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Michael Bailey , Formula One correspondent
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Formula One veteran Jean Alesi feels for Bruno Senna but admits his country needs to have a renaissance with Formula One – starting with Romain Grosjean’s return in 2012.
Alesi was a leading light for France in F1, taking 32 podiums in a 201-race career that included spells at Ferrari and Benetton.
But since the Frenchman’s last race in 2001 the sport has lost the French Grand Prix, Lotus-backed Renault gave up its French racing licence last winter and few French drivers have enjoyed success – with France where the sport’s governing body is based and one of the grands prix held.
Grosjean will get a second bite of the F1 cherry with Lotus in 2012, while the French GP may make a return in the coming years alternating with Belgium – all of which is good news as far as Alesi is concerned.
“Grosjean is a beginner and he’s had a chance a few years ago, but France needs a French driver and I know he will have the support of (Lotus’ French team sponsors) Total, so why not,” said Alesi.
“To be honest, it has been difficult for French people to lose the French Grand Prix because historically we have always had an appetite for F1. Then when we lose the race everybody was a bit sad.
“There are French engines, components and all this in Formula One but not having a race in the country was always a shame – so if they find a solution, especially with the economic situation which is tough for everyone, to have an alternative with Belgium and France would be a good solution.”
Alesi added: “For Bruno, what he did this year was great, especially as he started in the middle of the season. He had to jump in the car straight away and he has been quick.
“The performance of the car was sometimes good, sometimes not, but he managed to do his job in the best way. So it’s a shame – but Total did push very much for a French driver and they pay more…”
Alesi is currently working as an ambassador for Lotus – and believes the former Renault outfit will have to deliver next season as it races as the sole Lotus team and with a Lotus chassis for the first time: “We all cross our fingers because to have a Lotus on the race track, it has to be at the front. So we really hope for that.”