Philippe Alliot was forced into the F1 front line with McLaren through circumstances beyond his control so it would obviously have been unreasonable to have expected too much of him on what amounted to a single guest outing with the team.
The pleasant Frenchman drove just a single race in the 1994 McLaren-Peugeot MP4/9 at that year’s Hungarian GP after Mika Hakkinen was given a one race suspension for triggering a first corner multiple collision during the previous race at Hockenheim.
Alliot was an admittedly genial personality, but imbued with an over-enthusiastic streak which drove F1 team boss Guy Ligier to distraction during his last full F1 season when he set an unofficial record for crashing, damaging to varying degrees more than a dozen chassis during the course of the year. Apart from two guest drives in 1994 – one for McLaren, the other for Larrousse – this brought an end to Alliot’s Grand Prix ambitions which had started at the Nogaro driving school in 1975 and yielded considerable success in F3 as well as a third place at Le Mans with a Porsche 956 in 1983, sharing with Mario and Michael Andretti.
After two years in F1 with the miserably uncompetitive Hart-engined RAMs, Alliot dropped back into Formula 3000 but gained restoration to F1 with the Ligier team following Jacques Laffite’s serious accident at Brands Hatch in 1986. For the next three seasons he drove for Gerard Larrousse and then returned to Ligier for a less-than-spectacular finale.
Alliot was also unquestionably well connected. One of his big pals was Jean-Pierre Jabouille, the former Renault F1 driver who subsequently became boss of the Peugeot competition effort.
During early 1994, Jabouille tried to use all his influence to see Alliot replace Martin Brundle in the McLaren line-up alongside Hakkinen. A test was arranged at Paul Ricard and the main straight was "slowed" with a straw bale chicane. After Martin's run, Alliot took over and initially was slower, however he then produced a much quicker lap time. Jabouille was very pleased to have proven his point, until one of the McLaren engineers pointed out that Alliot had suddenly gone quickly through the chicane without lifting or importantly showing any lateral "g-forces". Whether Alliot's friends had moved the straw bales or whether he and found a way around the edge, nobody ever found out.
Either way, when he went up against Brundle at the Hungaroring, Martin lined up 6th on the grid, the Frenchman 14th. Martin kept his drive!