French Grand Prix – Valtteri Bottas was the quickest in the opening practice session as Mercedes return to the top of the timesheets.
Bottas’ fastest time was set half an hour into the session on the soft compound beating the 1:33.783 set a few seconds earlier by his teammate, Lewis Hamilton. It wasn’t all smooth running for the reigning champions however as there was some costly damage done to Bottas’ car when he went wide in T2 and bounced over the yellow kerbing.
Mercedes were heard on the team-to-FIA radio complaining to Race Director, Michael Masi, about the amount of damage done for going such a small distance outside the track limits.
Max Verstappen’s best effort saw him 0.432 off the pace of the Mercedes in third with Baku race winner, Sergio Perez, three tenths further back in the second Red Bull car. Esteban Ocon was the highest placed French driver in fifth and it’s a good weekend for him as, aside from this being his home race, Ocon has also just signed a three-year extension with Alpine.
Sixth was Daniel Ricciardo for McLaren with a 1:34.644 with Fernando Alonso’s Alpine in seventh. The other home-driver this weekend, Pierre Gasly, posted the eighth fastest time for AlphaTauri, a 1:34.699, with Lando Norris’ best only 0.008 slower.
The second AlphaTauri, driven by Yuki Tsunoda, was tenth 1.399 seconds off Bottas. After back-to-back pole positions, it wasn’t a great start for Ferrari with Leclerc and Sainz 1.5 and 1.9 seconds off the pace.There were a few tyre-destroying incidents during the session with Schumacher, Vettel and Sainz all spinning off track and over the brightly coloured, abrasive paint around the circuit. Vettel also lost running time as his spin ended with his Aston Martin rear-ending the barriers and that took time for the team to repair.