French hopes raised of a long-awaited F1 podium

JEROME PUGMIRE AP Sports Writer Published:

PARIS (AP) -- Jean-Eric Vergne was probably too young to care the last time a French driver won a Formula One race.

That was back in May 1996, when Olivier Panis won in Monaco. Vergne was only 6 years old, two months younger than Charles Pic.

But Pic, Vergne and 25-year-old Romain Grosjean are the three French drivers hoping to end that dry spell this season, or at least get a podium place.

With no home Grand Prix since Magny Cours in 2008, and three years without a Frenchman in an F1 car, French fans have had little to cheer. The days of four-time champion Alain Prost, Jean Alesi and Panis seem a long time ago.

The 21-year-old Vergne says "it's really good for France" that the three of them have a chance.