an advantage; his gastronomic tendencies are renowned, and at the end of last year, he and his wife Marion published a book of their favourite recipes (a review of which can be found on page 112). Alas, Gasly suspects foul play: “C’mon we can’t talk about food, he.…” [Pierre points an accusatory digit at Grosjean] “… is a proper chef!”
A helpful interjection, Pierre, and for that you may enjoy the advantage of answering first. But Grosjean interrupts: “The quizmaster is English, so you need to think of something that will appeal to him, like rosbif!” Gasly responds: “My favourite French dish I think you will like… erm… I’m not an expert, but maybe I would say a classic French dish of snails and butter.”
This is not to our taste, alas. Next up is Ocon: “Simple. Ratatouille!” Cooked any particular way, we enquire? By now Grosjean is unable to contain his desire to speak, plus there’s an all-important point to steal. “Cook each ingredient separately,” he announces. “So the tomato, courgette and aubergine – and mix them altogether. But this is not my dish. For you I would cook a pot-au-feu with beef and potatoes, carrots, leeks and onions.” We’ve heard enough. Grosjean is leading, while Gasly has the fewest points. In the interests of competition, therefore, we snub Grosjean’s culinary expertise, awarding the point to Gasly’s garlic snails instead.
Romain is unperturbed and, sensing victory, generously adds to Gasly: “Still, you have more points in the F1 championship than me!”
The penultimate question is: convince the quizmaster of the best place to visit in France.: “Oh, my goodness!” Grosjean exclaims. “There are so many. When you go to Paul Ricard in the summer, make sure you visit Cassis, a fishing village nearby. Get a nice bottle of rosé wine and enjoy some sea bass from the Mediterranean.”
Could that be bettered? Ocon has a go. “I suggest Normandy, where I’m from…” Grosjean interjects: “Where it rains all the time?” Back to Ocon: “The coast is very nice near Deauville, and it’s a bit more British – so that should appeal. You can have nice cheese there, too.” Grosjean: “You can have nice cheese anywhere.”
Romain senses another point coming his way as Gasly takes his turn: “I’d suggest the Alps in winter. There are so many nice ski resorts to visit. It’s pretty cool, fresh air and always nice.”
Nope. For this one, there’s no doubt Grosjean has convinced us where F1 Racing’s accommodation will be for the return of the French GP this June.“but the south of France is too easy!” exclaims Ocon. Further debate ensues,
VISIT CASSIS, A FISHING VILLAGE. GET A NICE BOTTLE OF ROSÉ WINE AND ENJOY SEA BASS FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN ROMAIN GROSJEAN
centring around Biarritz on the Basque coastline and a reference to nearby Pau, the town that hosted the French Grand Prix in the 1930s and which still holds F3 races to this day.
After all these discussions, it seems amazing that a country with such a rich motor racing heritage hasn’t hosted a grand prix for a decade, although happily that injustice will be put right this summer. On which note, we introduce our final question: Who can give the best reason for the return of the French GP to the F1 calendar?
Ocon goes first: “France has a huge part to play in motorsport history: we have a lot of successful cars – in rallying and road cars too. France deserves to be back on the calendar.”
Next, Gasly: “We have many drivers who have won races in F1,” he says. “We have Renault and it’s part of our culture and the French GP was on the calendar for years but for some reason not recently. Everyone is enjoying seeing it back on the schedule and we can’t wait to race.”
And the final word to Romain: “It’s simple, it’s because we say grand prix and grand prix isa French expression!” Grosjean’s stirring closing words elicit loud cheers and whoops of joy from his compatriots, followed by much guffawing as we hand him the final point and a clear victory in the first-ever F1 Racing French GP Quiz.
The final score is Grosjean 11, Ocon seven, Gasly six. The prize we award Romain is a miniature F1 steering wheel. He grins and holds his trophy aloft. “Merci,”he says simply.
And thank you, La France, for your very special contribution to Formula 1.
THE FRENCH GP WAS ON THE CALENDAR FOR YEARS… EVERYONE IS ENJOYING SEEING IT BACK AND WE CAN’T WAIT TO RACE PIERRE GASLY
Fingers on the buzzers; pens and paper ready – or just shout out your answers all at the same time. Quiz marshalling has never been an easy job…
Amoeba? Sideways cat with indigestion? Poleaxed pine marten… or Paul Ricard?
Gallic shrugs all round – F1 is the easy bit. Quizzing is a very different proposition
The podium: Gasly on six points, Ocon on seven – and the winner on 11 points is Grosjean, who gets a miniature addition to his trophy cabinet