Just under two weeks after his win at the Austrian Grand Prix Ferrari's Charles Leclerc presented himself in top form once again by topping the opening practice session for the French Grand Prix. Championship runaway leader Max Verstappen set the second fastest lap, followed by Ferrari's Carlos Sainz.
The battle between Ferrari and Red Bull seems to continue in France after the two teams battled for the top places all through the opening practice at Le Castellet. It was Max Verstappen who set blisteringly quick lap times in the opening part of the session on Pirelli’s red-walled soft rubber with a significant gap separating him and his team mate Sergio Perez and the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
However, when drivers headed onto the long, diverse Paul Ricard track, Sainz took over the lead, albeit it did not last long as Verstappen recorded a 1m34.021s to jump to the top of the leaderboard. His championship rival Leclerc was the last of the top drivers to return to the track on a second set of fresh soft tyres. While the Monegasque was unable to beat Verstappen’s time with his first flying lap, he made a quick visit to the pits before going for a second hot lap that was enough to take over the lead.
Ferrari's first session centred around the evaluation of its brand-new floor that features innovative entry section to the Venturi channels. The Scuderia had only one new floor at its disposal yesterday, but it received a second piece from its Maranello base today. However, it remains to be seen whether the team already uses it this weekend or introduces it later on in the season.
It has also been confirmed that Sainz will receive ten-second grid drop penalty for using a third control electronics. However, it is believed that Ferrari will install a completely new power unit into the Spaniard’s car for tomorrow’s FP3, which would send the Silverstone race winner to the back of the field.
Mercedes had lots of new parts to evaluate in the opening session. George Russell ended the session fourth fastest while Nyck de Vries, who took over Lewis Hamilton’s W13 for the first 60-minute practice, set the ninth fastest lap.
Sergio Perez had a slow start to his race weekend in France as he had a spin on his first set of tyres while he had a tear-off stuck on his rear suspension elements when he attempted a hot lap on his second set of fresh C4 rubber. The Mexican ended the session in P6, 1.244s adrift of Leclerc’s benchmark.
There were driver changes in the Alfa Romeo camp as well. Robert Kubica jumped into the car of Valtteri Bottas with the Polish driver setting the 19th fastest lap time. The Italian-Swiss team’s Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu was seven tenths of a seconds quicker, ending the session in P11.
The battle in the midfield was close once again with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly leading the field behind the four fastest drivers. The most eye-catching performance belonged to Williams racer Alexander Albon, who set the 8th fastest lap with a time of 1m35.414.
|2||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:34.021||+0.091s||19|
|5||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:34.979||+1.049s||21|
|6||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:35.174||+1.244s||21|
|7||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:35.232||+1.302s||21|
|8||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||1:35.414||+1.484s||24|
|9||19||Nyck De Vries||Mercedes||1:35.426||+1.496s||23|
|10||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||1:35.660||+1.730s||21|
|11||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:35.676||+1.746s||21|
|12||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:35.810||+1.880s||19|
|13||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:35.828||+1.898s||21|
|14||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:35.851||+1.921s||24|
|15||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:35.875||+1.945s||22|
|16||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:36.022||+2.092s||19|
|17||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:36.104||+2.174s||22|
|18||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:36.127||+2.197s||26|
|19||88||Robert Kubica||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:36.332||+2.402s||19|
|20||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:37.043||+3.113s||23|