The first practice session at Paul Ricard for the French GP finished with Valtteri Bottas setting the fastest time of 1:33.448s. Closely behind him were Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen with the times of 1:33.783s and 1:33.880s respectively. The rest of the drivers that completed the top 10 were: Perez, Ocon, Ricciardo, Alonso, Gasly, Norris and Tsunoda.
We’ve arrived at Paul Ricard after a small break that definitely did not calm down the situation after the insane Azerbaijan GP we’ve had two weeks ago. Just before the French GP started, Pirelli concluded their “investigation” of what was wrong with the tyres that caused both Lance Stroll of Aston Martin and Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing to retire from the race. As they believe, the reason why both of these drivers had an unexpected tyre failures, was due to the fact that they both ran lower pressures (although still within the regulations). This type of conclusion will definitely only fuel up the talks, gossips and petty exchanges that we’ve seen in the paddock so far this year.
So far, as of the start of the FP1, the conditions on the track are bright and sunny. This weekend is a comeback of the French GP, since we’ve last seen it in 2019, as it was cancelled during the 2020 season due to the pandemic.
The first drivers on the track were Vettel, Nissany who joined Williams for the FP1, Bottas, Hamilton, Mazepin, Ocon and Sainz. Soon after more drivers followed. Vettel, who was the first one to go on on the track, was seen with some aero rakes on his front wing. The team definitely would like to keep the momentum going after their podium with Vettel during the Azerbaijan GP.
Very fast in the FP1 we’ve got a yellow flag, but it was also vastly replaced with green, after unfortunately the young Schumacher spun and went out of track. He was able to rejoin without complications. Less than ten minutes into the session, Valtteri Bottas was called into the pits after possibly damaging his front wing. During this time, the fastest driver was Max Verstappen, with the time of 1:35.639s. Closely behind were Gasly and Perez, two other Red Bull stable drivers. Behind them we’ve got Leclerc and Hamilton.
So far this season Red Bull has been the real threat to the reign of Mercedes we’ve got used to in the previous seasons. Seventh race into the season and so far Red Bull was able to reach first place in the constructors and drivers championship, for the first time in a while. The fight we currently have on the grid not only between Red Bull and Mercedes, but also other teams, is definitely the closest one we’ve got in years, and the current season is even more crazy that 2020 was.
Sebastian Vettel went out of the track and lightly hit the battier that caused a yellow flag, although he was able to get the car running and back into the pits. There is possible damage to the rear of the car, especially the rear wing.
20 minutes into the session the top ten were: Verstappen, Perez, Bottas, Hamilton, Sainz, Norris, Ricciardo, Alonso, Leclerc and Stroll.
There has been a conversation between the Mercedes team manager Ron Meadows and FIA, about the damage done to the car by the yellow curbs at turn 2. The team believes they are too aggressive and caused damage worth a lot of money. Let’s see if FIA will revisit these curbs ahead of qualifying and race.
Sainz joined the club of drivers that momentarily caused a yellow flag, but he was also able to get back on the track. He went wide at turn 2 and damaged his front tyres, which caused him to box. Many drivers so far had troubles with the first section of the track. Verstappen reported an issue with the balance of his car, and went back to the pits for some adjustments. Charles Leclerc also reported to his team that he was struggling with his car at Paul Ricard. With only 20 minutes left on the clock, the top ten were: Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Leclerc, Alonso, Ricciardo, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen and Stroll. Bottas, on P1 during that time of the session, put the lap time of 1:33.448s.
The remaining part of the session went without any disturbances. The final classification after the first practice session for the French GP: