Behind them, rookie Casey Stoner narrowly edged out a sick Hayden - who had started down in tenth - for fourth place at the chequered flag, but Nicky still retained his world championship lead, now by just 4 points over Melandri and Capirossi.
Edwards mounted a remarkable recovery to climb from 17th at the end of lap one to sixth at the finish - and must wonder what might have been had he not become tangled in his team-mates turn one contact - while Makoto Tamada, Gibernau, Toni Elias and Chris Vermeulen completed the top ten.
Second on the grid Shinya Nakano held fifth in the early stages, but dropped to 12th at the finish after serving a jump-start penalty, while Hopkins remounted after his fall and - following a pit stop for emergency repairs - took the final world championship point in 15th.
There is now a one weekend break before battle resumes with the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, round six of the 2006 world championship and Rossi's biggest race of the year.
French Grand Prix: