After two woeful street circuit races at Monaco and Baku, Mercedes bounced back at the Paul Ricard track by dictating the early pace in the opening practice session for the French Grand Prix.
The session started with a spin for Haas driver Mick Schumacher, who rotated his VF-21 at Turn 3, lightly nerfing the wall. However, that was only the first of many incidents with Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz, Kimi Räikkönen, Yuki Tsunoda and Sebastian Vettel having also been involved in an off-track moment during the opening session.
The first part of the practice saw the majority of the drivers opt for the C2 Hard compound. Ferrari's Carlos Sainz dictated the early pace, but Red Bull driver Max Verstappen quickly managed to get ahead of the Spaniard. The Mercedes drivers were unable to keep up with the early pace of the Dutchman while Sergio Perez posted the second fastest time on the white-marked compound.
When drivers started to focus on the soft compound, Mercedes managed to find big chunk of improvements compared to their lap times set on the Hard rubber, indicating that the Anglo-German team is back on form as we got back to the more conventional environs of the Circuit Paul Ricard.
In the end, Bottas recorded the fastest time of the session with a 1m33.448 which was enough to beat his team mate by over three tenths of a second. The Mercedes drivers completed impressive high-fuel runs at the end of the session.
Verstappen complained about the balance of his RB16B on the softest compound available at the Paul Ricard circuit and only managed a 1m33.880. His team mate Sergio Perez, interestingly, decided against a hot lap on his fresh set of C4 compound and ended the session fourth fastest with his early lap time set on the Hard compound.
Charles Leclerc complained of struggling with his Ferrari SF21, leaving the Baku polesitter P11, while his team mate Sainz ruined a set of his soft tyres, leaving the Spaniard down in P16.
Fernando Alonso confirmed the pace of the Alpine at their home race by taking P7, ahead of AlphaTauri’s Gasly in eighth and the second McLaren and second AlphaTauri of Lando Norris and Tsunoda rounding out the top 10.
|3||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:33.880||+0.432s||23|
|4||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:34.193||+0.745s||25|
|5||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:34.329||+0.881s||25|
|6||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||1:34.644||+1.196s||24|
|7||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:34.693||+1.245s||21|
|8||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Honda||1:34.699||+1.251s||20|
|9||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:34.707||+1.259s||21|
|10||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Honda||1:34.847||+1.399s||22|
|12||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:35.116||+1.668s||23|
|13||7||Kimi Räikkönen||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||+3.203s||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|