Lewis Hamilton beat team-mate Valtteri Bottas to the top of the timesheet at the Circuit Paul Ricard as Mercedes set the pace in the first practice session for this weekend’s French Grand Prix. FIA Formula One World Championship leader Hamilton took P1 more than three tenths of a second over third-placed Charles Leclerc of Ferrari.
Apart from brief spells when rivals bolted on new tyre before them, the Mercedes pair largely monopolised the top two spots from early in the session. Hamilton and Bottas traded fastest time as they worked their way into the weekend’s running and began to explore the grip levels of a circuit where much re-surfacing has been done over recent months.
Hamilton eventually worked his way down to a best lap of 1:32.738. Bottas couldn’t top that and settled for P2, 0.069s off his team-mate.
Ferrari were left trailing their title rivals by a margin until late in the session when Charles Leclerc rose up the order to claim third place 0.373s behind Hamilton. He also managed to edge out Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, with the Dutchman finishing fourth in the session, half a second behind the lead Ferrari.
Sebastian Vettel ended the 90-minute session in fifth place after spending much of the early part of the session evaluating upgrades and like his team-mate he only made significant improvements late in the running, eventually posting a best time of 1:33.790 to finish a full second behind Hamilton.
Sixth place was taken by local favourite Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman finished a little under halfg a second off Red Bull team-mate and as he pushed the limits of grip he also had a spin during the session in Turn 3.
Gasly was pushed hard in the session by McLaren’s Lando Norris, with the rookie taking P7 just under two-hundredths off a second behind the French driver.
Norris also beat team-mate Carlos Sainz by 1500ths of a second with the Spaniard almost three tenths clear of ninth-placed Daniel Ricciardo of home team Renault. The top ten order was completed by Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon who was two seconds off the pace set by Hamilton.
2019 FIA Formula One French Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 21 1:32.738
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 20 1:32.807 0.069
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 21 1:33.111 0.373
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 20 1:33.618 0.880
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 22 1:33.790 1.052
6 Pierre Gasly Red Bull Racing 20 1:34.091 1.353
7 Lando Norris McLaren 23 1:34.110 1.372
8 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren 26 1:34.261 1.523
9 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 18 1:34.540 1.802
10 Alex Albon Scuderia Toro Rosso 25 1:34.804 2.066
11 Sergio Perez Racing Point 21 1:34.809 2.071
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 25 1:34.810 2.072
13 Lance Stroll Racing Point 22 1:35.063 2.325
14 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso 24 1:35.326 2.588
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 19 1:35.410 2.672
16 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 22 1:35.522 2.784
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 22 1:36.102 3.364
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 25 1:37.147 4.409
19 Robert Kubica Williams 27 1:37.172 4.434
20 Romain Grosjean Haas 9 1:37.620 4.882