22px-Flag of France  1985 French Grand Prix
Race details
Race 7 of 16 in the 1985 Formula One season
Circuit Paul Ricard
Date July 3, 1985
Location Paul Ricard Circuit
Course Permanent racing facility
5.81 km (3.61 mi)</td></tr>
Distance 53 laps, 307.93 km (191.33 mi)</td></tr>
Weather Dry
Pole position
Driver 22px-Flag of Finland Keke Rosberg Williams-Honda
Time 1:32.462
Fastest lap
Driver 22px-Flag of Finland Keke Rosberg Williams-Honda
Time 1:39.914 on lap 46
First 25px-Brazilflag Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW
Second 22px-Flag of Finland Keke Rosberg Williams-Honda
Third 22px-Flag of France Alain Prost McLaren-TAG

The 1985 French Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at Paul Ricard on July 7, 1985. It was the seventh round of the 1985 Formula One season. It was the 63rd French Grand Prix and the ninth to be held at Paul Ricard. The race was held over 53 laps of the 5.81 km (3.61 mi) circuit for a total race distance of 307.93 kilometres (191.33 miles).

This was the last time the entire Paul Ricard circuit was used for the French Grand Prix. In 1986 a shorter, 3.813 km (2.369 mi) 'club' version was used after Elio de Angelis' fatal accident at the circuit during a test session. This was seen as a knee jerk reaction to the crash by the FIA as it was known that the circuit itself wasn't to blame for the crash. The rear wing of de Angelis' Brabham BT55 had broken off at high speed going into the Verriere bends at the end of the pit straight, resulting in a complete loss of downforce at the rear of the car causing it to crash.

Nelson Piquet won the race driving a Brabham BT54-BMW. It turned out to be the Brabham team's last victory in Formula One. It was also the first Grand Prix victory since their return to Formula One for Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli. Piquet won the race by six seconds over pole winner Keke Rosberg driving a Williams FW10-Honda. Third was French driver Alain Prost driving a McLaren MP4/2B-TAG Porsche. Prost's podium finish allowed him to close to within five points of championship leader Michele Alboreto (Ferrari).


Williams driver, and 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg, broke the Lotus-Renault stranglehold on 1985 pole positions by putting his car on pole position at Paul Ricard, averaging 140.561 mph (226.612 km/h). Ayrton Senna was second in his Lotus, followed by the Ferrari 156/85 of Michele Alboreto and the McLaren of Prost. The third row of the grid was taken by the first of the Pirelli runners in Nelson Piquet, while defending World Champion (and 1984 French Grand Prix winner) Niki Lauda (McLaren) rounded out the top six.

Nigel Mansell (Williams) had an accident at the high speed Signes corner, located at the end of the 1.8 km long Mistral Straight, during practice, and he suffered a concussion which kept him out of the race. Mansell had broken the record for the fastest accident in Formula One history when he went off at over 200 mph (322 km/h).

The BMW straight 4cyl engine, rated at about 1000 bhp (746 kW; 1,014 PS), showed its worth on the Mistral Straight, the most distinguishing feature of the Paul Ricard Circuit, when it propelled the Brabham of Swiss driver Marc Surer to a season fastest 338 km/h (210 mph) during qualifying.

The French Grand Prix also marked the first time the Tyrrell team used the Renault turbocharged engine with Martin Brundle having use of it for the race mounted in a new Tyrrell 014 chassis while team mate Stefan Bellof still used the Cosworth DFV powered Tyrrell 012. It allowed Brundle to qualify some four seconds faster than his team mate. Brundle telling in qualifying that at one point while both were on a quick lap, he had followed the Bellof's 012 onto the Mistral by about 100 yards, and by the time he reached Signes, Bellof was nothing more than a dot in his mirrors. The top speed of the new turbo powered car was over 310 km/h (193 mph), some 40 km/h (25 mph) faster than the older V8.

Tyrrell were the last F1 team to change from a naturally aspirated engine to a turbocharged engine having done a deal with Renault in late 1984 but the new 014 was not ready until this race.


At the start, Keke Rosberg and Ayrton Senna got to the Verriere Bends in their respective grid positions, followed by Nelson Piquet, who made an excellent start from 5th, Michele Alboreto, Elio de Angelis, Niki Lauda, Gerhard Berger and Alain Prost who made a poor start from 6th place.

As the laps went on, the hot weather began to affect some of the cars. Ligier driver Jacques Laffite's Renault engine blew up on Lap 3, Laffite's teammate Andrea De Cesaris retired on Lap 5 with steering problems and championship leader Alboreto's race ended on the next lap from 4th place as a turbocharger expired on his Ferrari.

But Nelson Piquet, who so far had little success in 1985, started to run at a higher pace than the entire field. Armed with the most powerful engine in Formula One, the BMW straight-4 and better tires than Rosberg and Senna, he was able to pass his fellow countryman easily on the Mistral Straight and on Lap 11 he passed Rosberg (whose powerful Honda engine made it difficult for Piquet to pass on the straight) at the corner after Signes. Piquet then started to pull away from Rosberg, who had wrecked his tires pushing hard early on. Berger later retired on lap 20 after a collision with Pierluigi Martini.

