There were three home drivers on the grid for the first race in France since 2008 – but unfortunately for the locals only one of them survived a chaotic opening lap at Le Castellet…
The drama involving the French trio began when Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Haas’s Romain Grosjean clashed approaching the first corner in an incident for which the latter driver was subsequently handed a five-second time penalty.
Both men survived the collision, but later around the lap Ocon, who was carrying some damage, clashed with his other countryman - Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly - with both cars suffering heavy damage and being eliminated on the spot.
With neither driver having raced on home soil before, both Gasly and Ocon were understandably gutted to suffer such early exits – and both had clear feelings on who was to blame….
“I had a good start – I was alongside Romain for half of the straight and already I was on the edge of the track, one wheel outside the white line,” explained Ocon.
WATCH: Grosjean turns into Ocon at the start
“He had nobody on his side on the right and suddenly he turned into me. It was a massive hit which launched me on the kerb and damaged my side. I think I would have retired from that actually. And then I keep going and in Turn 3 Pierre ends the job.
“It’s been so long since I wanted to race here. We prepared very hard and it ends after 3 corners. It’s just silly.”
Gasly, however, was adamant he’d done nothing wrong, instead pointing the finger at his rival.
“I was behind Esteban and I saw he had damage on the car,” explained Gasly. “And then in Turn 3 I went on the inside and thought he had seen me and would leave me space, and he just took the corner like there was nobody (there) and it was impossible to avoid the contact.
“I’m sure he didn’t do it on purpose, but it’s just a very difficult moment now, especially to have a collusion between two French drivers of the comeback of the French GP.”
Having heard from both drivers, the stewards drew their own conclusion on what had happened, reprimanding both Ocon and Gasly for 'making errors which contributed to the collision'.
Grosjean, who also crashed in qualifying, did at least give the home fans some solace by reaching the chequered flag, though the 32-year-old finished a lap down in P11, taking his pointless streak to 12 races.
No doubt all three Frenchman will be glad there’s another race next weekend at which to quickly make amends…