Continuing the Legacy of Jean-Paul Driot

How DAMS will move forward in 2020, without their late Team Owner.

Jean-Paul Driot created and shaped DAMS into a team who could attract the very pinnacle of junior motor racing talent. A bastion of consistency, reliability and speed, DAMS have fought for titles ever since the inception of the GP2 series in 2005, and this continued with the transition into Formula 2.

So when Driot sadly passed away in August, the team were faced with the unthinkable question of how to move forward without the man who made them one of the driving forces on the Road to F1.

As the Team Principal, François Sicard is one of the men tasked with that very job. “I knew Jean-Paul for 35 years,” Sicard began. “He was part of my racing life, and he has always been an inspiration to me, and for the team as well. When we look at what he achieved it is quite exceptional. To keep a racing team afloat is not an easy task and he managed to do it with huge talent and he managed to keep on winning, which is not easy with such tough competition.”

In three months that have followed his passing, success has continued to follow for the French team. Armed with soon-to-be F1 driver Nicholas Latifi, and the highly rated SérgioSette Câmara, DAMS possessed arguably the strongest partnership of the 2019 grid.

The duo kept on winning and scoring high points, which pushed them closer to the 2019 Teams’ Title. Their Brazilian driver sealed the crown on the final round of the season, in the Abu Dhabi Feature Race. Both drivers and the team dedicated the title to the memory of Driot, with emotions pouring from the French side’s pit wall.

Sicard continued: “I know that Jean-Paul was – when the flag dropped – already thinking about the next race. I knew that the only way to pay tribute to him, was to win again to get the title and this is what we all achieved, so it feels really, really emotional. I can tell you that everybody was thinking of Jean-Paul, it was a mixture of happiness and sadness, something really special.”

In the absence of their father, Driot’s two sons, Olivier and Grégory, have taken over the ownership of the team, while Sicard will continue to play a major part as Team Principal. Both Grégory and Olivier were involved in the selection of the team’s 2020 driver line-up, which was amongst the first on the grid to be completed.

The proficiency and decisiveness of the process was further emphasis of them being the right people to take over – not that anyone needed convincing. Their 2020 pairing will consist of two-time Macau Grand Prix winner Daniel Ticktum and experienced F2 racer Sean Gelael.

“His sons are like Jean-Paul behind us,” Sicard explained. “They are very supportive, taking care of everything. They made sure that they were involved in the driver choice for next year – it is a very good atmosphere.”

The duo have become increasingly influential in the past months and will undoubtedly play a defining role in all major decisions, which includes the budget for next season, the direction that the team want to go in with the 2020 machinery, and how to tackle the new 18-inch tyres. 

The introduction of the larger Pirellis is the beginning of a new era for the sport, and the decisions that the duo make, alongside Sicard, could be the start of a new decade of dominance. The Team Principal is absolute in his belief that they can take the team forward and ensure their father’s legacy lives on.

He continued: “Jean-Paul is a big miss because he had such experience and he was so supportive. His two sons, Olivier and Grégory, have a strong willingness to carry on the momentum, so we are in a good position to maintain our standards and carry on, so that we can keep the team performing as highly as it did with Jean-Paul. 

“Olivier and Grégory know motorsport because they have always followed their father, so they know very well and have been very, very nice and very supportive.”

The duo’s dedication to continuing his long-standing success in motorsport was evident in the days following his passing, with both Olivier and Grégory present in the workshop, supporting the team, and working out how to move forward.

Sicard explained: “They came straight after the day for Jean-Paul and came to the workshop to show the support of the family. We really feel that DAMS is part of the Driot family, but it is not just words, it is really the way that they are acting, it is very nice from them.”

With the driver line-up for 2020 confirmed, attention will now switch to making the car as competitive as possible and ready for another assault on the title, when action resumes in March at Bahrain.