Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Paul Ricard, 2021

Bottas leads Mercedes one-two in first practice

2021 French Grand Prix first practice

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Valtteri Bottas led a one-two for Mercedes in the first practice session for the French Grand Prix.

He ended the opening hour of running three-tenths of a second faster than team mate Lewis Hamilton. The pair swapped chassis ahead of the seventh round of the championship and Paul Ricard.

Bottas’ lead time was set in the first half of the session, as were most drivers’ fastest times. Hamilton had been heading for what looked like a late hot lap towards the end of the session but pit lane confusion caused Yuki Tsunoda, attempting to avoid another car, to slightly obstruct the Mercedes.

Max Verstappen, who set the third-fastest time, complained later in the session he had damaged his floor running over a red-and-white kerb at turn 15. The championship leader radioed the Red Bull pit wall to say he had been forced to back out of the lap he had been on.

Paul Ricard’s open nature is largely limited by bollards and kerbs, the latter of which fell foul of several teams. Early on in the session Mercedes’ team manager Ron Meadows was heard contacting Michael Masi in race control, saying that the yellow kerbs beyond the limits of turn two had caused damage to Bottas’ car.

“Those yellow rumble strips on the exit of turn two have done an awful lot of damage to our car” he complained, saying that running two or three feet wide would cost them “tens of thousands” of dollars.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2021
Sainz destroyed his tyres with this spin
Verstappen’s floor damage may have hindered him attempting another run. Meanwhile Alpine had the edge on the midfield in the opening session. As at Autodromo do Algarve Esteban Ocon was up with the fastest cars, beating McLaren and Ferrari, taking fifth behind Sergio Perez.

Several drivers had minor offs or lockups. Turn two seemed to cause the most significant problems. Sebastian Vettel appeared to be caught out by a gust of wind there and was sent into a spin that saw the rear of his car make contact with the barriers. He was able to get his Aston Martin going again and return to the pits without a major disruption to the session.

Carlos Sainz Jnr had an almost identical incident later in the session, although was able to avoid the barriers and limped his Ferrari back to the pits with only flat spotted tyres to show for his spin. The wind was changeable and strong during the session, blowing directly across turn two at points.

Daniel Ricciardo was faster than Lando Norris, with AlphaTauri looking roughly on the pace of the McLaren and Alpine cars. Ferrari, meanwhile, seemed to have slipped back down the pack from their impressive Monaco and Baku pace.

Roy Nissany, who took over George Russell’s Williams car for the session was slowest of any driver.

2021 French Grand Prix first practice result

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
177Valtteri BottasMercedes1’33.44823
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’33.7830.33521
333Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’33.8800.43223
411Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’34.1930.74525
531Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’34.3290.88125
63Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’34.6441.19623
714Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’34.6931.24521
810Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’34.6991.25120
94Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’34.7071.25921
1022Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’34.8471.39922
1116Charles LeclercFerrari1’34.9501.50224
1299Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’35.1161.66823
137Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’35.1351.68720
1418Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’35.2751.82723
155Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’35.2891.84116
1655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’35.3421.89423
176Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’35.6122.16422
189Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’36.6513.20324
1947Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’37.3293.88114
2045Roy NissanyWilliams-Mercedes1’37.8814.43316

First practice visual gaps

Valtteri Bottas – 1’33.448

+0.335 Lewis Hamilton – 1’33.783

+0.432 Max Verstappen – 1’33.880

+0.745 Sergio Perez – 1’34.193

+0.881 Esteban Ocon – 1’34.329

+1.196 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’34.644

+1.245 Fernando Alonso – 1’34.693

+1.251 Pierre Gasly – 1’34.699

+1.259 Lando Norris – 1’34.707

+1.399 Yuki Tsunoda – 1’34.847

+1.502 Charles Leclerc – 1’34.950

+1.668 Antonio Giovinazzi – 1’35.116

+1.687 Kimi Raikkonen – 1’35.135

+1.827 Lance Stroll – 1’35.275

+1.841 Sebastian Vettel – 1’35.289

+1.894 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’35.342

+2.164 Nicholas Latifi – 1’35.612

+3.203 Nikita Mazepin – 1’36.651

+3.881 Mick Schumacher – 1’37.329

+4.433 Roy Nissany – 1’37.881

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

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2021 French Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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29 comments on “Bottas leads Mercedes one-two in first practice”

  1. Normal services resumes it seems..

  2. As a Ferrari fan, can i ask to go back to the city tracks, please?

    1. xD nice one lol
      It’s not quite as bad as FP1 makes it look for them. I’m pretty sure they were running a lot more fuel than McLaren & Alpine, judging by Ferrari’s stronger long runs.

  3. Mercedes seem to be back to normal this weekend on a more conventional circuit.
    Anything other than a Mercedes vs RB fight (or Hamilton vs Verstappen) for victory on Sunday would be a huge surprise.
    Ferrari were almost certainly sandbagging in FP1, as their long runs towards the end of the session looked a whole lot more competitive than their short runs did (Sainz was lapping pretty much on the same pace as Bottas, both on Hards).
    Then again the usual stuff in the midfield: McLaren-Alpine-Alpha Tauri-Aston Martin etc.

    Let’s see what happens in FP2.

    1. @srga91 Knowing Paul Ricard’s track record (excuse the pun), a fight for the win would be the biggest surprise.

  4. Its interesting that we’re again getting radio comms between teams and the FIA. Once again, Massi sounds like an absolute ****. There’s a line between authority and coming across as someone who doesn’t give a damn.

    I can’t imagine that this is giving the general public any additional confidence in his handling of events. You’d think the FA would want this kind of chatter kept behind closed doors.

  5. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    18th June 2021, 12:19

    It’s not a very interesting track and even though Red Bull is closer to Mercedes than last time around, I doubt the Bulls can really put the pressure on Mercedes on such a track. The true excitement will once again come from the midfield, which is really nice!

    Just hoping next year that means that those fights are not for the last few points but actually for the win and the remaining podia. I doubt it, but it would be nice.

  6. running two or three feet wide had incurred “tens of thousands” of repairs

    well don’t fr*ckin’ run wide! how hard is that really? 🤦‍♂️

    1. Exactly, a few feet wide in Baku would cost alot more, so they should be grateful

    2. Really easy. Unless you are a racer trying to find a hundredth of a second in a strong wind during a practice session.

      1. Yes, I get your point, but then just suck it up and don’t complain about it… how many soccer players are there that keep hitting the post and then go whining to FIFA that they should make the goal wider?
        I know it’s all about teams putting the pressure on Masi to get their way, but this one seems just too absurd to me.

    3. Davethechicken
      18th June 2021, 12:40

      That’s exactly what I thought!
      The kerb didn’t jump up and hit his car, he drove over it, but it is all the kerbs fault, 😂😂😂

    4. @mzs16 I agree. Pointless complaining by Mercedes. Stay on the track.
      The small yellow bumps work as a physical deterrent for track limits, so better to have them there.
      Besides, they’ve been at the same corner exits since the 2018 return, so no different this time.

  7. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    18th June 2021, 12:29

    Are those red and blue stripes abrasive?

    1. and to my eyes as well.

    2. Should never have been there. Bring back the old Paul Ricard gravel.

  8. “Those yellow rumble strips on the exit of turn two have done an awful lot of damage to our car” he complained, saying that running two or three feet wide would cost them “tens of thousands” of dollars.

    Isn’t that the entire point of them? To be a big enough penalty that you avoid them, without being so big that one wrong move ends your race like it would in Monaco or the Wall of Champions in Canada.

    1. @thelem I think I agree with what Paul Di Resta & Karun Chandhok said on commentary, If your going to have something to act as a deterrent for running wide it should be something that costs you time without damaging the car because drivers don’t always end up off track because of a mistake.

      I think it was Karun who raised the point that in the past there would have been a strip of grass there behind the kerb & that the grass wouldn’t have done that sort of damage to the car & that anything used in place of grass should work in a similar way, Cost time but not cause a lot of damage.

      Di Resta also raised the view that they trialled these things at other circuits, Deemed them not to work & so removed them in favour of other options (The long strip on the exit on T1 at Red Bull Ring for instance) & that he doesn’t understand why they haven’t done the same here.

      1. @stefmeister I haven’t seen practice yet to have heard PdR and KC say this, but I couldn’t agree more and thank you for putting that in a sensible post contrary to so much drivel that has otherwise been posted here.

      2. Remove walls at street circuits, then?
        I mean, they don’t intend to hit them…

        People have been screaming out for physical deterrents as track limits. Now they have one, and they’re screaming for its removal.

        1. S illy idea. Of course sometimes you need walls, and unfortunately that means sometimes you have annoying red flag stoppages and cars with their day ended. Nobody is ‘screaming’ for as many of these black and white type of deterrents as possible, but they are asking for as many as possible deterrents that simply cost them lap time and not the day. It’s really not much to ask for nor to deliver. Of course sometimes it is complicated by what MotoGP needs.

          Basically we want these drivers able to push to the limits of themselves and their cars, for that is what is enthralling, and for example is one reason they took away many gravel traps of the type that would suck a car in. We don’t always want any little error, or any time our driver might get pushed off unfairly by another car, to ensure the end of that driver’s day.

          Easy to say well just stay within the walls then, or the car damaging kerbs, from one’s armchair, but then do we really want our F1 drivers having to tiptoe around every track? I’d rather see them racing and pushing the envelope and have that only cost them a little when they go over that limit, not cost them their day…for trying to race.

    2. That’s not the point, the point is to prevent drivers from leaving the track. But the limits of the track don’t need to be either dangerous to the drivers (such as the huge kerbs in Austria a few years ago) or damaging to the cars. However, the FIA is so inept that they can’t implement a system to monitor cars leaving the track, so they resort to these outdated methods.

  9. Funny how everyone says they love the natural (physical) consequences for leaving the track at Imola, Mugello and Portimao – but strangely they don’t like them here…

    1. @S Tell me about it. Weird double standard thinking.

    2. S trange that you would compare yellow rumble strips to natural physical consequences. To me natural ones would be grass or gravel. A man made rumble strip that is severe enough to cause serious damage let alone other kerbs of varying nature at other turns and tracks is hardly ‘natural.’ A deterrent can be one that costs time without causing damage.

      1. @robbie ‘Natural’ as in something physical that actually does affect the car’s performance in real-time, rather than an arbitrary time penalty being applied after the fact.
        This is what people have been calling for every time track limits come up.

        If it was a wall, would you argue the same – that it does too much damage when you hit it? I’ll bet not.
        If they don’t want damage, don’t go there. Sacrifice corner speed for safety and accuracy – that’s what race driving is all about – risk/reward and compromise.

        I could also point out that if they make contact with these bumpy things, the car is already entirely outside of the white lines, and therefore off the track.
        Would you prefer the time penalty or the physical deterrent?
        Removal of these things wont make grass or gravel appear there, so they are the only viable options this weekend.

  10. Oh dear, now RB asking for those kerbs to be removed. Lets hope everyone sticks to their guns.

  11. It’s very unfair for the kerbs to move over and damage the cars!

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