Max Verstappen was fastest in the second practice for the French Grand Prix after going eight-thousandths of a second faster than the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas. The Red Bull driver set his fastest time on the soft tyre halfway through the session getting the slight edge through the twisty final sector.
Bottas meanwhile managed to lose time in the middle sector, but managed to recover a lot of time in the final sector, he also set his fastest time on the slower medium tyres. The Finn was the first out on the soft tyre but then couldn’t string the lap together. He had set the fastest time early on with Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton third.
Verstappen also lost a piece of his front wing when he when over the kerb on the exit of Turn Two. Following the brief VSC, the two Mercedes slotted in behind as Hamilton complained “there’s something not right with the car.” The battle between the two could be close in qualifying tomorrow.
Mercedes have tended to underdeliver on Friday’s for years and could potentially show their true performance in FP3 they have dominated at Paul Ricard since it returned to the calendar in 2018. The teams all using different compounds of tyres, Bottas failing to improve on the theoretically faster soft tyres.
Hamilton appeared to struggle to find the same pace as Verstappen on his long run and Bottas ran a different tyre, making it difficult to compare times. But the session marked the first time in the twelve sessions run at Paul Ricard since it returned to the calendar in 2018, that Mercedes hasn’t been the fastest.
After the session, Hamilton said: “Quite a struggle this weekend. Probably for everyone. I don’t know if it’s the track surface or the track temperature, or these inflated tyres – they have put the pressures up higher than ever before, one of the highest, but we are all sliding around and it’s a struggle out there for everyone.”
Following the tyre failures in Baku Pirelli has raised the tyre pressures by 2psi as well as more stringent checks on tyre pressures.
Another technical change this weekend is tougher rear-wing flexibility tests, after 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.
Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest putting his Alpine almost two tenths ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, but the two times champion showed some encouraging pace for the French manufacturer within half a second of Verstappen. Charles Leclerc was fifth splitting the Alpine’s with Ocon just under a tenth and a half behind.
Pierre Gasly was a further hundredth behind putting his Alpha Tauri seventh, while Carlos Sainz was eighth fastest. Kimi Raikkonen was ninth going nine-thousandths of a second ahead of the McLaren of Lando Norris who spilt the two Alfa Romeo’s with Raikkonen’s teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.
The second Red Bull of Sergio Perez failed to improve on his soft run meaning he finished twelfth, a second behind Verstappen. The Mexican couldn’t find the same single lap pace as his teammate, but looked very competitive on his race run.
The Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda was three-hundredths behind after going over a tenth faster than the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo. Sebastian Vettel was sixteenth going just over a tenth and three quarters faster than his Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll.
George Russell was ahead of Williams teammate Nicolas Latifi with Mick Schumacher ahead of his teammate Nikita Mazepin. The Russian had a low-speed spin on the start-finish straight as he started to put the power down to start his flying lap.