• July 3 down the years

Pironi wins after miraculous escape on home soil

Didier Pironi celebrates on the podium after winning the Dutch Grand Prix © Sutton Images

Didier Pironi won the Dutch Grand Prix from Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg shortly after walking away unscathed from a massive testing accident at Paul Ricard, his car somersaulting before landing back on its wheels on the track. The Renaults of Alain Prost and Rene Arnoux occupied the front row and Prost got the jump on Arnoux at the start. Pironi took the lead at the start of the fifth lap and began to pull away whilst behind him Piquet overtook Arnoux and Rosberg jumped up to third. Both Renaults retired before the half-way mark, Arnoux going straight on at Tarzan and Prost succumbing to an engine failure.

Sebastian Vettel was born in Heppenheim, Germany. Having won for Toro Rosso before Red Bull had even taken its first victory, Sebastian Vettel is arguably the star of the new generation of drivers. With a long-term Red Bull contract in place and the rougher edges smoothed it leaves many - himself included - expecting regular wins each season and three consecutive world championships leave him well placed to challenge Michael Schumacher's record of seven.

Fernando Alonso won the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours from Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher. After Kimi Raikkonen's engine blew in practice, a change meant that the Finn was demoted ten places on the grid. Impressively enough, Raikkonen qualified with the third fastest time and then ran 28 laps before he stopped. By the time he pitted he was up to second place from 13th on the grid. Raikkonen charged to within around 15 seconds of Alonso but the Spaniard held on for a victory he may not have managed but for the Finn's Friday misfortune. The race also marked Giancarlo Fisichella's 150th start in Formula One.

Michael Schumacher emerged victorious in the French Grand Prix, winning from Damon Hill and Gerhard Berger. In the three weeks between the Canadian and French GPs there had been a couple of significant changes with Williams taking on Nigel Mansell in place of David Coulthard and Benetton dumping JJ Lehto in favour of Jos Verstappen. Qualifying saw Hill beat Mansell to pole, the pair pushing Michael Schumacher's Benetton back to third place ahead of Ferrari drivers Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger. But Schumacher got the jump on both Williams at the start and, as Mansell dropped back, Hill took up the pursuit. The lead drivers exchanged places after the first series of stops but Schumacher once again emerged ahead after the second and that is how it stayed with Berger finishing third as Mansell and Alesi both retired.

McLaren maintained its 100% record in the championship with another dominant 1-2 in the French Grand Prix, this time Alain Prost getting the better of team-mate Ayrton Senna. The Ferraris of Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger finished third and fourth albeit some 35 seconds adrift.

Mario Andretti won the French Grand Prix from John Watson and James Hunt. Andretti once again showed that the Lotus 78 was fast improving by taking pole position by half a second from Hunt, Gunnar Nilsson and John Watson. Andretti dropped to fourth at the start as Hunt surged into the lead. Watson took the lead on lap five. The order remained unchanged until lap 17 when Andretti finally passed Hunt and closed on Watson. Andretti edged closer flashed past on the final lap when Watson's fuel deprived engine missed a beat.

Jack Brabham won the French Grand Prix from Mike Parkes and Denny Hulme. Jim Clark hit a bird and damaged his eye in qualifying, putting himself out of the meeting as Ferrari's Lorenzo Bandini set the pace from John Surtees and Ferrari team-mate Mike Parkes. Surtees got off the line quickly but his fuel pump failed and Bandini took the lead with Brabham with Parkes giving chase. On lap 32 Bandini's Ferrari suffered a throttle cable failure. Brabham took the lead and went on to win his first victory with the Repco engine as Parkes came home second on his F1 debut, one of the best debut results in grand prix history. Hulme came third for his first podium.

Jack Brabham won the French Grand Prix from Olivier Gendebien and Bruce McLaren. Brabham took pole ahead of Phil Hill's Ferrari and Graham Hill's BRM. A messy start saw Graham Hill hit by Maurice Trintignant and Brabham and Phil Hill streaked away until Hill retired with transmission problems. With other cars behind Hill also dropping by the wayside, Gendebien and McLaren coasted home for unlikely podium places.