The 1969 French Grand Prix, officially known as the LV Grand Prix de France, was the fifth round of the 1969 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged on the mountainous Charade Circuit on the 6th of July 1969. The race would be dominated from start to finish by Jackie Stewart, with the Scot also claiming pole and fastest lap to secure a maiden Grand Chelem.
A weekend that would not go down in the history of F1 as a classic had begun with a much reduced entry list, just thirteen drivers getting the chance to race around the ex-volcano. It would therefore be a relatively quiet session when Stewart put together a stunning lap to claim pole, having pushed his Matra-Ford Cosworth round almost two seconds faster than nearest challenger Denny Hulme.
With just the thirteen starters, raceday would also be relatively quiet, not aided by the fact that Stewart was able to sprint into the lead the moment the flag fell. Hulme would challenge for a short while, until a suspension problem forced him into the pits early on, allowing Jacky Ickx to inherit the position.
Unfortunately for those wanting a battle for the lead, Ickx simply did not have the pace of Stewart, and was instead being harassed by the Scot's teammate Jean-Pierre Beltoise. The Belgian therefore had to put together a strong defensive drive for the rest of the race, his resistance lasting until the final lap when Beltoise finally forced Ickx into a mistake to snatch second.
Behind them would be Bruce McLaren, having inherited the position from Jochen Rindt when the Austrian pulled out of the race after the twisting circuit gave him motion sickness. Vic Elford would only be a few seconds behind in fifth, while Graham Hill claimed a very quiet sixth. The only non-Ford Cosworth engined car of Chris Amon had retired in the closing stages.
The French Grand Prix was an anomaly on the calendar compared to its equivalent races during the European phase of the season, largely due to the fact that the host circuit changed each season. In 1969 it would be the turn of the Charade Circuit in Clermont-Ferrand to host the oldest Grand Prix in the world, having last hosted it in 1965. Since then, Reims, the Bugatti Circuit at Le Mans, and Rouen-Les-Essarts had all hosted the race, although the four year break had seen little change on the mountainous circuit of Charade.
One thing that would see change at Charade would be the entry list, which had two notable omissions after a difficult couple of weeks since the Dutch Grand Prix. The first of these would be BRM, whose failure to get their new car up and running in the Netherlands saw a major reshuffle among their staff, with Tony Rudd, chief designer of the team since 1951, the most high profile casualty. The upheaval caused by the changes meant that it was impossible for BRM to attend the French Grand Prix, with Denis Jenkinson also suggesting that the ex-Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers' Champions would never return.
The other non-show would be by the popular team owner/driver Jack Brabham, who was forced to withdraw from the race with a broken ankle, sustained during a heavy crash while testing at Silverstone. The Australian racer was expected to be back in time for the Italian Grand Prix, although the team were unable to find a replacement for him before the teams arrived in France. That left Jacky Ickx as their only challenger, although the Belgian racer would get to pick and choose which car he would race with.
Otherwise, the entry list was identical to that of the Dutch Grand Prix, albeit with one small change at Lotus-Ford Cosworth. The Norfolk squad once again brought their new four-wheel-drive Lotus 63 to the meeting, although they would also bring a driver for the car in the form of John Miles, who had been aiding the development of the car while racing for Lotus' sports car programme. The Brit would join regular runners Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt in their 49Bs, with a third 49B found in the hands of Jo Siffert and the Rob Walker Racing Team as usual.
Matra-Ford Cosworth, meanwhile, had brought three cars to their home race, with Ken Tyrrell also bringing along their 4WD MS84 to test against their pair of more conventional MS80s. Jackie Stewart and Jean-Pierre Beltoise were their two drivers once again, with the Scot expected to use the MS84 more than Beltoise. The cars themselves were unchanged since the round in the Netherlands, with partners Matra getting ready to enter a full factory effort in 1970.
Completing the factory efforts were McLaren-Ford Cosworth and Ferrari, although those two came into France in very different places. For McLaren, drivers Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren would return with unmodified cars, the former using his old M7A while the latter used the newer M7C. Ferrari, meanwhile, would only have one driver on the entry list, leaving Chris Amon largely unsupported once again as the only racer not powered by a Cosworth V8 engine.
