Mercedes Pair Separated By 0.069 Seconds In Opening French Grand Prix Practice

by Aaron Gillard
Hamilton - Mercedes - France FP1

Lewis Hamilton opened the French Grand Prix weekend fastest, beating Mercedes AMG Motorsport team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.069 seconds in Free Practice 1 at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

The reigning world champion set a lap time of 1:32.738 to go on top of the time sheets ahead of Bottas, who showed promising pace throughout the practice session. Scuderia Ferrari‘s Charles Leclerc followed behind the two Mercedes drivers in third, pipping Max Verstappen. Sebastian Vettel and home driver Pierre Gasly in the Red Bull Racing took fifth and sixth overall in the standings.

The session began with both Ferrari drivers heading out on track in the opening minutes, testing their new aerodynamic upgrades. Leclerc set the pace early on in the session with a 1:35.822 ahead of McLaren‘s Carlos Sainz Jr. and Vettel. The Monegasque driver had the old front wing specification whilst Vettel followed behind with the upgraded design.

Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso Honda, who will start this weekend from the back of the grid, suffered a spin at the exit of Turn 5. Nico Hülkenberg had smoke pouring out of his cockpit due to the plank of his Renault rubbing too much on the ground.

Bottas jumped to the top of the standings with a 1:34.500 with over 30 minutes of opening practice session completed, ahead of Verstappen and team-mate Hamilton. Few drivers were struggling with the grip on their tyres in the early stages of the session.

After a quiet period on track around the midway point of the session, cars headed back on track with Norris, Gasly, Kevin Magnussen and Kimi Räikkönen heading out on track. Gasly’s first lap on the Medium Pirelli tyres pushed him to the top of the standings with a 1:34.271 before Norris surpassed him to first place by 0.161 seconds. The two Mercedes cars of Bottas and Hamilton quickly took over the top with Bottas breaking into the 1:33’s with a 1:33.773.

Home driver Gasly managed to find more time and split the two Mercedes cars before Hamilton set a 1:33.272 to go fastest ahead of Bottas, Verstappen and Gasly. Norris continued to show promising and quick pace throughout practice in his McLaren to be fifth overall ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Sainz. With twenty minutes of the session left, Verstappen lost the rear of his car going into Turn 8, spinning as a result but managed to keep his Red Bull going and resume his running.

Ferrari headed back out on track in the late stage of the session with Leclerc improving to jump into third behind both Mercedes cars whilst Vettel struggled to place a quick lap in his opening laps with the Soft tyres. The German eventually placed a quick lap, putting himself in fifth ahead of Gasly, who spun at Turn 3 and 4 chicane in the final five minutes of practice.

The first practice session ended with Mercedes leading a one-two result with Hamilton ahead of Bottas. Leclerc placed the third best time ahead of Verstappen, Verstappen and Gasly. Both McLaren drivers were the best of the rest ahead of Ricciardo and Alexander Albon. FIA Formula 2 championship leader Nicholas Latifi in the Williams Racing car, replacing George Russell, made another Free Practice 1 appearance and ended the session in eighteenth ahead of Robert Kubica.

144Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport1:32.738
277Valtteri BottasFINMercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport+0.06
316Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow+0.373
433Max VerstappenNEDAston Martin Red Bull Racing+0.880
55Sebastian VettelGERScuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow+1.052
610Pierre GaslyFRAAston Martin Red Bull Racing+1.353
74Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team+1.372
855Carlos Sainz Jr.ESPMcLaren F1 Team+1.523
93Daniel RicciardoAUSRenault F1 Team+1.802
1023Alexander AlbonTHARed Bull Toro Rosso Honda+2.066
1111Sergio PérezMEXSportPesa Racing Point F1 Team+2.071
1227Nico HülkenbergGERRenault F1 Team+2.072
1318Lance StrollCANSportPesa Racing Point F1 Team+2.325
1426Daniil KvyatRUSRed Bull Toro Rosso Honda+2.588
1520Kevin MagnussenDENRich Energy Haas F1 Team+2.672
167Kimi RäikkönenFINAlfa Romeo Racing+2.784
1799Antonio GiovinazziITAAlfa Romeo Racing+3.364
1840Nicholas LatifiCANROKiT Williams Racing+4.409
1988Robert KubicaPOLROKiT Williams Racing+4.434
208Romain GrosjeanFRARich Energy Haas F1 Team+4.882

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