Paul Ricard FP1: Hamilton Sets Pace, Vettel Struggles

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton led a convincing 1-2 as the Silver Arrows kept their advantage going in the first practice session of the French Grand Prix weekend on Friday.

Setting a best time of 1:32.738, Hamilton was ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.069 seconds, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc sitting in third, a further 0.303 seconds back.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fourth, suffering a spin with 20 minutes to go and ultimately being unable to challenge the leaders, his best effort nearly nine tenths of a second down on the fastest time.

Leclerc’s teammate Sebastian Vettel, fresh off the back of his controversial race in Montreal, struggled to find a happy medium with his front wing setup and could only manage P5, 1.052 seconds behind Hamilton.

Pierre Gasly finished P6, 1.353 seconds off the lead — and nearly half a second slower than teammate Verstappen — in a scrappy session that saw him also spin in the final minutes at turn four.

Claiming the title of best of the rest, Lando Norris put his McLaren in P7 with a time of 1:34.110, teammate Carlos Sainz P8, a further 0.151 seconds back.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo could only manage P9 with a 1:34.540, the RS19’s new aero upgrades not as yet providing any significant improvement.

Alexander Albon rounded out the top 10 with a time of 1:34.804, his Toro Rosso narrowly besting the Racing Point of Sergio Perez by 0.005 seconds in what looks to be a particularly hard-fought battle this weekend between the two midfield teams.

Elsewhere, local hero Romain Grosjean had a dismal session, finishing dead last with a water leak that limited his on-track running. Williams were 18th and 19th, with reserve driver Nicolas Latifi getting the better of Robert Kubica.