Olivier won the Formula 3000 championship in 1993, and from there bagged an F1 drive with the Ligier team.
He raced 3 seasons for Ligier scoring a total 38 points. His best result was in Monaco 1996 when he won the race from 14th on the grid. This was the 1st win for the team (and last) in 15 years, however the car proved less reliable and he could only manage 2 other points scoring positions that season.
Alain Prost bought the Ligier team and in 1997 it became Prost. Panis was kept on at the team for a further 3 seasons which saw him through to the end of 1999.
In the 1997 Canadian Grand Prix Olivier suffered a high speed accident in which he broke both of his legs. Incidentally the race was stopped because of the crash, and he was classified as having finished 11th. The accident saw him sit out the next 7 grands prix, getting back in the cockpit for the final three rounds of the season.
In 2000 he joined McLaren as test driver, and then in 2001 BAR signed him for two seasons where he partnered Jacques Villeneuve.
Olivier joined Toyota in 2003 and raced two seasons for the Cologne based team, picking up 8 points in both.
He announced his retirement from the sport following the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix, however he did test for Toyota at the French Grand Prix in 2005.
Panis has been very active in other Formulas of racing including the Le Mans Series. He has also appeared on the BBC's Top Gear show.