OlivierPanis is a former racing driver, and as of the end of 2015, the last French driver to win the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Even though he does not have any major championship titles to his name, Panis is considered by many as one of the France’s best Formula 1 drivers.
He was born in Oullins, Lyon, on the 2nd of September 1966, and his first racing experience was in karts. Post that, he spent several years in various junior series before moving onto French Formula 3 and later into Formula 3000 where he became a champion in 1993.
Panis debuted in Formula 1 with Ligier
In 1994, when he was 27-years-old, Olivier Panis got an opportunity to be in Formula 1 as a driver in the Ligier team. His rookie year wasn’t that bad as he finished second at Hockenheim and 11th in the overall standings. In 1995, Panis improved finishing eighth in the final standings. He again claimed one second place, this time in the Australian Grand Prix and he also had a few fourth place finishes.
Olivier Panis driving a Ligier at the 1995 Australian Grand Prix
Panis surprisingly wins in Monaco
Olivier Panis claimed his only Formula 1 career race win in 1996 in Monaco Grand Prix. He started from 14th position on a wet track, overtook many drivers on the narrow circuit moving up to third, and finally used the withdrawal of Damon Hill and Jean Alesi to clinch the victory in an epic battle in which only three cars managed to finish the race.
Video - Olivier Panis speaks about his 1996 Monaco win
In 1997, Alain Prost purchased Ligier and Panis’ potential got a boost. He started the season very well, taking third place in Brazil and second in Spain. After six races, he was third in the championship, but unfortunately, at the Canadian Grand Prix, he broke both legs in a high-speed accident. He was forced to miss the following seven races, and returned for the last three rounds of the campaign, finally finishing ninth in the championship standings.
In 1998 and 1999, Olivier Panis failed to achieve what was expected of him as he scored a total of just two points. In 2000, he was McLaren’s test driver and often matched testing times of regular drivers David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen. That helped him to earn a place in the BAR Honda team for 2001. The French driver spent two seasons with BAR Honda and his time there was full of ups and downs which caused him to leave the team in 2003.
Olivier in BAR Honda, Formula 1 World Championship
End of Formula 1 career
Toyota called Olivier Panis to join the team and help them in their second season in Formula 1. The results were pretty solid given the fact that the car wasn’t as competitive. Finally, in 2006, Panis decided to say goodbye to Formula 1 in order to race in other competitions.
Olivier Panis driving a Toyota
Debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans and ALMS
In 2008, Olivier Panis returned to racing. With the Oreca-Courage team, he competed in the Le Mans series finishing fifth in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2009 and 2011. He also competed in the Andros Trophy ice race and worked as a consultant for the French A1 Grand Prix team. He also had a venture in American Le Mans series. In 2011, driving alongside Loic Duval and Nicolas Lapierre, he scored a victory at Sebring behind the wheel of Peugeot 908 HDI FAP.
Olivier is prepared for the new beggining
Ready for the new challenge and good results
In 2015, Olivier Panis announced that he's forming a brand new LMP2 team with the famous football goalkeeper Fabien Barthez called “Panis-BarthezCompetition”, which will be running Ligier JS P2 Nissan, with an aim to compete in ELMS.
"I love endurance racing and I am looking to start a team in P2 for young kids to prepare them for LMP1. The goal is the ELMS with one P2, and maybe one LMP3 as well, and Le Mans, which we need to sell the project. This should be a new challenge for me as I will stop driving in the French GT Championship," said Panis.
Olivier Panis is the father of Aurelien, a Formula Renault 3.5 series driver.