FP1: Leclerc edges Verstappen at a very hot Paul Ricard
Charles Leclerc topped Friday’s first hot practice at the Paul Ricard circuit, a tenth up on Max Verstappen in a session where yet again Ferrari and Red Bull traded P1s.
Formula 1’s French Grand Prix weekend began in swelteringly hot conditions, the track temperature up at 55’C, a concern for the teams on a track that is already known for being hard on the tyres.
Robert Kubica and Nyck de Vries, test drivers in action for Alfa Romeo and Mercedes, were amongst the first out while Nicholas Latifi was the last, the Williams driver having his first run in the team’s heavily updated package.
👋 Nyck de Vries 👋
The 2019 @Formula2 champ behind the wheel of the W13👀#FrenchGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/s1rNmHMsaI
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 22, 2022
It wasn’t long before Ferrari and Red Bull engaged in their usual tussle for P1, Carlos Sainz hitting the front before Charles Leclerc took over and then Max Verstappen. 1:34.9 the Dutchman’s P1 time after 15 minutes.
Lando Norris stuck his nose in the tussle despite the driver, running pedal cam, complaining that the “feeling on the throttle pedal is not right”.
Eight-tenths down on Verstappen, Ferrari told Leclerc that he is losing time in Turn 8-9 compared to the Red Bull driver, the rest is “power limited”.
Leclerc, though, clearly wasn’t happy with his power unit, the Ferrari driver putting in a very slow lap before putting his foot down.
But with yellows in sector one, Sergio Perez spinning off on the abrasive surface and flat-spotting his tyres, Leclerc had to back off.
Checo gets in a spin as he gets to grips with Circuit Paul Ricard #FrenchGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/YzMQBsA05v
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 22, 2022
Midway through the session Verstappen held P1, 0.5s ahead of Perez with Leclerc and George Russell next in line, both eight-tenths down. Sainz, Pierre Gasly, De Vries, Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso and Latifi in the top ten. And the track temperature was up to 58′.
As news broke of Sainz’s 10-place Control Electronics penalty, the Spaniard went quickest with a 1:34.2 while Mercedes’ swap from the mediums to the softs put Russell up to third, and De Vries P4.
Sainz’s reign was short-lived, Verstappen hitting back with a 1:34.0 despite a notable on his lap, the Dutchman explaining to Red Bull he “understeered wide on the corner”. Leclerc moved up to second, 0.083s down.
Gasly, dreaming of a pole position battle in his upgraded AlphaTauri, was another drive on the move as he slotted into fourth place, his soft tyre run within a second of Verstappen’s P1 time while Alex Albon entered the top ten in eighth place.
With 15 minutes to go Leclerc jumped ahead of Verstappen with a 1:33.9, a tenth up on his title rival, the track temperature up another degree to 59. That stood as the time to beat, Leclerc finishing the session 0.091s up on Verstappen with Sainz 0.338s.
Russell, Gasly, Perez, Norris, Albon, De Vries and Ricciardo completing the top ten.
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:33.930 22 laps (soft)
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.091s 17 laps (soft)
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.338s 20 laps (soft)
4 George Russell Mercedes 0.951s 24 laps (soft)
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1.049s 20 laps (soft)
6 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1.244s 19 laps (soft)
7 Lando Norris McLaren 1.302s 20 laps (soft)
8 Alex Albon Williams 1.484s 23 laps (soft)
9 Nyck de Vries Mercedes 1.496s 22 laps (soft)
10 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1.730s 20 laps (soft)
11 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing 1.746s 19 laps (soft)
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1.880s 17 laps (soft)
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1.898s 19 laps (soft)
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1.921s 23 laps (soft)
15 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1.945s 21 laps (soft)
16 Mick Schumacher Haas 2.092s 18 laps (soft)
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 2.174s 20 laps (soft)
18 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 2.197s 25 laps (soft)
19 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo Racing 2.402s 19 laps (soft)
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 3.113s 22 laps (medium)