Despite taking a year out from the GP3 Series Jake Hughes has certainly not lost any pace as he ended day one at Paul Ricard fastest.
Second fastest belonged to Hughes’ ART Grand Prix team-mate Nikita Mazepin with Niko Kari of MP Motorsport completing the top of the time-sheets.
The day began with a mixture of snowfall and drizzle, with the teams spending the first hour to complete their install laps in the wet.
Newcomers to the series, MP Motorsport where the first out of the blocks as Kari took to the circuit first before being followed by team-mates Dorian Boccolacci and Leonard Hoogenboom – although the latter is just testing for the team for the time-being.
The teams waited for warmer conditions to roll in before getting their programmes fully underway with their flying laps. Jenzer Motorsport‘s Juan Manuel Correa broke the stalemate at the half hour mark.
With fifteen minutes remaining of the morning session times began to tumble due to the warmer conditions.
Trident‘s Alessio Lorandi was the first to break into the two minute barrier before Anthoine Hubert eclipsed him with the first sub-two minute lap of the morning putting the Frenchman at the top of the time-sheets heading into lunch.
Lorandi was second, his Trident team-mates Giuliano Alesi and Pedro Piquet third and fourth.
Mazepin was fifth, ahead of Jenzer’s Tatiana Calderon. Hughes, Boccolacci, Leonardo Pulcini (Campos Racing) and Joey Mawson (Arden International) rounded off the top ten.
Action resumed after a two hour lunch break in much clearer conditions and the drivers were quickly lapping faster than they had in the earlier session.
Teams sought to maximise their time on track and a hive of action went on in the opening 30 minutes.
Jenzer’s David Beckmann was first to head out. Hubert was intent of carrying on from where he left off to set the early pace, heading an all ART top four as Mazepin, Callum Ilott and Hughes trailed behind him after half an hour.
Australian Mawson leapfrogged the ARTs at the hour mark becoming the first to break the 1m50 barrier before Hubert was once again leading the way.
The track quietened at the midpoint as teams geared up for the final hour which saw a number of drivers trade fastest times.
Boccolacci was first to lap in the 1m49s before being displaced by Hubert and Pulcini.
Hughes surged to the top with 15 minutes remaining, jumping ahead of Mazepin, and was where he remained when day one of pre-season came to a close.
Kari beat Pulcini to third while Hubert dropped to fifth overall. Boccolacci was sixth fastest, ahead of Gabriel Aubry (Arden), while Trident trio Lorandi, Ryan Tveter and Piquet completed the top ten.
Testing resumes at 9am local time with the morning session ending at 12pm. The afternoon running will start at 1pm and the Le Castellet test will be brought to a close at 4pm.