Jacques Laffite

Full Name:
Jacques Henri Marie Sabin Laffite
Born:
21st November 1943 (Age 76)
Paris, Ile-de-France
Nationality:
French
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

During the opening two Formula 1 races of 1979 it seemed as if Jacques Laffite was on course to become France’s first world champion. Unbeatable in South America, he would not win again that year as his Ligier team lost its way. Laffite is one of Grand Prix racing’s great veterans – his career ended by injury as he equalled Graham Hill’s then record for race starts.

Early racing career

Laffite began his motor racing career in 1968 as a mechanic for future brother-in-law Jean-Pierre Jabouille in Formula 3. That inspired his own wish to race and he soon proved more than adept. Laffite won the 1972 French Formula Renault Championship with a works Martini MK8-Renault and he clinched the national F3 title for the team a year later. That successful 1973 campaign included victory in the Monaco support race as he emerged as a star of the future.

Formula 1 with Williams

He graduated to Formula 2 in 1974 with a BP France March 742-BMW – winning at the Salzburgring and finishing third in the championship despite not completing the season due to five GP starts for Frank Williams Racing Cars. The team was in its formative years so second in the 1975 German GP was an outstanding result in his first full F1 campaign. He was even more successful in F2 that year as his works Martini MK16-BMW dominated on the way to winning the European title. Three victories for Alfa Romeo in the World Championship of Makes completed a most promising season.

Grand Prix winner for Ligier

Jean-Pierre Beltoise was the original test driver for the new Ligier-Matra F1 team so it was a surprise when Laffite was announced as the sole driver for its 1976 debut campaign. The "tea-pot" Ligier JS5-Matra was certainly distinctive and Laffite was soon on the pace. Third at Zolder and Monza (the latter from pole position), he was second in the Austrian GP to share seventh in the world championship.

He scored his first GP victory in the 1977 Swedish GP and was second in Holland. However, it was impossible to judge how good a driver he was against the Ford Cosworth DFV-powered runners until the team switched from its Matra-power for the 1979 season.

Ligier expanded to a two-car operation at the time with Patrick Depailler joining Laffite in the impressive "ground-effect" Ligier JS11-Ford. Outstanding at the start of the year, Laffite won both the Argentine and Brazilian GPs. However, despite four more podium finishes, Laffite would be disappointed to only take fourth in the final championship table.

Challenging for the world title

He won the 1980 German GP a week after Depailler had been killed while testing for Alfa Romeo but Laffite was fourth in the world championship again that year. Ligier were powered by Matra V12s once again in 1981 and Laffite won the Austrian and Canadian GPs to remain a championship contender until the final round in Las Vegas. He finished sixth that day to come fourth in the final standings for a third consecutive season.

Final F1 years with Williams and Ligier

The 1982 season was compromised by unreliability and Laffite returned to Williams for 1983 and 1984 – his old team now transformed into world champions. A regular points scorer at first, he then failed to qualify for the 1983 Italian and European GPs.

Williams were powered by Honda turbocharged engines in 1984 but Laffite struggled and only scored points on two occasions. He returned "home" to Ligier for the next two seasons. Aided by Renault turbo power, he scored podium finishes during 1985 and 1986 and was set to equal Hill’s record for F1 championship starts in the 1986 British GP at Brands Hatch. A supposed day of celebration ended with Laffite breaking both his legs in a startline accident.

That was the end of his 176-race GP career having raced for just two team owners – Frank Williams and Guy Ligier. He competed in touring cars once fit again but his long-term future would be as French television’s expert for its coverage of F1.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
2005 Grand Prix Masters
Grand Prix Masters
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1994 International GT Series
Larbre Competition
1 1 1 1 0
1992 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
MS Racing
23 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
13th 43
1991 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
Snobeck Racing Service
21 (1) 2 3 0
0% win rate
11th 81
1990 Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft
Team Bigazzi
21 0 3 1
5% win rate
7th 107
1987 World Touring Car Championship
Alfa Corse
6 0 0 0
0% win rate
17th 86
1986 F1 World Championship
Equipe Ligier
9 0 2 0
0% win rate
8th 14
1985 F1 World Championship
Equipe Ligier Gitanes
15 0 3 0
0% win rate
9th 16
1984 F1 World Championship
Williams Grand Prix Engineering
16 0 0 0
0% win rate
14th 5
1983 F1 World Championship
TAG Williams Team
13 (2) 0 0 0
0% win rate
11th 11
1982 F1 World Championship
Equipe Talbot Gitanes
15 0 1 0
0% win rate
17th 5
1981 F1 World Championship
Equipe Talbot Gitanes
15 1 7 2
14% win rate
4th 44
1980 F1 World Championship
Equipe Ligier Gitanes
14 1 5 1
8% win rate
4th 34
1980 BMW M1 Procar
BS Fabrications
BMW Motorsport
7 1 1 0
0% win rate
8th 37
1979 F1 World Championship
Equipe Ligier Gitanes
15 4 6 2
14% win rate
4th 36
1979 BMW M1 Procar
BMW Motorsport
4 1 2 1
25% win rate
6th 35
1978 F1 World Championship
Equipe Ligier Gitanes
16 0 2 0
0% win rate
8th 19
1978 European F2 Championship
Maublanc Racing Services
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1977 F1 World Championship
Equipe Ligier Gitanes
17 0 2 1
6% win rate
10th 18
1977 European F2 Championship
Fred Opert Racing
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1976 F1 World Championship
Equipe Ligier Gitanes
16 1 3 0
0% win rate
7th 20
1976 European F2 Championship
Fred Opert Racing
Willi Kauhsen Racing Team
3 0 2 0
0% win rate
0
1976 World Championship of Sportscars
Equipe Renault Elf
4 3 1 0 15
1975 F1 World Championship
Frank Williams Racing Cars
10 (2) 0 1 0
0% win rate
12th 6
1975 European F2 Championship
Automobiles Martini
14 5 7 6
43% win rate
1st 60
1975 World Championship of Makes
Willi Kauhsen Racing Team
3 0 3 3 60
1974 F1 World Championship
Frank Williams Racing Cars
5 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1974 European F2 Championship
BP Racing
10 1 5 1
10% win rate
3rd 31
1974 World Championship of Makes
Automobiles Ligier
1 0 0 0 3
1973 World Championship of Makes
Automobiles Ligier
1 0 0 0 0
1973 French F3 Championship 1st -
1972 World Championship of Makes
Automobiles Ligier
1 0 0 0 0
1972 French Formula Renault 2.0 Championship 1st -