Three full privateers completed the entry list, although due to the unique numbering by the organisers they were allocated lower numbers than several factory drivers. Two would use Brabham built cars, Piers Courage getting his familiar BT26A run by Frank Williams while Silvio Moser entered an old BT24 for himself. Antique Automobiles also made the field, fielding Vic Elford in their relatively new M7A, completing just thirteen entries for one of the most important events on the racing calendar.
A third victory in four races in Zandvoort had allowed Stewart construct a twelve point lead at the top of the Championship, the Scot proving so dominant that it seemed inevitable that he would be World Champion at the end of the season. Hill remained in second after another non-score, but was only two points ahead of privateer Siffert in third. The Swiss racer was impressing despite the lack of factory support, beating McLaren and Hulme, who were only four points ahead of the second privateer Courage.
Matra-Ford Cosworth had Stewart to thank for their six point lead in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers', although Lotus-Ford Cosworth kept consistently scoring through both privateers and factory runners. McLaren-Ford Cosworth were a further six points behind, relying on their superiority in terms of technology to keep in the fight. Behind them were Brabham-Ford Cosworth, another six point gap between third and fourth, while Ferrari were finally on the board, having failed to score in the opening three rounds.
The full entry list for the 1969 French Grand Prix is outlined below:
As usual, practice and qualifying were run together at the French Grand Prix of 1969, with three sessions scheduled across Friday and Saturday. The weather would be consistent across every single session, each being dry and fairly warm, allowing the whole field bar Silvio Moser a chance to get some serious running in. As for target times there was little to go on, for Jim Clark's record of 3:18.9 had been set in 1965, and no major series had visited the Charade Circuit since.
Clark's old record would last until the halfway point of the opening session, when Jackie Stewart completed a run in the sub-3:10.0s. Indeed, the Scot was looking imperious, recording a stunning time of 3:02.4 at the end of the day to claim provisional pole. Yet, while most of the field would secure a time well below Clark's old record, no one would come close to Stewart's best time, the closest man proving to be Denny Hulme two seconds back.
For everyone else, Friday would be a case of finding feet around the treacherous circuit, most of the drivers gradually increasing their pace as setups were adjusted and confidence grew. Relatively little action of note therefore resulted, although there was some surprise at the difference between Graham Hill and rookie John Miles in the experimental Lotus 63. The defending Champion seemed to be struggling, well below the performance of both himself and his car, ending the day with a 3:15.9. This was not a good time, further enhanced by the pace of Miles, who would record a 3:17.0 on a circuit he had never visited before.
Saturday's first session followed the trend of Friday, with most of the field taking time to perfect setups and shave more and more pace from their earlier times. The exception to this would be Stewart, who set a 3:03.2 on his first run, before swapping to the 4WD Matra-Ford Cosworth for the rest of the session. The Scot's pace was still sublime despite the change of cockpit, ending the morning with a 3:06.6 in the MS84, over six seconds faster than Miles in Lotus' equivalent car.
The afternoon session on Saturday again saw an en-masse improvement in times, with the entire field bar Jo Siffert setting their best time of the weekend. Denny Hulme had set the ball rolling, claiming a 3:02.4, the first man to best Stewart's time from Friday, although it was not long before the Scot was back in action. Another flawless display saw Stewart find almost two seconds to set a 3:00.6, with Hulme ending the day as best of the rest.
Behind them would be Jochen Rindt and Jacky Ickx, two tenths covering second to fourth, while Jean-Pierre Beltoise claimed a strong fifth a further three tenths back. Chris Amon would start from sixth as the only non-Cosworth powered starter, while Bruce McLaren would share the fourth row with Hill after he had finally found some confidence. The final highlight of the grid would be Miles, who was able to beat Moser in the Lotus 63, although the latter had only managed to get on track during the final session.
