Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

On This Day: 7th May 2006 - Franck makes his debut - The French driver had a brief Formula One career

Published by Christine

In an attempt to discuss the brighter side of F1, we're delving into the history books to see what happened in May of varying years. I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. Not quite this exact day, then, but an interesting story, quite close to my heart. On the 7th May 2006, Franck Montagny made his F1 race debut, behind the wheel of a Super Aguri. He had started the year as third driver for the Honda B team but, after Yuji Ide showed up how very easy it was to get a superlicence, Franck was promoted.

It wasn't exactly an easy race to make your debut at. The knockout format of qualifying had been introduced for 2006 and drivers were still finding their feet for this - the fifth round of the season, the European GP at the Nurburgring. During the first session, a mysterious timing glitch showed a red flag, which was cleared straight away, but caused plenty of confusion. How long has it been since live timing actually worked then?

Montagny was knocked out, qualifying dead last. At the time, he said:

Firstly, when I had to stop at the FIA weight scales, there was a problem with the starter so during this time my tyres were out of the blankets and were getting cold. When I re-started and put on new tyres five minutes later, the red flag situation came up, so I could not make a lap time.

- Franck Montagny

Those weigh-ins have always been quite bothersome! The race itself was also a bit of a disaster. Sunday was bright and sunny, and Montagny managed to avoid a first lap incident between Ralf Schumacher, Liuzzi and Coulthard. Two of those retired there and then.

At the front, the battle was between Michael Schumacher, who was leading the standings, and eventual champion Fernando Alonso, but Montagny was stuck at the back of the pack. After 29 laps, his Super Aguri car gave up, and the team cited hydraulic problems as the reason for the Frenchman's retirement. Before the end of the race, his teammate Takuma Sato also suffered mechanical issues so that neither car saw the chequered flag.

Franck's post-race quotes were reasonably positive, considering what a dismal start it was to his F1 racing career. He finished by thanking Aguri Suzuki for the opportunity, hoping to be in the car again. The future of the team wasn't exactly secure let alone Montagny's seat in the car. He did have six further outings, although half ended in retirements. He was replaced by Sakon Yamamoto for the German Grand Prix and the remainder of the season. Yamamoto fared no better, with four of his seven races ending early.

The team itself survived until 2008, where they withdrew ahead of the European Grand Prix. Meanwhile, Montagny went on to try his hand at various series, and can currently be found winning things in the Le Mans series, and introducing a new team to the Superleague Formula. (The less said about that the better.)