The Most Famous

RACING DRIVERS from France

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This page contains a list of the greatest French Racing Drivers. The pantheon dataset contains 1,080 Racing Drivers, 93 of which were born in France. This makes France the birth place of the 4th most number of Racing Drivers behind Italy, and United States.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary French Racing Drivers of all time. This list of famous French Racing Drivers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of French Racing Drivers.

Photo of Alain Prost

1. Alain Prost (b. 1955)

With an HPI of 69.82, Alain Prost is the most famous French Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 66 different languages on wikipedia.

Alain Marie Pascal Prost (French: [alɛ̃ pʁɔst]; born 24 February 1955) is a French retired racing driver and Formula One team owner. A four-time Formula One World Drivers' Champion, from 1987 until 2001 he held the record for most Grand Prix victories until Michael Schumacher surpassed Prost's total of 51 victories at the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix. Prost discovered karting at the age of 15 during a family holiday. He progressed through motor sport's junior ranks, winning the French and European Formula Three championships, before joining the McLaren Formula One team in 1980 at the age of 24. He finished in the points on his Formula One debut – at the San Martín Autodrome in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he took his first podium a year later – and took his first race victory a year later at his home Grand Prix in France, driving for the factory Renault team. During the 1980s and early 1990s Prost formed a fierce sporting rivalry, mainly with Ayrton Senna but also Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell. In 1986, at Adelaide in the last race of the season, he beat Mansell and Piquet of Williams to the title, after Mansell retired late in the race and Piquet was pulled in for a late precautionary pit stop. Senna joined Prost at McLaren in 1988 and the two had a series of controversial clashes, including a collision at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix that gave Prost his third Drivers' Championship. A year later at the same venue they collided again, but this time Prost, driving for Ferrari, lost out. Before the end of a winless 1991 season Prost was fired by Ferrari for his public criticism of the team. After a sabbatical in 1992, he joined the Williams team, prompting Mansell, the reigning Drivers' Champion, to leave for CART. With a competitive car, Prost won the 1993 championship and retired from Formula One driving at the end of the year. In 1997, Prost took over the French Ligier team, running it as Prost Grand Prix until it went bankrupt in 2002. From 2003 to 2012 he competed in the Andros Trophy, an ice racing championship, taking 38 race victories and winning the championship three times. Prost employed a smooth, relaxed style behind the wheel, deliberately modelling himself on personal heroes like Jackie Stewart and Jim Clark. He was nicknamed "The Professor" for his intellectual approach to competition. Though it was not a name he particularly cared for, he would admit later that it was an appropriate summation of his approach to his racing. Skilled at setting up his car for race conditions, Prost would often conserve his brakes and tyres early in a race, leaving them fresher for a challenge at the end.

Photo of François Cevert

2. François Cevert (1944 - 1973)

With an HPI of 63.90, François Cevert is the 2nd most famous French Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 31 different languages.

Albert François Cevert (French pronunciation: [fʁɑ̃.swa se.vɛʁ]; 25 February 1944 – 6 October 1973) was a French racing driver who took part in the Formula One World Championship. He competed in 48 World Championship Grands Prix, achieving one win, 13 podium finishes and 89 career points.

Photo of Jean Todt

3. Jean Todt (b. 1946)

With an HPI of 61.32, Jean Todt is the 3rd most famous French Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 32 different languages.

Jean Henri Todt (French: [ʒɑ̃ tɔd]; born 25 February 1946) is a French motor racing executive and former rally co-driver. He was previously director of Peugeot Talbot Sport and then Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 team principal, before being appointed chief executive officer of Ferrari from 2004 to 2008. From 2009 to 2021 he served as the ninth president of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). In 1966, Todt started his career as a rally co-driver and participated in World Championship rallies until 1981 when, with Guy Fréquelin, he won the Constructors' World Rally Championship with Talbot Lotus. Under Todt's leadership, Peugeot won four World Rally Championship titles (drivers and manufacturers), won the Paris-Dakar Rally four times, and twice won the Le Mans 24 Hours. During his time in charge at Ferrari, their teams won 13 Formula One World Championship titles (drivers and manufacturers). Also under Todt's leadership, Michael Schumacher won five consecutive World Drivers' Championships, from 2000 to 2004, and 72 of his 91 victories. In October 2009, Todt was elected President of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA); he was re-elected in December 2013 and December 2017. Todt's most recent term as FIA President ended in December 2021. On 29 April 2015, Todt had been appointed the United Nations' Special Envoy for Road Safety.