The full qualifying results for the 1969 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||2||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||3:02.4||3:03.2||3:00.6||—|
|2||4||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||3:04.7||3:06.7||3:02.4||+1.8s|
|3||15||Jochen Rindt||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||3:06.4||3:07.0||3:02.5||+1.9s|
|4||11||Jacky Ickx||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||3:26.4||3:05.9||3:02.6||+2.0s|
|5||7||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra-Ford Cosworth||3:05.0||3:04.8||3:02.9||+2.3s|
|7||5||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||3:13.0||3:09.5||3:05.5||+4.9s|
|8||1||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||3:15.9||3:09.1||3:05.9||+5.3s|
|9||3||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||3:09.8||3:06.3||3:06.4||+5.7s|
|10||10||Vic Elford||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||3:17.7||3:11.1||3:08.0||+7.4s|
|11||9||Piers Courage||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||3:10.2||3:11.4||3:09.9||+9.3s|
|12||14||John Miles||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||3:17.0||3:13.0||3:12.8||+12.2s|
|13||12||Silvio Moser||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||No Time||No Time||3:14.6||+14.0s|
|WD||8||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
Race day would be another bright and warm affair, with no rain expected during the two-hour battle around the mountain side. Yet some drivers were not looking forward to the race, complaints of motion sickness having arisen during practice, on runs which were only a fraction of the race distance. Regardless, all thirteen qualifiers would have their cars wheeled out onto the grid, awaiting the fall of the flag.
Given his form throughout the weekend, there would be no surprise when Jackie Stewart snatch the lead at the start, reacting fastest to the starter's fluttering flag. He would pull into the first corner with a clear lead, leaving Denny Hulme and Jacky Ickx to battle for second, the two leaping clear of fourth placed Jochen Rindt. Home hero Jean-Pierre Beltoise was another to make a poor get away, losing out to Chris Amon and Graham Hill before the field disappeared around the mountain.
The opening lap would conclude with a second long wait for Hulme to appear after Stewart, the Scot having taken a cautious approach to the first lap to maintain his lead. Hulme himself was under pressure, with Ickx, Rindt, Amon, Hill and Beltoise in close attendance, coming across the line in a long line. Next came Jo Siffert and Bruce McLaren, before another gap to Piers Courage, Vic Elford and Silvio Moser, who were already falling into isolation. The last man across the line would be John Miles in the 4WD Lotus 63, although the Brit was to stop in the pits with a broken fuel pump as he completed the opening lap.
The following laps would see the field spread out even further, with Stewart's lead seeming to crow exponentially out front. The only significant change came when Beltoise took sixth away from Hill, before beginning to close on Amon, who had pulled a couple of seconds clear. It took another lap before the Frenchman caught the New Zealander, as Ickx began to defend from Rindt just a few yards ahead.
As Beltoise pulled away to join the leaders, Hill's pace continued to disappoint, the defending Champion soon falling into the sights of Siffert. The Swiss racer had quickly shaken the attentions of McLaren after the opening lap, and was soon attacking the sister car of Hill, although the Brit would provide little resistance. Released to catch the leaders, Siffert would soon begin to draw in Beltoise and Amon, only to run wide and strike a barrier, damaging his nose.
Another quiet period followed as Siffert disappeared to have his nose repaired, allowing Hill and McLaren to go back ahead. Hill, for his part, was still losing time, McLaren soon blasting past him for his reclaimed sixth. Ahead, Beltoise had moved past Amon after a few laps of pressure, and was now moving towards Rindt as the Austrian stayed a few seconds behind Ickx.
Beltoise would provide the only entertainment over the following laps, the Frenchman quickly catching and passing Rindt as the Austrian's engine began to misfire. The only other change came when Hulme was forced to stop to have his front suspension repaired, an anti-roll bar having come apart. The New Zealander lost five minutes during the repairs, while Courage stopped for a third and final time with loose bodywork.
Just after half distance and Beltoise was right on Ickx's tail, the Belgian having to defend for all his worth to keep the Frenchman at bay. Stewart, meanwhile, was over three quarters of a minute ahead, and cruising, while Amon trailed the second place battle by a minute, a few seconds ahead of McLaren. Yet, all was not well with the Ferrari, and just eight laps from the end the V12 engine had cried enough and expired in a cloud of smoke.
The crowd were throwing their entire weight behind Beltoise in the closing stages, although no matter how hard he tried, Ickx remained stubbornly ahead. Every time the Frenchman tried to force his nose up the inside of the Brabham-Ford Cosworth, the Belgian managed to cover the move, or beat the Matra-Ford Cosworth. Time was running out, and as the field started the final lap, it seemed as if Beltoise would never get past.
