Valtteri Bottas was the fastest man in Free Practice 2 for Formula 1‘s French Grand Prix, as Mercedes AMG Motorsport completed another 1-2 standing.
Bottas’ best effort, set on the softest C2 tyres, was a lap time of 1:30.937 and marked the first sub-1:31.000 lap of the weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Contrarily to the 0.069 seconds gap between morning pacesetter Lewis Hamilton and Bottas in Free Practice 1, Bottas enjoyed a 0.424s advantage over the Brit on a hot afternoon in the south of France – although Hamilton’s fastest time was on the medium tyres.
Mercedes did have one issue during Practice 2, an incident between Hamilton and Red Bull Racing‘s Max Verstappen will be investigated after the session.
Hamilton lost the rear heading into Turn 4 and rejoined the track in the path of Verstappen on a quick lap, forcing the Dutchman to change his line and slide off the track himself at Turn 6.
Scuderia Ferrari, still locked in conversation with the FIA over Sebastian Vettel‘s Canadian Grand Prix penalty, could only play distant spectators to Mercedes – Charles Leclerc six tenths off of the ultimate pace in third, but just ahead of fourth-placed man Vettel.
Mercedes never looked in trouble, Bottas eclipsing preliminary fastest man Leclerc on his first run inside the first 30 minutes of the 1 hour 30m session, both drivers using the medium compound.
Bottas continued to improve, by as much as 0.8s on his second run, but could not prevent Hamilton from assuming the top spot as times dipped into the low 1m31s and bettered last year’s second practice pace.
The five-time world champion was having a tricky session despite his pace, struggling with the rear of the car in the middle sector; a slide at Turn 8 on a fast run called time on one set of performance runs.
Team-mate Bottas continue to lap consistently and returned the the top of the standings around halfway through the afternoon, just into the 1m30s bracket.
Even with fast running continuing for another 20 minutes before race runs became the order of the day, Bottas’s pace could not be bettered.
Aside from Bottas, Lando Norris was the standout performer of the afternoon in fifth for the McLaren F1 Team – the rookie was the only non-Mercedes/Ferrari driver to record a time in the 1m31s.
Verstappen failed to set a clear lap on soft tyres and could only manage sixth, in between Norris and the second McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr.
Pierre Gasly lagged behind his Red Bull team-mate by four-tenths in eighth, ahead of Ferrari-powered duo of Kimi Räikkönen and Kevin Magnussen for Alfa Romeo Racing and the Haas F1 Team respectively.
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