FRANCE: Valtteri Bottas continued Mercedes’ record of leading every session at the Circuit Paul Ricard since 2018 with the Finnish driver comfortably leading the Free Practice 1 time sheets of the French Grand Prix weekend with team mate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen taking second and third spot respectively in an incident-filled opening session.
Bottas topped the clocks with a time of 1min 33.448seconds which was around three seconds slower than his Free Practice 2 topping time from 2019. Bottas finished the session at 0.335s over Hamilton who came 2nd, in what would have been a refreshing tonic for the Finn after he finished the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in a lowly P12.
Bottas, using a new W12 chassis this weekend, was also 0.432s ahead of Verstappen, with the Mercedes seeming to have the early advantage over Red Bull as F1 returns to a more conventional circuit, with Verstappen complaining a lack of front end turn-in grip on his RB16B while Verstappen’s team mate and Azerbaijan Grand Prix winner Sergio Perez was further three-tenths back in P4.
There was a spin within one minute of the lights going green at Paul Ricard with Haas’ Mick Schumacher spinning his VF-21 at Turn 3 and lightly scratching the wall. It proved to be the first of many incidents in FP1. Sebastian Vettel had the biggest moment when he spun his car backwards into the wall at Turn 11, while there would also be off-track moments at Turn 2 for Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Kimi Raikkonen, Verstappen and Bottas, while another rookie driver, Yuki Tsunoda spun at Turn 15.
When the dust settled from all that off-track action, it was newly re-signed Alpine driver Esteban Ocon who claimed an impressive 5th, just over a tenth off Perez, while McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo took 6th. Fernando Alonso confirmed the pace of the Alpine at their home race by taking P7, ahead of AlphaTauri’s Gasly in 8th with Lando Norris and Tsunoda rounding out the top 10. Charles Leclerc struggled in his Ferrari SF21, leaving the Baku pole sitter P11, ahead of the Alfa Romeo pairing of Antonio Giovinazzi and Raikkonen, followed by the Aston Martin duo of Lance Stroll and Vettel. Sainz’s spin at Turn 2 ruined a set of his soft tyres, leaving the Spaniard down in P16 ahead of the leading Williams of Nicholas Latifi. Nikita Mazepin led the way for Haas, about six tenths ahead of Schumacher, while Williams’ Roy Nissany who is in for George Russell in FP1 rounded out the timesheets.
|3||33||Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:33.880||+0.432s||23|
|4||11||Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:34.193||+0.745s||25|
|12||99||Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:35.116||+1.668s||23|
|13||7||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:35.135||+1.687s||20|
|14||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:35.275||+1.827s||23|
|15||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:35.289||+1.841s||16|
|17||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:35.612||+2.164s||22|
|18||9||Nikita Mazepin||Haas Ferrari||1:36.651||+3.302s||24|
|19||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:37.329||+3.881s||14|
|20||45||Roy Nissany||Williams Mercedes||1:37.881||+4.433s||16|
Verstappen tops second Free practice at Circuit Paul Ricard, just 0.008s quicker than Bottas:
Max Verstappen set the benchmark in second practice for the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard, the Red Bull driver finishing just ahead of FP1 leader Valtteri Bottas and his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen began on the yellow marked medium tyres and damaged his front wing on the Turn 2 kerbs, bringing out a Virtual Safety Car after 15 minutes, but shrugged that off to set the quickest time of 1m32.872s on a soft set of tyres, just 0.008s faster than Bottas’ best time, which was set on medium tyres.
Reigning champion Hamilton was 0.253s behind Verstappen, having complained of car balance issues during his race simulations. Incidentally, the Silver Arrows swapped Hamilton and Bottas’ chassis for this weekend, something they said is customary at this point of the season, but insisted that there would be no performance difference due to the swap. As for Azerbaijan GP winner Sergio Perez, he was 12th in FP2 for Red Bull.
In P4 was Fernando Alonso for Alpine with his team mate and home racer Esteban Ocon P6, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc splitting them for fifth place. Ocon’s compatriot Pierre Gasly, his AlphaTauri having received a new Honda engine this weekend, as did the Red Bull pair, finished 7th ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in P8. Sainz ran medium and soft tyres in this session while Leclerc used hards and softs in a split strategy by Ferrari.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen finished the session in P9 and McLaren’s Lando Norris in P10 with the Briton 0.95s off Verstappen’s leading time. Norris found himself sandwiched between the two Alfas as Antonio Giovinazzi took P11. Behind 12th-place Red Bull racer Perez was AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda, and Daniel Ricciardo in 13th with high mileage on soft tyres in this session for McLaren.
Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel finished 15th in FP2 without any incidents, nearly two-tenths faster than team mate Lance Stroll who finished 16th. Apart from Bottas, they were the only two drivers to have set their quickest times on mediums rather than softs. Behind the Astons was the Williams pair, George Russell (17th) just 0.065s faster than Nicholas Latifi in 18th, while Haas rounded out the standings, 19th-place Mick Schumacher 0.039s ahead of 20th-place Nikita Mazepin.
|1||33||Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:32.872||21|
|9||7||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:33.786||+0.914s||26|
|11||99||Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:33.831||+0.959s||23|
|12||11||Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:33.921||+1.049s||24|
|15||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:34.447||+1.575s||25|
|16||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:34.632||+1.760s||24|
|17||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||1:35.266||+2.394s||25|
|18||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:35.331||+2.459s||25|
|19||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:35.512||+2.640s||23|
|20||9||Nikita Mazepin||Haas Ferrari||1:35.551||+2.679s||23|