Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen narrowly took top spot in second practice for the 2021 FIA Formula 1 French Grand Prix, beating Valtteri Bottas by eight hundredths of a second at Paul Ricard Circuit. Bottas’ Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished third.
Bottas set the pace in the early stages of the afternoon session, setting a target of 1:32.880s on medium tyres. Hamilton and Verstappen took scond and third places respectively during this phase, with Hamilton four tenths off his team-mate, while Verstappen was a second down on the Finn’s P1 time.
In the morning session Bottas has clattered over the kerbs in Turn and damaging the front wing of his Mercedes. And in the opening half hour of the second session Verstappen suffered in a similar fashion. The Dutchmen went wide on entry, bounced across the yellow kerbs and snapped a section of front wing in the process. With two races in Austria coming in quick succession after France and with the Red Bull Ring’s kerbs known to be harsh on front wings, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner requested the the part be recovered from the track and returned to the team for repair.
With Bottas secure at the top of the order on medium tyres, the Finn was among the first to then make the move to soft tyres for performance runs around 20 minutes into the session.
However, for the Finn, the expected improvement on the softer tyre did not arrive and though he set a purple time in the opening sector of the lap, his soft tyres wilted as the lap wore on and he finished three tents of a second slower than his best time on mediums.
Hamilton found an improvement on the red-walled tyre but his best time of the session was still not good enough to move ahead of his team-mate’s medium-tyre time.
Verstappen was next to bolt on softs and thanks to purple times in the first and last sectors he managed to edge just ahead of Bottas thanks to a lap of 1:32.872.
It was a less successful session for Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Pérez. The Baku winner, who later admitted to taking a wrong turn on set-up, failed to significantly improve on soft tyres and finished in P12, a full second off his team-mate’s pace.
Fernando Alonso took fourth for Alpine, ahead of Charles Leclerc and Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly finished in seventh place with Carlos Sainz eighth for Ferrari ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen and McLaren’s Lando Norris.
2021 FIA Fomrula 1 French Grand Prix – Free Practice 2
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 21 1:32.872
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 27 1:32.880 0.008
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 23 1:33.125 0.253
4 Fernando Alonso Alpine 25 1:33.340 0.468
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 23 1:33.550 0.678
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine 23 1:33.685 0.813
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 25 1:33.696 0.824
8 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 24 1:33.698 0.826
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 26 1:33.786 0.914
10 Lando Norris McLaren 24 1:33.822 0.950
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 23 1:33.831 0.959
12 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 24 1:33.921 1.049
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 25 1:33.955 1.083
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 24 1:34.079 1.207
15 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 25 1:34.447 1.575
16 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 24 1:34.632 1.760
17 George Russell Williams 25 1:35.266 2.394
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams25 1:35.331 2.459
19 Mick Schumacher HaasHaas 24 1:35.512 2.640
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas Haas 23 1:35.551 2.679