Paul Ricard FP2: Bottas tops as Ferrari chase Mercedes

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas found the sweet spot during the afternoon second free practice session of the French Grand Prix weekend, Round 8 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet.

The Silver Arrows hogged the top of the timing sheets at the end of the 90-minute session on a hot and sunny day, with the Finn’s best lap of 1:30.937 four tenths faster than teammate Lewis Hamilton. Notably, the #77 car had the soft Pirelli tyres bolted on while the #77 ran on the yellow band medium.

Behind them, Charles Leclerc headed the Ferrari chase, six tenths on the benchmark time and less than a tenth up on Sebastian Vettel in the sister car. Both drivers set their times using the yellow band medium tyres.

The surprise of the session was the pace of McLaren with Lando Norris fifth-fastest and Carlos Sainz seventh on the timing screens when the flag waved to end proceedings. The orange cars the only Renault powered ones in the top ten. Both ran the soft tyres to set their laps.

Splitting the pair, in sixth, was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen four tenths up on his teammate Pierre Gasly in eighth, both setting their times using the medium tyres.

During the session, Verstappen had to take avoiding action when Hamilton rejoined the circuit after going wide. The incident was under investigation at time of writing.

Kimi Raikkonen found some pace in the Alfa Romeo to claim ninth place ahead of Haas driver Kevin Magnussen in tenth, making it four Ferrari powered cars in the top ten.

Conspicuous by their absence among them were the Renault pair, with Daniel Ricciardo twelfth, a tenth and a bit up on Nico Hulkenberg in 14th but the pair were two seconds shy of the top time.

Also out of contention were the Racing Point duo of Sergio Perez (18th) and Lance Stroll (18th) while, even worse than them, were Williams anchored to the basement with George Russell 19th and 3.6 seconds off the top time and Robert Kubica a further half second down on his teammate.