Valtteri Bottas led a double for Mercedes in the first practice session of the French Grand Prix.
He finished the opening hour running three tenths of a second faster than his teammate Lewis Hamilton. The duo exchanged chassis before the seventh round of the championship and Paul Ricard.
Bottas’ lead time was established in the first half of the session, as were the best times for most of the drivers. Hamilton was heading for what looked like a hot late lap towards the end of the session, but confusion in the pit lane caused Yuki Tsunoda, attempting to dodge another car, to slightly obstruct the Mercedes.
Max Verstappen, who set the third fastest time, complained later in the session of damaging his floor while passing over a red and white sidewalk at turn 15. The championship leader called the pit wall Red Bull to say he was forced out of the lap he was on.
The open nature of Paul Ricard is largely limited by the bollards and curbs, the latter of which fell under the control of several teams. At the start of the session, Mercedes team principal Ron Meadows was overheard contacting Michael Masi at race control, claiming that the yellow curbs beyond the limits of turn two had damaged Bottas’ car. .
“Those rough yellow stripes coming out of turn two did a lot of damage to our car,” he complained, saying a run two or three feet wide would cost them “tens of thousands” of dollars. .
Verstappen’s ground damage may have prevented him from attempting another race. Meanwhile, Alpine had the advantage over the midfielder in the opening session. As at Autodromo do Algarve, Esteban Ocon led with the fastest cars, beating McLaren and Ferrari, taking fifth place behind Sergio Perez.
Several drivers had minor stops or blockages. Turn two seemed to cause the biggest problems. Sebastian Vettel appeared to be overtaken by a gust of wind there and was sent into a spin which saw the rear of his car making contact with the barriers. He was able to relaunch his Aston Martin and return to the pit without disrupting the session.
Carlos Sainz Jnr had an almost identical incident later in the session, although he was able to dodge the barriers and limp his Ferrari towards the pits with only flat tires to show for his spin. The wind was changeable and strong during the session, blowing directly into turn two in some places.
Daniel Ricciardo was faster than Lando Norris, with AlphaTauri roughly watching the pace of the McLaren and Alpine cars. Ferrari, meanwhile, appeared to have retreated into the peloton from their impressive pace in Monaco and Baku.
Roy Nissany, who picked up George Russell’s Williams car for the session, was the slowest of all the drivers.
Results of the first tests of the 2021 French Grand Prix
First practice of visual gaps
Valtteri Bottas – 1’33.448
+0.335 Lewis Hamilton – 1’33.783
+0.432 Max Verstappen – 1’33.880
+0.745 Sergio Perez – 1’34.193
+0.881 Esteban Ocon – 1’34.329
+1.196 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’34.644
+1,245 Fernando Alonso – 1’34.693
+1.251 Pierre Gasly – 1’34.699
+1.259 Lando Norris – 1’34.707
+1.399 Yuki Tsunoda – 1’34.847
+1.502 Charles Leclerc – 1’34.950
+1.668 Antonio Giovinazzi – 1’35.116
+1.687 Kimi Räikkönen – 1’35.135
+1.827 Ballade de Lance – 1’35.275
+1.841 Sebastian Vettel – 1’35.289
+1.894 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’35.342
+2,164 Nicolas Latifi – 1’35.612
+3.203 Nikita Mazepin – 1’36.651
+3.881 Mick Schumacher – 1’37.329
+4.433 Roy Nissany – 1’37.881
Drivers more than ten seconds from the missed pace.
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French Grand Prix 2021
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