FP1: Hamilton heads Bottas and Leclerc in France
Valtteri Bottas said on Thursday afternoon at Paul Ricard that he expected the track to suit Mercedes better than Canada – and he and team mate Lewis Hamilton put actions into words in Free Practice 1 for the French Grand Prix, Hamilton heading the session from Bottas by 0.069s, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc 0.373s behind the five-time champion.
With Hamilton having missed his Thursday media commitments as he was called away to Paris, the championship leader took no time getting up to speed at the track he won at last year as he posted a 1m 32.738s lap to put Mercedes top.
Behind the top three, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fourth, 0.880s adrift of Hamilton while the newly-married Sebastian Vettel was fifth, over a second off the pace as he complained of poor feeling on the front of his Ferrari SF90, as the team experimented with their front wing updates.
Pierre Gasly was sixth, but nearly half a second off team mate Verstappen’s time – with both Red Bull drivers suffering spins during the session, along with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat – while it was a promising morning for McLaren, with Lando Norris just a few hundredths off Gasly in P7, with Carlos Sainz close behind in eighth.
Floor issues were the main theme of Renault’s Friday morning, with both Daniel Ricciardo – who was running a new internal combustion engine at the team’s home race – and Nico Hulkenberg having to deal with smoke coming into the cockpit, apparently from the floors of their R.S.19s scarping the track.
Hulkenberg’s plank was replaced, while Ricciardo spent part of the session on the stands in his garage after clipping a kerb, with the team checking for damage. Back out on track, Ricciardo set a time good enough to finish the session P9, with Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon rounding out the top 10.
It was an unhappy FP1 for home hero Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, who only managed nine laps after a water leak was found on his Haas VF-19. He ended up P20, behind the two Williams of Nicholas Latifi – competing in his second consecutive FP1 for the team, this time in place of George Russell – and Robert Kubica.