After James Hunt's win at Zandvoort, Niki Lauda returned to winning ways at the French Grand Prix, holding off late challenges from Hunt and Jochen Mass to extend his lead in the championship to 22 points. With six races remaining, his lead over Carlos Reutemann was such that few pundits believed he could be caught.
The man predicted to challenge him was Jody Scheckter in a new, lighter Tyrrell which had improved weight distribution and modified wing arrangements. And, despite concerns from Scheckter over the car's straight-line speed, he joined the Ferraris of Lauda and Clay Regazzoni on the front row of the grid.
Lauda got the best start and soon moved into a strong lead, but Hunt never let him get more than six seconds ahead, and as Mass started pressurising the Hesketh, Hunt upped his game and began to catch the Ferrari. The gap was two seconds at the start of the last lap, but Lauda remained focused and eased home by 1.6 seconds.
The ebullient Lord Hesketh was almost as pleased as he had been in the Netherlands. "A first and second place cannot be bad for a team that's only in its third year." Hunt added: "I tried everything I knew, and I knew it would need a miracle to catch Niki."
Emerson Fittipaldi, the early-season leader, ended a three-race points drought with fourth position even though he was plagued with deteriorating traction in the latter stages.
Tony Brise again impressed in the Embassy, but Tom Pryce suffered clutch problems on the grid and gave up the battle after three laps.