All change again at Ligier as the team continue to try and find the formula for success that keeps eluding them. Guy Ligier’s political connections have gained them turbocharged Renault engines, the same as the ones in the Lotus and works Renault cars. There is also new sponsorship from the state lottery, Loto, and the car has acquired some unfamiliar red paint as a result. New drivers too, with Jarier retiring and Boesel released – in come Andrea de Cesaris from Alfa Romeo and French Formula Three driver François Hesnault. All the pieces are in place for the team to begin returning to their glory days of 1980-81 but the question remains – can they put the pieces together?
Like his compatriot and fellow-rookie Philippe Alliot, François Hesnault came from a well-off family but didn’t discover his vocation in racing until later in life. Hesnault completed his military service, like Alliot in an elite regiment, then got the racing bug while a student. He began racing in Formula Renault in 1980 and moved into Formula Three just two years later. He finished third in the championship in his first season, and went one better in 1983, taking the title race to the wire and just losing out to Michel Ferte despite winning five races. His government connections via his parents’ transportation business saw him fast-tracked into Formula One with Ligier – a surprising signing but his rise had been meteoric and he might just be a star in the making.
The headstrong Italian had matured in his two years at Alfa Romeo and turned in some excellent performances whenever his sluggish car had allowed him to. He still made errors, but had improved vastly on his antics with McLaren in 1981 and nowhere was this more clearly shown than at Spa, where he took pole and led for the first half of the race, and could have won if his team hadn’t botched the pitstop. For the first time at Ligier, de Cesaris had been hired on merit and not pressed on the team by Marlboro, and that spoke volumes.