After taking the Formula Two championship, the natural progression for Arnoux was now to move into Formula One. His Formula Two team, Martini, also had ambitions to move into the top echelon after being the lead French manufacturer in the feeder series throughout the 1970's.

The team made their debut at the third round of the championship in Kyalami, South Africa. The team's Martini MK23 struggled with reliability troubles in its opening running and Arnoux failed to qualify for the event. The team then elected to miss the trip across the Atlantic for the United States West Grand Prix before returning in Monaco. The team, however once again failed to qualify for the event.

At Zolder, Arnoux finally qualified for a race, he had put the Martini in nineteenth position. His first race was noted for a long battle with Bruno Giacomelli's McLaren. He gained some infamy when, both he and Giacomelli would hold up the leading Ferrari of Gilles Villeneuve. Arnoux went on to finish the race in ninth, directly behind Giacomelli's McLaren.

During private testing, Arnoux blew his Ford Cosworth DFV engine. The team, running on a very tight budget were unable to secure a new engine and would be forced to miss the next two rounds of the championship in Spain and Sweden.

The team finally made their return to the grid for their home race for the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. Arnoux managed to qualify the Martini in eighteenth position, before then going on to have a quiet race to finish in fourteenth, a lap adrift of race winner, Mario Andretti.

After Martini failed to secure an entry for the British Grand Prix, there would be further disappointment in Germany when Arnoux failed to pre-qualify. In Austria, Arnoux managed to scrape his way into the back row of the grid. He would fare much better in the race, in the wet conditions, Arnoux managed to drag his car from last up to a high of sixth position. However when the rain departed, Arnoux dropped back where he would eventually finish in ninth.

In the Netherlands, Arnoux qualified in twenty third, but he would have to retire the car for the first time when his rear wing collapsed during the race. This would prove to be the final race for the Martini outfit. Tico Martini had run out of money, and had found Formula One was not feasible for his operations. Arnoux was out of a drive, however his excellent showing in Austria had got him noticed by the Formula One teams.

Arnoux would miss the Italian Grand Prix, however would find himself back in a Formula One seat for the final two races of the season in Canada and the USA. Surtees driver, Vittorio Brambilla had been of the drivers injured in the notorious first lap crash at Monza which claimed the life of Ronnie Peterson. With Brambilla unfit to drive, John Surtees saw an opportunity for Arnoux to take his place.

Surtees was another backmarker team that was struggling for money and Arnoux found he could do no better than twenty third in qualifying at Watkins Glen. He then drove a quiet race where he would climb to ninth position by the end of the race.

Arnoux had proved promising in qualifying at Montreal, putting the Surtees car in a comfortable sixteenth position. A strong qualifying was ruined however as he was forced to pit at the end of the first lap with oil pressure problems. He would return to the track, albeit in last position and a long way down on the field. He would then conclude the season by stopping in the grass when the problem became terminal.