Frenchmen fail to make a mark on Prost win anniversary

25 Jul 2014 16:31

Romain Grosjean, and his two fellow-Frenchmen in Formula One, did little on Friday to mark the 21st anniversary of Alain Prost's 51st and final victory in Formula One with a flourish.

Instead, on a day of searing heat at the Hungaroring, Grosjean, Jean-Eric Vergne and Jules Bianchi wound up respectively 17th, 12th and 20th in their Lotus, Toro Rosso and Marussia cars, in opening practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

For Heidfeld, particularly, it was a disappointing day as he continued with his struggles for form in a downbeat season - a long way from the glory days of French 'professor' Prost whose 51st win was a record at that time.

His victory, at the German Grand Prix on July 25, 1993, came when he was in his final season, his only one with Williams, where he was partnered with emerging Briton Damon Hill.

Prost went on to win the title, his fourth, that year before retiring, to be replaced at Williams by Brazilian Ayrton Senna. He took the title on a hot September afternoon at Estoril, in the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Since then, only two French drivers have won a Formula One race - Jean Alesi in Canada, in 1995, and Olivier Panis, at Monaco, in 1996. Since then, for 18 years, France, the country that started the sport, has endured a long barren spell.

Grosjean has threatened to break that run with his Lotus, but despite nine appearances on the podium - including two North American second places at Canada in 2012 and the United States last year - he has suffered more frustration with a lacklustre car this season.

A glum face on Friday betrayed more disappointment. "The car feels pretty reasonable here even if we missed a lot of the afternoon session because of a problem with the cooling system," he said.

"It's a circuit I love so of course it was frustrating to miss track time as it's what you want to improve the car.

"As always, we have a reasonable amount of work to do ahead of tomorrow's qualifying, where we will be pushing all the way as grid position is so important here."