French GP: Bottas leads Mercedes 1-2 in opening practice

In what was largely a track cleaning session, Valtteri Bottas turned a lap of 1m33.448s to top opening practice for the French GP at Paul Ricard.

Bottas finished 0.335s ahead of sandbagging Lewis Hamilton, who has dominated at this track since it returned to the F1 calendar several years ago.

Max Verstappen was 3rd in a scrappy session that saw him off track a couple of times combining to leave him four tenths off the pace in P3 in his Red Bull Honda.

Sergio Perez was 4th in the 2nd Red Bull Honda 0.745s while Esteban Ocon rounded out the top-5 for Alpine. Ocon took advantage of a rubbered in track, setting off for his flying lap later in the session than his rivals to grab a rather impressive looking fifth place. His team mate was seventh, with alpine already looking strong here.

As for Red Bull, third and fourth isn’t a disastrous start by any means. But they will be worried by the feedback from their lead driver – Verstappen, not happy at all with the handling of his RB16B in that session.

Carlos Sainz Jr. spun halfway through the session, coming in too hot into Turn 2 and sliding across the striped run off area. He managed to lose enough speed to avoid the barriers, but hasn’t managed to save his fresh new soft tires.

Paul Ricard is a circuit that has been used for testing in the past, with wide, generous run off areas. But despite its benign appearance, plenty of drivers found themselves in difficulties in that opening session.

Yuki Tsunoda and Carlos Sainz Jr. both spun, Mick Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel spun into the barriers, while Bottas and Verstappen were two of a number of drivers to run wide over the high curbs.

Both Red Bull drivers have fresh Honda power units here.

Both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez will have the benefit of the fresh engines, which are understood to have some minor reliability updates to help reduce vibrations that have prevented them from utilizing full power at previous race.

Having done the first six race weekends on their initial engines, this scheduled change for Honda also applies to AlphaTauri. Pierre Gasly has been fitted with a fresh engine, although Yuki Tsunoda doesn’t get one as he is already on his second as a result of crashing during qualifying at Imola.

Nick Latifi, 21st in the #6 Williams with Mercedes power

Practice 1 Results

1 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:33.448 +0.000s 24
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.783 +0.335s 21
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
11 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:34.950 +1.502s 24
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
16 55 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:35.342 +1.894s 24
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