FP1: Hamilton tops Mercedes 1-2 in France

Date published: June 21 2019

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Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas claimed another 1-2 as Mercedes set the pace at the French Grand Prix while many drivers, including third-placed Charles Leclerc, had issues with tyres graining.

First practice for the French GP got underway with a few notable changes to the Circuit Paul Ricard.

Not only has the pit lane entry been re-profiled, allowing for a better line through the final corner and into the pits, but the FIA set up boards and bollards to police the track limits at Turns 1 through to 5.

They placed bollards and red/white boards around Turns 1 and 2 and 3 to 5 to police the track limits when it comes to corner cutting. Bollards were also placed at the exist on the inside of the kerb at Turn 2. Any driver cutting the corner has to go right of the bollards before driving through the two red/white blocks in the run-off to rejoin the track.

Carlos Sainz was quickly into his morning’s working, clocking a 1:35.9 to get the timesheet rolling. Charles Leclerc took over at the front as Ferrari tested a new front wing versus an old one.

Five laps into his run, Leclerc reported “something weird” with his front right. A close up showed the soft tyre was already showing severe graining.

Sebastian Vettel told Ferrari he can’t do “two consecutive” laps on the tyres. A concern given that Ferrari brought nine sets of the softs to France.

Aside from the tyres, drivers were also struggling to stay on the track with Daniil Kvyat spinning while the heat was also a problem. The track temperature climbed to 46’C with Nico Hulkenberg informing Renault “it’s like a barbecue in here.”

The problems, though, didn’t stop there with Vettel the first to fall foul of the new rules for how to rejoin the track if one goes off at Turn 1. He went the wrong way around the bollards haven gone off in a bid to make room for Valtteri Bottas.

The Finn was on a hot lap while Vettel was coming out the pits. Bottas went quickest with a 1:34.5. Max Verstappen was second at the 40-minute tyre break with Lewis Hamilton P3. Lando Norris was fourth fastest in the McLaren.

Heading back out for a second run, Pierre Gasly went quickest on the soft tyres but that was short-lived as Norris hit the front, and then Bottas. The Finn laid down a 1:33.7 on the soft tyres to edge Hamilton although for the reigning champ to fight back.

Bottas hit back but Hamilton, also running hot, slow, hot, slow, hot did a 1:32.738 to finish P1 quickest of all. Bottas was second, 0.069s off his team-mate’s pace

While the Mercedes’ drivers tussled at the front, Verstappen went spinning at Turn 8 and Ferrari stayed in the pits with Leclerc down in 15th, one place ahead of Vettel.

The Scuderia returned to the track with Leclerc on the old spec wing and Vettel on the new one. Leclerc moved up to third place while Vettel reported that “something doesn’t feel right” and only progressed to P5. He was seven-tenths down on the Monégasque driver.

Verstappen finished fourth ahead of Vettel, Gasly, who had a spin at Turn 4, and Norris while Sainz made it two McLarens inside the top ten. Daniel Ricciardo, running Renault’s “new Spec B ICE this weekend” was ninth with Albon completing the top ten.

Romain Grosjean was slowest of all as he covered just nine laps before he was sidelined with a water leak.

Times
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.738 20 laps
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.069s 20 laps
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.373s 21 laps
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.880s 20 laps
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1.052s 22 laps
6 Pierre Gasly Red Bull 1.353s 20 laps
7 Lando Norris McLaren 1.372s 23 laps
8 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1.523s 26 laps
9 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1.802s 18 laps
10 Alex Albon Toro Rosso 2.066s 25 laps
11 Sergio Perez Racing Point 2.071s 20 laps
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 2.072s 25 laps
13 Lance Stroll Racing Point 2.325s 22 laps
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 2.588s 24 laps
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 2.672s 19 laps
16 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 2.784s 22 laps
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 3.364s 22 laps
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 4.409s 24 laps
19 Robert Kubica Williams 4.434s 27 laps
20 Romain Grosjean Haas 4.882s 9 laps

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