Photo of Didier Pironi

4. Didier Pironi (1952 - 1987)

With an HPI of 61.03, Didier Pironi is the 4th most famous French Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

Didier Joseph Louis Pironi (26 March 1952 – 23 August 1987) was a French racing driver and later power boat racer. During his career, he competed in 72 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, driving for Tyrrell (1978–1979), Ligier (1980) and Ferrari (1981–1982), but his F1 career ended after a practice crash at the 1982 German Grand Prix. He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1978 driving a Renault Alpine A442B.

Photo of René Arnoux

5. René Arnoux (b. 1948)

With an HPI of 60.53, René Arnoux is the 5th most famous French Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 32 different languages.

René Alexandre Arnoux (French: [ʁə.ne a.lɛk.sɑ̃dʁ aʁ.nu]; born 4 July 1948) is a French former racing driver who competed in 12 Formula One seasons (1978 to 1989). He participated in 165 World Championship Grands Prix (149 starts) winning seven of them, achieving 22 podium finishes and scoring 181 career points. His best finish in the World Drivers' Championship was third in 1983 for Ferrari. In 1977, Arnoux won the European Formula Two Championship. In 2006 he raced in the inaugural season of the Grand Prix Masters series for retired F1 drivers.

Photo of Jacques Laffite

6. Jacques Laffite (b. 1943)

With an HPI of 60.26, Jacques Laffite is the 6th most famous French Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Jacques-Henri Laffite (French: [ʒak ɑ̃.ʁi la.fit]; born 21 November 1943) is a French former racing driver who competed in Formula One from 1974 to 1986. He achieved six Grand Prix wins, all while driving for the Ligier team. From 1997 to 2012, Laffite was a presenter for TF1.

Photo of Patrick Depailler

7. Patrick Depailler (1944 - 1980)

With an HPI of 60.03, Patrick Depailler is the 7th most famous French Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.

Patrick André Eugène Joseph Depailler (French: [patʁik ɑ̃dʁe øʒɛn ʒozɛf dəpaje]; 9 August 1944 – 1 August 1980) was a racing driver from France. He participated in 95 World Championship Formula One Grands Prix, debuting on 2 July 1972. He also participated in several non-championship Formula One races. Depailler was born in Clermont-Ferrand, Puy-de-Dôme. As a child, he was inspired by Jean Behra. In Formula One, he joined a Tyrrell team that was beginning a long, slow decline, eventually moving to the erratic Ligier team before finally ending up with the revived Alfa Romeo squad in 1980. Depailler was helping to advance this team up the grid when he was killed in a crash at Hockenheim on 1 August 1980, during a private testing session. He was 35 years old at the time. He won two races, secured one pole position, achieved 19 podiums, and scored a total of 141 championship points. As of 2024, Depailler jointly holds the record with four drivers (Lando Norris, Mika Häkkinen, Jean Alesi and Eddie Irvine) for scoring the most podiums before winning a Grand Prix (15).

