Mercedes controls practice in France
Mercedes ended the opening day’s running at Paul Ricard in control ahead of Sunday’s Formula 1 French Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were almost inseparable in the opening session before the pair swapped positions in the day’s second session.
Third fastest on both occasions was Charles Leclerc, the Ferrari driver six tenths slower than Bottas in the afternoon and two tenths slower than Hamilton.
That deficit came despite the Ferrari driver using the fastest soft compound tyres, highlighting the both single lap and long run pace advantage Mercedes appears to hold.
Equally telling was the gap between Leclerc and the lead Mercedes, which increased by almost double from Practice 1.
Hot and blustery conditions saw a number of drivers run wide, though with vast tarmac runoff areas none proved serious.
The high temperatures made it difficult for drivers to get their tyres working, leading to graining on a track that evolved quickly throughout the day.
Set-up work therefore proved a constantly moving target as the tarmac rubbered in, though it was the heat more than anything that left drivers struggling for grip.
Bottas’ fastest time in Practice 2 was almost two seconds faster than Hamilton had done in the morning, with the remainder of the field improving by similar margins.
Max Verstappen was fourth fastest in the morning session, slipping to sixth as Sebastian Vettel and Lando Norris improved.
McLaren showed promising pace in both sessions, Norris starting the day seventh fastest before climbing to sixth in the second session.
His pace was backed up by that of team-mate Carlos Sainz, who was seventh fastest in Practice 2 having been eighth earlier in the day.
Their pace came as something as a surprise, with neither driver expecting their car to especially suit the Paul Ricard circuit.
Daniel Ricciardo is set to enjoy an up-rated Renault engine this weekend, the Australian inside the top 10 and two tenths up on his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg after Practice 1.
The pair then both dropped behind Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) and Kevin Magnussen (Haas), who filled the bottom end of the 10, Ricciardo 12th and Hulkenberg 14th.
An incident midway through the second session saw Hamilton slew off track, clobbering a kerb and bollard before gathering his Mercedes back up and rejoining the circuit.
Though the Turn 4 slide was innocent in of itself, as he rejoined Verstappen arrived on the scene.
The Dutchman narrowly missed Hamilton as he swept into the apex, catching a snap of oversteer as a result of having to run wide around the slow Mercedes.
Despite there being no contact or harm done, the incident nonetheless caught the attentions of the stewards, who published their intentions to investigate post-session.
Practice continues on Saturday with final practice ahead of qualifying, which is scheduled to commence at 2300 AEST.
Result: Formula 1 French Grand Prix, Practice 2
|5||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||1:31.882||+0.945s|
|6||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Honda||1:32.049||+1.112s|
|7||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||1:32.432||+1.495s|
|8||10||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Honda||1:32.448||+1.511s|
|9||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:32.677||+1.740s|
|10||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:32.789||+1.852s|
|11||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:32.973||+2.036s|
|13||23||Alexander Albon||Toro Rosso Honda||1:33.023||+2.086s|
|15||26||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso Honda||1:33.254||+2.317s|
|16||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point Mercedes||1:33.300||+2.363s|
|17||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:33.591||+2.654s|
|18||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point Mercedes||1:33.884||+2.947s|
|19||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||1:34.614||+3.677s|
|20||88||Robert Kubica||Williams Mercedes||1:35.195||+4.258s|
Result: Formula 1 French Grand Prix, Practice 1
|4||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Honda||1:33.618||+0.880s|
|6||10||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Honda||1:34.091||+1.353s|
|7||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||1:34.110||+1.372s|
|8||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||1:34.261||+1.523s|
|10||23||Alexander Albon||Toro Rosso Honda||1:34.804||+2.066s|
|11||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point Mercedes||1:34.809||+2.071s|
|13||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point Mercedes||1:35.063||+2.325s|
|14||26||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso Honda||1:35.326||+2.588s|
|15||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:35.410||+2.672s|
|16||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:35.522||+2.784s|
|17||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:36.102||+3.364s|
|18||40||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:37.147||+4.409s|
|19||88||Robert Kubica||Williams Mercedes||1:37.172||+4.434s|
|20||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:37.620||+4.882s|