Bottas and Hamilton lead French GP FP1 for Mercedes

Mercedes reclaimed its position at the top of the field in the opening practice session for this weekend's... The post Bottas and Hamilton lead French GP FP1 for Mercedes appeared first on F1i.com.

Bottas and Hamilton lead French GP FP1 for Mercedes

Mercedes reclaimed its position at the top of the field in the opening practice session for this weekend's French Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas clocked in fastest, just 0.335s ahead of Lewis Hamilton, with Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez following close behind, while Alpine's Esteban ocon rounded off the top five.

Conditions were predictably warm and sunny for Formula 1's return to Paul Ricard after a two-year absence due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Teams were also delighted to return to a traditional track and layout after suffering the urban pitfalls of Monaco and Baku.

McLaren's drivers took to the track with their cars sporting a heartfelt tribute to the late Mansour Ojjeh who passed earlier this month.

Installation laps and aero rakes were the norm at the outset while Bottas returned to the pits in short order after running over the exit kerbs and damaging his front wing, an incident that Mercedes sporting director was none too pleased with as he radioed in to FIA race director Michael Masi to complain about the sausage kerbs and the damage they had caused.

Verstappen and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz traded places at the top of the timesheet, but the Dutchman established the first serious benchmark at 1m34.139s.

Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel suffered a big moment at the fast Turn 11 Beausset curve, but the German succeeded in hauling his car back to the pits with little apparent damage, save for a destroyed set of tyres.

Thirty minutes in to the session, Bottas and Hamilton sprung to the top, with both drivers running on the soft tyre and the Finn pumping in a 1m33.448s that edged his teammate by 0.335s.

Heading into the final ten minutes of the session the positions remained unchanged with the Mercedes pair heading its Red Bull counterparts, with Verstappen sat ahead of Perez.

Behind the front-running group, Alpine's Esteban Ocon concluded the morning P5, leading McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo and teammate Fernando Alonso, while AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda completed the top ten.

Both Leclerc and Sainz were disappointingly relegated to the second half of the field in FP1, as were Team Silverstone's Vettel and Lance Stroll and Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen.

The final four in the pecking order were shared among the Williams and Haas drivers, with the former's development driver Roy Nissany - who was replacing George Russell in FP1 - closing out the field for his third free practice session of the season.

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Norris: Ferrari's mistakes helping McLaren's cause

Lando Norris says Ferrari outperformed McLaren on pure pace at F1's recent venues, but the Scuderia's errors have... The post Norris: Ferrari's mistakes helping McLaren's cause appeared first on F1i.com.

Norris: Ferrari's mistakes helping McLaren's cause

Lando Norris says Ferrari outperformed McLaren on pure pace at F1's recent venues, but the Scuderia's errors have allowed the Woking-based outfit to remain in the wake of its rival in the championship.

Ferrari and McLaren head into this weekend's French Grand Prix separated by just two points in the Constructors' standings where the two teams stand respectively P3 and P4.

But the Italian outfit's points tally, and thus its advantage over McLaren, could have been more important without a few mistakes that impacted its results.

Poleman Charles Leclerc was denied an opportunity to race in Monaco following a drive-shaft failure on his SF21 on the way to the grid, while Carlos Sainz was forced to battle his way back into the points in Baku after an early off in the race.

"Quite simply in slow speed corners they are very competitive," said Norris. "They can often be one of the best cars in the very slow speed corners.

"A couple of the tracks lately have suited them. I’m hoping that we can be a little bit more competitive this weekend, but they are getting better.

"They are always making improvements, as are we, and we are trying to improve in every area.

"They’ve been very quick on Saturdays. Charles has been on pole twice. But then they have made more mistakes and struggled more on Sundays.

"That is where we have gained some of it back, and looked a bit stronger.

"So trying to continue that with the points being on Sunday and not Saturday, that is good for us and coming into our favour, but as a car they generally have been quick in qualifying on Saturdays."

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Norris reckoned that his slightly more conservative approach on race day has improved his consistency, which is reflected in his results as the Briton remains the only driver on the grid to have finished among the top-ten at every event so far this season.

"It is good for me and us as a team, especially from where we are in the Constructors’," he said.

"We are very close with Ferrari, so these kinds of things add up at the end of the season.

"Even if it is one point or two points, it can still make a good difference, so it is good. I’m doing what I can.

"It depends, sometimes you want to take more risks and go for a better position. But also I feel like I have made good decisions to be on the safer side sometimes and not take too many risks.

"Like in Baku, I was down to 12th after lap one and things are not looking so good. But I still ended up fifth. It is good for me and us as a team. And that is what we need to continue."

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