French Grand Prix weekend Charles Leclerc got off to a strong start as he beat championship rival Max Verstappen with the fastest time in opening practice at Circuit Paul Ricard.
The Ferrari driver clocked 1m 33.930secs on the soft tire to finish 0.091secs ahead of Red Bull, but Verstappen lost nearly a tenth of a second straight at Turn 11 on his best lap.
Carlos Sainz was more than 0.3 seconds off the lead in third, and the Spaniard faces a tough weekend after Ferrari installed new control electronics on his F1-75 which led to a 10-point penalty.
Read more: Sainz set for grid penalty at 10 spots in France after taking on new engine component
The three tire compounds were shown in the opening 60-minute session of the weekend, as teams assessed how Pirelli rubber is coping with the heat wave now roaming Europe. The track temperatures reached 58 degrees Celsius.
Red Bull Racing
+ 0.091 seconds
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Bringing updates to France, Mercedes was within a second of the fastest times, thanks to George Russell, as team reserve Nick de Vries borrowed Lewis Hamilton’s car for FP1 and ended up ninth, half a second back.
It was the first time in Hamilton’s career – which culminated in a 300-week Grand Prix in France – that he gave up his car for an FP1 session. The rules state that every driver must do so at least once this season, and the seven-times world champion, who watched events from a Mercedes garage alongside his coach Toto Wolff, opted to step aside this weekend.
Once this happens: follow all the procedures from the first practice of the French Grand Prix
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda are screaming for upgrades, having received new parts again at the fourth race at Imola, and they’ve been rewarded in Paul Ricard.
Early signs are positive, with Pierre Gasly just a second off the lead in fifth in the home race – but Tsunoda was down 18th, more than two seconds off top speed.
Sergio Perez was spinning a bit in Turn 4 before continuing, the Mexican sixth, ahead of McLaren pioneer Lando Norris, whose team brought in more new parts than any other team this weekend.
FP1 Highlights: French Grand Prix
The Briton wasn’t running it in FP1, though, as McLaren ran some back-to-back testing with Daniel Ricciardo – who finished 10th – and got a chance to try it out.
Alex Albon was a good eighth for Williams, more than 1.5 seconds ahead of teammate Nicholas Latifi, who was running the new upgrade package for the first time but ended up in 20th overall.
Pilot Alfa Romeo was Zhou Guanyu 11th, ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and home favorite Esteban Ocon in the Alps, with Sebastian Vettel – who took the 100-year-old Aston Martin for a spin around Paul Ricard on Thursday – 14.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso was 15th, ahead of the Haas duo of Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen, who are still waiting for their first updates of the season, with Robert Kubica – borrowed Valtteri Bottas’ car for FP1-19.
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