Bottas fastest in French Grand Prix practice
Valtteri Bottas headed Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes one-two ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in first practice at the French Grand Prix.
Bottas led Hamilton by 0.335 seconds while Verstappen was just 0.007secs behind his title rival, who he leads by four points after six races.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was fourth ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Sebastian Vettel crashed his Aston Martin and there were several spins.
Vettel backed into the barriers after losing control at the Beausset double right-hander but managed to drive back to the pits.
Bottas and Mick Schumacher also damaged their cars in off-track moments, and the Finn’s moment at Turn Two prompted Mercedes to complain to race director Michael Masi about the damage caused by the yellow exit kerbs which he had run over.
Sporting director Ron Meadows complained that the kerbs were causing “thousands if not hundreds of thousands of pounds’ [worth] of damage for going three feet wide”.
Vettel’s incident demonstrated another characteristic of the Paul Ricard track, as his tyres were shredded when he slid over the abrasive painted section in the run-off area, which is designed to slow the cars down.
The same happened to the tyres on Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari when he went off track.
Behind Ocon and Ricciardo, the top 10 was completed by the second Alpine of Fernando Alonso, Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, McLaren’s Lando Norris and the second Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda.
Ferrari were struggling, with Charles Leclerc in 11th place and complaining about his car’s behaviour and Sainz down in 15th.
The race takes place against the backdrop of two significant rule changes.
There are more stringent checks on both tyre pressures and rear wing strength after two controversies this year – the tyre failures suffered by Verstappen and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll at the last race in Azerbaijan, and accusations that Red Bull and other teams have been running rear wings that flex back on straights in ways that contravene the intention of the rules.
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