Francois Hesnault is a French former racing driver who recorded nineteen starts in the Formula 1 World Championship in 1984 and 1985. Earlier in a career, he gained some success in national open-wheel competitions, finishing as a runner-up in the 1983 French Formula 3.
Late start of a career in the Formula Renault
Born in December 1956, Hesnault had a late start of his racing career, entering the French Formula Renault in 1980. He scored no wins or podiums in his debut season but improved in 1981, scoring one victory and six podiums to finish third in the final standings.
French Formula 3 runner-up in 1983
In 1982, Hesnault progressed to the French Formula 3 Championship, driving Alfa Romeo-powered cars for UFO Antar team. He was on a podium five times, including one victory, to finish third in the points, behind Pierre Petit and Michel Ferte.
For the 1983 Formula 3 season, Hesnault joined David Price Racing to drive a Ralt RT3-Volkswagen, finishing the championship in the second place, just two points behind Michel Ferte. Hesnault was a race winner four times. He also made an attempt in one round of the European Formula 3, scoring one podium.
Two starts at Le Mans 24h and one attempt at Spa 24h
While competing in Formula 3, Hesnault had few appearances famous endurance races. In June 1982, he made a debut at Le Mans 24 Hours, driving the #75 Porsche 935 K3 together with Claude Haldi and Rodrigo Teran. They retired after 141 laps.
A year later, in June 1983, Hesnault returned to Le Mans with the AS Ecole Superieure de Tourisme, driving the #51 Lancia LC1. His teammates were Thierry Perrier and Bernard Salam. After 24 hours of racing, they made 232 laps around Circuit de la Sarthe, not being classified in the official results.
In July 1983, Hesnault made a debut at Spa 24 Hours, driving the #27 BMW 635 CSi for Waterloo Motors. He finished in the 10th place.
Francois Hesnault in 1984
1984 Formula One season with Ligier
After two successful seasons in the Formula 3, Hesnault was hired as a full-time driver for Ligier Loto F1 team. He was driving the #25 Ligier JS23-Renault, with Andrea de Cesaris as his teammate in the #26 car.
In fifteen Grand Prix starts, Hesnault recorded ten DNFs. His best result was the seventh place in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. He missed just one race, the French Grand Prix, when the team withdrew his car to allow his teammate De Cesaris to start the race. De Cesaris initially failed to qualify.
Francois Hesnault recorded 15 Grand Prix starts in the #25 Ligier JS23
Moving to Brabham in 1985
For his second Formula 1 season, Hesnault was hired by Brabham to drive the #8 Brabham BT54-BMW next to Nelson Piquet in the #7 car.
Hesnault retired in all three races he started (Brazil, Portugal, San Marino) and then failed to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix. After four rounds, he was replaced by Marc Surer.
In four starts with Brabham, Hesnault's results were disappointing
One last Grand Prix start with Renault
While being out Formula 1, Hesnault participated in Spa 24 Hours in July 1985. He was sharing the #26 BMW 635 CSi with Paul Belmondo and Romain Feitler, finishing in the seventh place.
Hesnault returned to the Formula One championship in August to drive the third car for Renault at the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring. It was a historical event because it was the first race in which onboard cameras were in use. One camera was attached to Hesnault's #14 Renault RE60. He retired after eight laps due to clutch failure. After that race, Hesnault retired from racing.