Photo of Michèle Mouton

8. Michèle Mouton (b. 1951)

With an HPI of 59.92, Michèle Mouton is the 8th most famous French Racing Driver.  Her biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Michèle Hélène Raymonde Mouton (born 23 June 1951) is a French former rally driver. Competing in the World Rally Championship for the Audi factory team, she took four victories and finished runner-up in the drivers' world championship in 1982. Mouton debuted in rallying as a co-driver but quickly moved to the driver's seat, steering an Alpine-Renault A110 in national rallies. In 1975, she competed in circuit racing and won the two-litre prototype class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After being signed by Fiat France for 1977, Mouton finished runner-up to Bernard Darniche in the European Rally Championship. She went on to win the 1978 Tour de France Automobile and record consistent results in her home events in the WRC; the Tour de Corse and the Monte Carlo Rally. For 1981, Audi Sport signed Mouton to partner Hannu Mikkola. In her first year with the Audi Quattro, she took a surprise victory at the Rallye Sanremo. In the 1982 World Rally season, Mouton finished a close second overall to Walter Röhrl, after wins in Portugal, Brazil and Greece, and helped Audi to its first manufacturers' title. Her campaign the following year resulted in fifth place. With the team having four top drivers for 1984, Mouton's participation on world championship level became part-time. In 1985, she won the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in the United States, setting a record time in the process. In 1986, she moved to Peugeot and won the German Rally Championship as the first female driver to win a major championship in rallying. Soon after securing the title, Mouton retired from rallying due to the ban of Group B supercars. In 1988, she co-founded the international motorsport event Race of Champions in memory of her former rival Henri Toivonen. Mouton became the first president of the FIA's Women & Motor Sport Commission in 2010 and the FIA's manager in the World Rally Championship in 2011.

Photo of Maurice Trintignant

9. Maurice Trintignant (1917 - 2005)

With an HPI of 58.71, Maurice Trintignant is the 9th most famous French Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.

Maurice Bienvenu Jean Paul Trintignant (French pronunciation: [mɔʁis bjɛ̃v(ə)ny ʒɑ̃ pɔl tʁɛ̃tiɲɑ̃]; 30 October 1917 – 13 February 2005) was a motor racing driver and vintner from France. He competed in the Formula One World Championship for fourteen years, between 1950 and 1964, one of the longest careers in the early years of Formula One. During this time he also competed in sports car racing, including winning the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Following his retirement from the track Trintignant concentrated on the wine trade. Maurice Trintignant was the brother of Bugatti race car driver Louis Trintignant — who was killed in 1933, in practice, at Péronne, Picardy — and the uncle of renowned French film actor Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Photo of Patrick Tambay

10. Patrick Tambay (1949 - 2022)

With an HPI of 58.65, Patrick Tambay is the 10th most famous French Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 31 different languages.

Patrick Daniel Tambay (French pronunciation: [pa.tʁik da.njɛl tɑ̃.bɛ]; 25 June 1949 – 4 December 2022) was a French racing driver, commentator, and politician, who competed in 123 Formula One races between 1977 and 1986, securing five pole positions and winning twice. He gained training as a racing driver at Winfield Racing School in France in 1971. Between 1977 and 1981, he raced for an assortment of teams including Surtees, Theodore, Ligier, and McLaren with mixed results; he additionally won two Can Am championships under Carl Haas in 1977 and 1980. Tambay was hired by Scuderia Ferrari after his close friend Gilles Villeneuve died during the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix; he took his maiden victory four races later in Germany. His second and final victory came the following year in emotional circumstances at Imola. In 1984, Tambay moved to Renault and ended his F1 career at Haas Lola. Tambay competed in various forms of motorsport following his departure from Formula One, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the World Sportscar Championship, and the Dakar Rally.

People

Pantheon has 101 people classified as French racing drivers born between 1896 and 2004. Of these 101, 58 (57.43%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living French racing drivers include Alain Prost, Jean Todt, and René Arnoux. The most famous deceased French racing drivers include François Cevert, Didier Pironi, and Patrick Depailler. As of April 2024, 8 new French racing drivers have been added to Pantheon including Gilles Panizzi, Philippe Bugalski, and Cyril Despres.

Living French Racing Drivers

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Deceased French Racing Drivers

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Newly Added French Racing Drivers (2024)

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Overlapping Lives

Which Racing Drivers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Racing Drivers since 1700.