Ickx was still ahead as the pair disappeared into the first corner, and had a small advantage as the pair barrelled through turn two. Yet, the battle had been as draining mentally as it had physically, and into the Belvedere hairpin Ickx missed his braking point and ran wide. Having finally forced the Belgian into a mistake, Beltoise duly took over second, although it would take another couple of minutes before the fans could respond to the move. Arguably the biggest cheer at the French Grand Prix for several years would greet Beltoise to the flag, the home hero having successfully defended a last ditch move from Ickx into the penultimate corner.
Euphoria over the second place man rather overshadowed the rest of the field, all of whom had been trounced by a dominant Stewart. The Scot had led every lap of the race and set fastest lap to win by almost a minute, but was almost completely ignored by the fans as they awaited the arrival of Beltoise. Elsewhere, McLaren came through in fourth ahead of Elford, whom had taken the struggling Hill in the closing stages. The defending Champion came home in sixth after a disappointing race, with Moser, Hulme and Siffert also taking the chequered flag.
The full results for the 1969 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||2||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||38||1:56:47.4||1||9|
|2||7||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra-Ford Cosworth||38||+57.1s||5||6|
|3||11||Jacky Ickx||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||38||+57.3s||4||4|
|4||5||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||37||+1 Lap||7||3|
|5||10||Vic Elford||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||37||+1 Lap||10||2|
|6||1||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||37||+1 Lap||8||1|
|7||12||Silvio Moser||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||36||+2 Laps||13|
|8||4||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||35||+3 Laps||2|
|9||3||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||34||+4 Laps||9|
|Ret||15||Jochen Rindt||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||22||Illness||3|
|Ret||9||Piers Courage||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||21||Gearbox||11|
|Ret||14||John Miles||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1||Fuel pump||12|
|WD||8||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Ford Cosworth|
- Maiden Grand Chelem earned by Jackie Stewart.
- Also the Scot's ninth career win.
- Seventh victory for Matra as a constructor.
- Ford Cosworth powered to a twentieth victory.
- Also the engine builder's fortieth podium finish.
Another dominant display by Jackie Stewart boosted his lead in the Championship to twenty points, the equivalent of two race wins and a fifth place finish. Graham Hill's lowly sixth place left him as the Scot's closest challenger, although the season already looked to be over given with more than half of the races still left to be run. Elsewhere, privateer Jo Siffert was putting most of the field to shame in third, level on points with Bruce McLaren, while Jean-Pierre Beltoise moved ahead of Denny Hulme after his second podium finish of the year.
Like their lead driver Stewart, Matra-Ford Cosworth would leave France with an enhanced lead in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers' battle, leaving their home race with a fourteen point advantage. Lotus-Ford Cosworth could still be considered a threat, fourteen points back, but their challenge was once again being hampered by reliability and drivability issues. McLaren-Ford Cosworth and Brabham-Ford Cosworth were closer to Lotus than the Norfolk squad were to Matra, and both had a healthy gap back to the fifth placed Ferrari effort.
Images and Videos:
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: FRENCH GP, 1969', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr178.html, (Accessed 05/01/2017)
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 2.43 D.S.J., 'French Grand Prix: Matra one hundred per cent', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine|Motor Sport]], 01/08/1969), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/august-1969/16/french-grand-prix, (Accessed 05/01/2017)
- ↑ 'France 1969: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/france/engages.aspx, (Accessed 05/01/2017)
- ↑ 'France 1969: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/france/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 05/01/2017)
- ↑ 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 5.23 5.24 5.25 5.26 5.27 5.28 5.29 5.30 5.31 5.32 '5: France, 1969', statsf1.com, (Stats F1., 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/france.aspx, (Accessed 11/01/2017)
- ↑ 'France 1969: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/france/classement.aspx, (Accessed 05/01/2016)
|V T E||French Grand Prix|
|Circuits|| Reims (1950–1951, 1953–1954, 1956, 1958–1961, 1963, 1966)|
Rouen-Les-Essarts (1952, 1957, 1962, 1964, 1968)
Charade Circuit (1965, 1969–1970, 1972)
Bugatti Circuit (1967)
Circuit Paul Ricard (1971, 1973, 1975–1976, 1978, 1980, 1982–1983, 1985–1990, 2018-present)
Dijon-Prenois (1974, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1984)
Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours (1991–2008)
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