French GP 1991

French GP, 1991

The French GP had been moved to Magny-Cours for the first time which was not a popular move. The lack of local facilities was the main grievance, there being not enough hotels, and people having to drive for hours to get to the area. The Footwork team had given up with the disastrous Porsche V12 engine and had gone back to Ford Cosworth, hoping to avoid slipping into pre-qualifying at the midseason. Dallara and Jordan were going to escape the difficult session but Brabham and Footwork were both in danger, having failed to score any points.

The system of pre-qualifying was developed in response to the increasing number of teams competing in Formula 1. It was decided that 30 cars were the maximum safe limit to compete for 26 grid places. The cars which had to pre-qualify were decided at the beginning and the midpoint of each season. The 26 cars which had achieved the best results in the previous two-half seasons automatically entered official qualifying for the race. All the other cars had to pre-qualify for the 4 remaining slots available for official qualifying. Those that failed to pre-qualify just went home.

Riccardo Patrese took his third consecutive pole position in his Williams while Ayrton Senna pushed his McLaren so hard that he lost control at the final corner and crossed the line while spinning into the wall. He was still third behind Alain Prost's Ferrari and ahead of Nigel Mansell's Williams. The top four were separated by only three-tenths of a second. Gerhard Berger (McLaren) was fifth with Ferrari's Jean Alesi sixth and then the two Benettons of Nelson Piquet and Roberto Moreno. The top 10 was completed by Mauricio Gugelmin's Leyton House and Gianni Morbidelli in his Minardi-Ferrari.

Patrese made a terrible start and was engulfed by the pack. Prost took the lead with Mansell second chased by Senna, Berger, Alesi and the Benettons (Piquet ahead of Moreno). Early on Berger went out with another blown engine while two laps later Morbidelli tried to pass Piquet and collided with the Benetton, taking Ivan Capelli (Leyton House) with him.

Mansell closed in on Prost and on lap 22 took the lead. During the mid-race pit stops, however, Mansell was slower and so Prost went back ahead. Mansell was second with Senna third, Alesi fourth and Patrese fifth. Mansell gradually caught Prost again and on lap 54 he got ahead again around the outside of the Ferrari in the Adelaide hairpin. Patrese was being lapped by then and allowed Mansell to go ahead but then held up Prost for a couple of extra seconds. In the closing laps Mansell extended his lead to win from Prost, Senna, Alesi, Patrese and Andrea de Cesaris (Jordan).

Nigel Mansell Williams-Renault  72 1h38m00.56s  
27 Alain Prost Ferrari  72 1h38m05.059s  
Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda  72 1h38m34.990s  
28 Jean Alesi Ferrari  72 1h38m35.976s  
Riccardo Patrese Williams-Renault  71  
33 Andrea de Cesaris Jordan-Cosworth  71  13 
15 Mauricio Gugelmin Leyton House-Ilmor  70  
20 Nelson Piquet Benetton-Cosworth  70  
23 Pierluigi Martini Minardi-Ferrari  70  12 
10 12 Johnny Herbert Lotus-Judd  70  20 
11 26 Erik Comas Ligier-Lamborghini  70  14 
12 25 Thierry Boutsen Ligier-Lamborghini  69  16 
19 Roberto Moreno Benetton-Cosworth  63 Driver Ill 
Stefano Modena Tyrrell-Honda  57 Gearbox 11 
14 Olivier Grouillard Fomet-Cosworth  47 Oil Leak 21 
29 Eric Bernard Lola-Cosworth  43 Puncture 23 
22 JJ Lehto Dallara-Judd  39 Puncture 26 
Mark Blundell Brabham-Yamaha  36 Accident 17 
30 Aguri Suzuki Lola-Cosworth  32 Clutch 22 
Michele Alboreto Footwork-Porsche  31 Gearbox 25 
Martin Brundle Brabham-Yamaha  21 Gearbox 24 
Satoru Nakajima Tyrrell-Honda  12 Spin 18 
24 Gianni Morbidelli Minardi-Ferrari  Accident 10 
16 Ivan Capelli Leyton House-Ilmor  Spin 15 
Gerhard Berger McLaren-Honda  Engine 
32 Bertrand Gachot Jordan-Cosworth  Spin 19 
nq 11 Mika Hakkinen Lotus-Judd    27 
nq 18 Fabrizio Barbazza AGS-Cosworth    28 
nq 17 Gabriele Tarquini AGS-Cosworth    29 
nq 10 Stefan Johansson Footwork-Porsche    30 
npq 21 Emanuele Pirro Dallara-Judd    31 
npq 34 Nicola Larini Lamborghini    32 
npq 35 Eric van de Poele Lamborghini    33 
npq 31 Pedro Chaves Coloni-Cosworth    34