From the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile to parc ferme, French influence in Formula One is traditionally as inescapable as the Malaysian humidity.
The first grand prix was held in the early 1900s in Le Mans and was won by a Renault. Alain Prost, from the Loire valley in Central France, won the world championship four times between 1985 and 1993. And the French Grand Prix was key once the inception of the world championship in 1950 helped turn racing into an all-encompassing sport with an international following.
However, it is that same international, multicultural involvement that has seen the influence of France dwindle. The country's annual race has not appeared on the calendar since 2008. There are no French race drivers in any of the 12 teams and Renault - long the sole Gallic flag-flier - earlier this season announced it would be competing under a British racing license.
"We are an English-based team owned 100 per cent by a Luxembourg company," said Eric Boullier, Renault's team principal and undoubtedly the most prominent Frenchman in the F1 paddock. "We have a French team principal and a French engine supplier with a British title sponsor."
Yet even Boullier's French heritage had little to do with his appointment at the helm of Renault. In late 2009, the French-owned race team was acquired by Genii Capital, a Luxembourg-based investment firm that shares personnel with Boullier's own Gravity Sports Management.
Despite the bespectacled Frenchman's inexperience in Formula One, his expertise in GP2 and A1GP were valued and by the time the 2010 season was due to start he had been confirmed as team principal and managing director.
Boullier, at 36 years old, was one of the youngest team principals in the sport, yet having watched Renault finish eighth in 2009, he was intent on improving the team and proving himself. With some decisive management and no doubt applying some of the knowledge he gained from his aeronautics and spacecraft engineering degree, Boullier led Renault to fifth in his first season in charge.
"I have had no time to think about it," he told The National yesterday on the sidelines of the Malaysia Grand Prix. "I had good experiences with motor racing before joining Formula One and maybe this was good enough to allow me to make the step up, but F1 is a much higher step. You have to be ready to be totally dedicated to this job: day and night, weekends included.
"That said, it's nice to be involved in the best motorsports show in the world, and to be in and among the big guns."
This year, after being rebranded Lotus Renault GP, the team was thrown into disarray when lead driver Robert Kubica was involved in a life-threatening crash while rally driving in Italy. Vitaly Petrov, a Russian driver who had come close to being dropped, was joined instead by Nick Heidfeld, the German veteran without a race win in 175 grands prix. "Eric is doing a great job here," Heidfeld said. "I had contact with him over the past two years when I was trying to secure a seat, and we have built up a good relationship where we can both be open with each other.
"I feel like he supports me."
While Heidfeld laboured to 12th place in Australia last month, it was Petrov who charged up the grid to finish third, his best result since joining F1. Boullier, who called the podium finish "a big relief" and "reward for a tough winter", said the team can be even faster this weekend at Sepang.
But in yesterday's first practice session it looked like the wheels had all-too-literally come off as Boullier chases successive podiums for the first time in his Formula One career.
Heidfeld and Petrov both suffered front wheel failures forcing them to retire early, with Petrov spinning into the gravel pit after a wheel broke loose from its mounting. With damage to the front of both cars, neither was expected to return for P2, yet, once again, Boullier's team exceeded expectations and both drivers were back out on track by the end of the afternoon session.
"It was a bit dramatic," Boullier said. "Obviously as it is a safety issue, it took us a lot of time to investigate properly. We found out that the two failures were coming from the same batch [of uprights], but we had a back-up plan and took the decision to run different ones."
The plan worked and Heidfeld was eighth fastest. With another practice session and qualifying to take place before tomorrow's race, the Frenchman's bid for successive podiums is still alive.