Francois Hesnault

Being born into a wealthy family is a very helpful thing for a young man who wants to be a racing driver. Francois Hesnault's desire to race, however, came relatively late. He grew up as the heir to a huge and well-connected transportation business with many important government contracts. After completing an expensive education Francois did his military service as an officer in a parachute regiment and even saw action in West Africa. It was only after that that Francois discovered a taste for speed.

He began racing in Formula Renault in France in 1980 and moved into Formula 3 in 1982. That year he won two races and finished third in the series. He then did a deal to drive for the championship-winning team which was being run by British entrant Dave Price. It was close-fought duel with Michel Ferte and in the end Hesnault lost out in the title race, despite five wins.

At the start of 1984 there was a big surprise when Hesnault was named as the second driver of the Ligier team thanks to backing from French government company Antar, part of the Elf empire. He raced against the experienced Andrea de Cesaris and by the midseason was able on occasion to match the Italian's pace. At the end of the year however Henault moved on to Brabham, joining Bernie Ecclestone's team as the number two to Nelson Piquet. Competing with Piquet was more of a struggle and in the midseason Hesnault had an enormous testing accident at Paul Ricard, which ended up with his car wrapped in catch-fencing with the driver trapped in the car. It was an unnerving experience for Hesnault and soon afterwards he decided that he did not want to continue in F1. Later that year he was asked to drive a third factory Renault in the German GP in order to demonstrate the use of a camera car. He obliged but thereafter disappeared from racing.