Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

The French Sébastien // A new driver arrives to tempt Christine's tastes

Published by Mr. C

If I said that December 15th 2002 was a significant day in the history of Formula 1, you might struggle to recall why. If I also said that January 9th 2003 was an equally important day, you might start to believe I was losing my mind. That may well be true, but first a brief history lesson.

At the tail end of the 2002 season a certain Flavio Briatore was coming under pressure from his paymasters to bring some French blood into the team. The Renault brand had recently returned to the sport and there was an apparent desire to see an injection of national identity.

As the team's test driver, Fernando Alonso, was being promoted to a race seat, an opening had appeared for such a talent, and Mr. Briatore opted to try two up-and-coming Frenchmen for the role. One was reigning Formula 3000 champion Sébastien Bourdais, while the other was the 2001 World Series champion Franck Montagny.

On the 15th December 2002 the two went head to head during a test at Jerez, and although Franck had previously got the better of Sébastien while they were team-mates in Formula 3, Seb managed to come out on top. He finished both ahead of Franck, and also in front of Fernando.

Mr. Bourdais skiing

Less than a month later, on the 9th January 2003, Flavio announced that Montagny had gotten the nod over Bourdais, partly it was rumoured, because Franck had agreed to be managed by Briatore. Sébastien presumably was less keen.

At the time it was assumed that Franck had got the better deal as the other Frenchman looked west for a drive in Champ Car.

Testing duties led Franck to a couple of Grand Prix starts for Super Aguri, before a year of further testing with Toyota. In 2008 though the F1 dream appears to have come to an end for Mr. Montagny.

Looking back, it now appears that the four time Champ Car champion played a bit of a blinder. Not only has been unbelievably successful, not only did he eventually get himself a pretty decent F1 drive, but he also managed to slip through the grasp of Briatore's grubby mits at the same time.

What this season holds in store for Seb is anyone's guess, but like I said - those two days in 2002 and 2003 may not seem all that significant in the ever moving world of Formula 1, but I'd wager they were pretty important in the minds of two Frenchmen.

Only one burning question remains of course, and that is the most important one of them all... can Christine be temped by a new French accent this season?