January 4 is a special day for three former F1 drivers, who all celebrate their birthdays today!
Richard’s F1 would like to wish André Simon (91 today), Keith Greene (73, above right) and Franck Montagny (33, above left) each a happy birthday today!
His F1 forays were both less frequent and less successful, and he joined Ferrari for a couple of outings in 1952.
From 1953 onwards, he competed as an independent in both Grands Prix and sports car events, finishing third for Gordini in the 1954 International Trophy race. He continued in Formula 1 until the end of 1957, starting a total of eleven races but scoring no championship points.
Simon continued in sports car racing until 1965 before retiring.
His single-seater career started in 1959 and he impressed with an excellent second place at the Aintree 200 Formula 2 race.
In 1961, Gilby decided to construct its own F1 chassis under the new 1.5-litre rules, but it wasn’t very successful and only achieved modest result when fitted with a BRM V8 powerplant in 1962, where Keith peaked with third place at the non-championship Naples GP.
Keith turned to sports cars and GT racing when Gilby pulled the pin on its F1 project, before heading into team management in the 1970s, which included working with the Brabham F1 team.
Franck Montagny is the youngest of our birthday boys today, with the Frenchman turning 33 today.
After a lengthy and successful apprenticeship in karts, Montagny made his open-wheeler debut in 1994 at the age of 16, winning the French Renault Campus championship and moving into French Formula Renault for two seasons.
French F3 was next up, and he finished fourth overall in his rookie season in 1997. But he shot to prominence the following year in European F3, scoring a brilliant pole at Spa-Francorchamps – ahead of no less than Mark Webber, Luciano Burti, and Enrique Bernoldi – and soundly beating team-mate Sébastien Bourdais all season long. He would also win the Formula 3 Masters at Zandvoort, beating the likes of Nick Heidfeld, who was the German F3 title holder.
But two quiet seasons in F3000 followed, and he moved to the World Series by Nissan championship in 2001, where he won half the races and beat Tomas Scheckter to the title, and finished runner-up the year after, before taking a second title in 2003.
By then he’d had a Friday test driver outing with the Renault F1 team (having been signed as the team’s test driver) on its home soil at Magny Cours, and he earned another call-up to Jordan in 2005 for the European GP, where he lapped quicker than either of the squad’s regular drivers, Tiago Monteiro or Narain Karthikeyan.
Montagny was now in hot demand, having also been called up to assist with the development of the new GP2 car for the feeder series that was replacing F3000.
For 2006, the new Super Aguri F1 concern took Montagny on as its third driver, and he was promoted to the race seat when Yuji Ide’s superlicense was revoked ahead of the European GP. He contested seven Grands Prix for the little team, generally not getting the same equipment as team leader Takuma Sato, but acquitted himself well enough, before his tenure came to an end when Sakon Yamamoto was able to buy his way into Montagny’s race seat.
Montagny went on to become Toyota’s F1 test driver, and is now a regular on the Le Mans and SuperLeague Formula circuits.