Le Mans & Formula 1: A story of 24 drivers

The grid of the 86th 24 Hours of Le Mans comprises 24 drivers who have raced at least one Formula 1 Grand Prix, although some will be racing Le Mans for the first time, others have already written several chapters in the history of the race.

Double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso is grabbing the bulk of headlines ahead of this edition of the world’s most famous endurance race, with 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button and Juan Pablo Montoya also in the spotlight.

These are 24 F1 drivers at Le Mans this year are:

Fernando Alonso (the only active F1 driver on the grid), Olivier Beretta, Sébastien Bourdais, Gianmaria Bruni, Sébastien Buemi, Jenson Button, Paul Di Resta, Giancarlo Fisichella, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kamui Kobayashi, Jan Lammers, Pedro Lamy, André Lotterer, Jan Magnussen, Pastor Maldonado, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kazuki Nakajima, Felipe Nasr, Vitaly Petrov, Stéphane Sarrazin, Bruno Senna, Will Stevens, Giedo van der Garde and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Interesting facts regarding the Formula 1 posse in action this weekend:

  • Only two of the 24 have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans: Jan Lammers in 1988 and André Lotterer in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
  • Seven others have 18 victories between them: Olivier Beretta (6), Jan Magnussen (4), Gianmaria Bruni (3), Giancarlo Fisichella (2), Sébastien Bourdais (1), Pedro Lamy (1) and Will Stevens (1).
  • Will Stevens is reigning champion of LMGTE Am along with Rob Smith and Dries Vanthoor. He won the class with JMW Motorsport which fields a Ferrari 488 GTE.
  • Five of the 24 drivers have started the 24 Hours of Le Mans in pole position. In chronological order: Stéphane Sarrazin (3 poles), Sébastien Bourdais (1), André Lotterer (1), Kazuki Nakajima (1) et Kamui Kobayashi (1). Lotterer is the only one to have won a race from pole position (2012).
  • After Jacky Ickx in 1981, 1982 and 1983, Stéphane Sarrazin is the second driver to have taken three consecutive pole positions (2007, 2008 and 2009).
  • In 2014, Kazuki Nakajima became the first Japanese driver to take pole position at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
  • In 2017, Kamui Kobayashi established a new record for the fastest pole position time, clocking a lap in 3:14.791 (average speed of 251.882 kph) and beating Hans Joachim Stuck’s 1985 record with Porsche.
  • Giedo van der Garde was 2016 LMP2 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) drivers’ champion with teammates Simon Dolan and Harry Tincknell.
  • Nine of our 24 Formula One drivers will be teammates for the 86th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans: André Lotterer-Bruno Senna (#1 Rebellion R13-Gibson LMP1), Fernando Alonso-Sébastien Buemi-Kazuki Nakajima (#8 LMP1 Toyota TS050 HYBRID LMP1), Jenson Button-Vitaly Petrov (#11 BR Engineering BR1-AER LMP1) and Jan Lammers-Giedo van der Garde (#29 Dallara P217-Gibson LMP2).
  • Juan Pablo Montoya and Paul Di Resta will be racing their first 24 Hours of Le Mans in LMP2 in the same team (United Autosports), but not in the same car. Montaya will be sharing with Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer (#32 Ligier) and Resta with Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque (#22 Ligier).
  • Marino Franchitti, who was part of the crew of the 2012 Nissan-DeltaWing, is Paul di Resta’s cousin.

The names of Jean-Eric Vergne and Fernando Alonso were both bandied around as possibles for a seat in the Porsche 919 Hybrid for the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In the end, Nico Hülkenberg shared the winning car with Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber. Hülkenberg is thus the last driver to have won the 24 Hours while still competing in Formula One.

In terms of the Triple Crown of Motorsport, Alonso’s target, he has only won at Monaco and still needs to do the business at the Indy 500 and this weekend at Le Mans.

Juan Pablo Montoya is ahead of the Spaniard in the quest for the accolade as he has a Monaco win on his CV and a couple of Indy 500 victories too. He needs an outright victory at Le Mans to match Graham Hill, the only driver to ever win the trio of legendary races.

What some of them have said:

Pastor Maldonado (#31 ORECA 07-Gibson, DragonSpeed, LMP2). Former F1 driver with Williams and Lotus, 96 Grand Prix, 1 win: “For me, there are three reasons. First, we have the opportunity to represent very professional teams. Secondly, we get to drive outstanding cars. And lastly, this race is historic! The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a goal for everyone. Even before I started in F1 I was interested in the 24 Hours, I’m a diehard fan. Don’t forget I lived in Le Mans for a year in 2005 (he represented DAMS headquartered in Ruaudin outside of Le Mans in Formula Renault 3.5, Ed.). So I’m very familiar with the race and its atmosphere. I have watched every running since then and for me it’s magical to be here.”

Juan Pablo Montoya (#32 Ligier JS P217-Gibson, United Autosports, LMP2). Former F1 driver with Williams and McLaren, 97 Grand Prix, 7 wins: “It is truly an extraordinary race and that’s why so many drivers are interested. Fernando (Alonso, Ed.) is going after the Triple Crown (a win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, at the Indianapolis 500 and an F1 world champion title, Ed.). For me and Jenson (Button, Ed.), we just love driving. I love car racing.”

Felipe Nasr (#47 Dallara P217-Gibson, Cetilar Vilorba Corse, LMP2). Former F1 driver with Sauber, 38 Grand Prix: “I think they’re are so many of us because this race has a definite cachet and makes us face new challenges. When you’re an F1 driver, the only thing that interests you are Grand Prix. If you aren’t in one of the top three teams, you can’t aim for a podium finish much less win. Some drivers have been in F1 10 years without ever achieving good results. Endurance racing, at the wheel of prototypes, gives you a chance to win or claim a podium finish at every race. It’s a new experience that former F1 drivers want to discover. Plus, this atmosphere is so much fun.”

Giedo van der Garde (#29 Dallara P217-Gibson, Racing Team Nederland, LMP2). Former F1 driver with Caterham, 19 Grand Prix, 2016 European Le Mans Series champion: “Le Mans is one of the biggest races in the world! It is so popular, we could see that at Scrutineering with people happy to come out in the rain. To me, even after F1, there’s just nothing like Le Mans. I think that’s why so many drivers are drawn to this race.”