Senna went into the pits with problems with his Lotus and was slipping out of contention. Lauda and Prost both passed de Angelis with some difficulty and they then caught and fought with Rosberg for a long period of time. Although the McLaren cars were faster, the more powerful Honda engine in Rosberg's Williams allowed him to pull away on the faster parts of the high-speed French circuit. The battle went on and on, and Piquet was getting further and further away.

While pushing hard to make up time, Senna had a huge accident at the extremely fast Signes corner at the end of the long Mistral straight when his Lotus's Renault engine blew up, slipped on his own oil that was leaking onto the rear tyres, spun backwards at extremely high speed and went into the catch fencing and the Armco guard-rails. He emerged unscathed albeit a few bruises.

The Rosberg/Lauda/Prost battle continued, but on Lap 31 Lauda's gearbox failed on the pit straight and he was out of the race. And Prost finally got by Rosberg later on at the Verriere bends; and the pace started to hot up as Prost began to push very hard, catching Piquet (who was now 23 seconds ahead) at 1.5 to 2 seconds a lap. Rosberg then went into the pits for new rubber and he stormed after Prost and Piquet.

But Piquet was able to hold off both Prost and Rosberg to take what would be Brabham's last victory. Rosberg caught and passed Prost (who had eased his pace) on the last lap. The 2nd Ferrari driver Stefan Johannson (who had charged through the field from 15th on the grid and was battling with de Angelis) took 4th pace a little over a tenth of a second ahead of de Angelis, and Patrick Tambay in the Renault rounded out the points.

Keke Rosberg overtook Alain Prost on the last lap but the computers recording the final results listed Prost finishing second ahead of Rosberg in third.

Classification Edit

Pos No Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 7 25px-Brazilflag Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW 53 1:31:46.266 5 9
2 6 22px-Flag of Finland Keke Rosberg Williams-Honda 53 + 6.660 1 6
3 2 22px-Flag of France Alain Prost McLaren-TAG 53 + 9.285 4 4
4 28 22px-Flag of Sweden Stefan Johansson Ferrari 53 + 53.491 16 3
5 11 22px-Flag of Italy Elio de Angelis Lotus-Renault 53 + 53.690 7 2
6 15 22px-Flag of France Patrick Tambay Renault 53 + 1:15.167[1] 10 1
7 16 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom Derek Warwick Renault 53 + 1:44.212 11  
8 8 20px-Flag of Switzerland Marc Surer Brabham-BMW 52 + 1 Lap 14  
9 18 22px-Flag of Belgium (civil) Thierry Boutsen Arrows-BMW 52 + 1 Lap 12  
10 23 USAflagsmall Eddie Cheever Alfa Romeo 52 + 1 Lap 18  
11 22 22px-Flag of Italy Riccardo Patrese Alfa Romeo 52 + 1 Lap 17  
12 9 Flag of Germany Manfred Winkelhock RAM-Hart 50 + 3 Laps 20  
13 4 Flag of Germany Stefan Bellof Tyrrell-Ford 50 + 3 Laps 26  
14 19 22px-Flag of Italy Teo Fabi Toleman-Hart 49 Fuel System 19  
15 24 22px-Flag of Italy Piercarlo Ghinzani Osella-Alfa Romeo 49 + 4 Laps 24  
Ret 3 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom Martin Brundle Tyrrell-Ford 32 Gearbox 21  
Ret 1 22px-Flag of Austria Niki Lauda McLaren-TAG 30 Gearbox 6  
Ret 12 25px-Brazilflag Ayrton Senna Lotus-Renault 26 Engine failure, accident[2] 2  
Ret 17 22px-Flag of Austria Gerhard Berger Arrows-BMW 20 Accident 9  
Ret 29 22px-Flag of Italy Pierluigi Martini Minardi-Motori Moderni 19 Accident 25  
Ret 10 22px-Flag of France Philippe Alliot RAM-Hart 8 Fuel System 23  
Ret 30 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom Jonathan Palmer Zakspeed 6 Engine 22  
Ret 27 22px-Flag of Italy Michele Alboreto Ferrari 5 Turbo 3  
Ret 25 22px-Flag of Italy Andrea de Cesaris Ligier-Renault 4 Steering 13  
Ret 26 22px-Flag of France Jacques Laffite Ligier-Renault 2 Turbo 15  
DNS 5 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom Nigel Mansell Williams-Honda 0 Injury 8  

Notes Edit

  • Pole position: Keke Rosberg - 1:32.462[1]
  • Fastest lap: Keke Rosberg - 1:39.914 on lap 46[3]
  • Ayrton Senna had a huge accident at the extremely fast Signes corner at the end of the Mistral straight when his Lotus slipped on some oil and went backwards into the catch fencing and the Armco guard-rails. He emerged unscathed albeit a few bruises.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hamilton, Maurice (ed.) (1985). AUTOCOURSE 1985-86. Hazleton Publishing. p. 242. 
  2. Anthony, Pritchard (March 2006). Lotus: The Competition Cars. Haynes Publishing. p. 245. 
  3. Hamilton, Maurice (ed.) (1985). AUTOCOURSE 1985-86. Hazleton Publishing. p. 243. 

Unless otherwise indicated, all race results are taken from "The Official Formula 1 website". Retrieved 2007-06-17. 

Previous race:
1985 Detroit Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
1985 season
Next race:
1985 British Grand Prix
Previous race:
1984 French Grand Prix
French Grand Prix Next race:
1986 French Grand Prix
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