Hamilton 0.7s clear but Bottas hits trouble in second French GP practice

Image by Andy Hone/LAT

Hamilton 0.7s clear but Bottas hits trouble in second French GP practice

Formula 1

Hamilton 0.7s clear but Bottas hits trouble in second French GP practice

Lewis Hamilton finished top of both Friday practice sessions ahead of the French Grand Prix but teammate Valtteri Bottas suffered a reliability issue that limited him to just seven laps.

With Mercedes running an updated power unit in all six cars it powers, Hamilton showed impressive pace in FP2 to lead Daniel Ricciardo by 0.704s. Hamilton’s time of 1m32.539s was actually 0.3s slower than his FP1 lap, but the advantage was much greater in the afternoon session.

Ricciardo and teammate Max Verstappen were closely matched in second and third respectively, with Kimi Raikkonen the only other driver within a second of Hamilton’s time in fourth, 0.887s off the pace. Once again Raikkonen suffered a spin early on as the Paul Ricard circuit proved tricky despite masses of run-off areas.

As encouraged as Mercedes will be with the performance it was able to show on Friday, a water leak meant Bottas was forced to end his running early. Just seven laps were possible in FP2 and Bottas ended up seventh fastest, with Romain Grosjean again in sixth, 1.160s slower than Hamilton but only 0.01s off Sebastian Vettel in fifth.

After a slow start to FP1, McLaren was more competitive in the second session with Fernando Alonso eighth quickest, but he too went off in the closing stages when he spun at Turn 4. Alonso was joined in the top 10 by Kevin Magnussen and Pierre Gasly, with both drivers having been in similar positions during the opening session.

Hartley’s Toro Rosso through Paul Ricard’s unique sightlines. (Image by Glenn Dunbar/LAT)

While Gasly had a strong Friday, Brendon Hartley’s running came to a premature end when he was forced to stop with a power unit issue toward the end of the session.

Although Hartley’s car was able to be recovered under the Virtual Safety Car, there was a second red flag of the day when Sergio Perez had a worrying moment when he lost a wheel. The Force India driver had not long left the pits and was flat out exiting Turn 7 — the left-handed kink that leads onto the Mistral Straight — when his left-rear wheel detached and pitched him into a spin.

The Force India was not significantly damaged in the incident as Perez spun to the side of the track and stopped before the barrier, but the wheel continued at high speed down the straight before striking a barrier.

Perez was able to rejoin running late in FP2 as a result of the car being returned to the garage, but Marcus Ericsson missed the entire session following his crash in FP1. Ericsson crashed on the outside of Turn 11 and hit the barrier with the right rear, and a fire then caused significant damage to the rear of the car.

-Chris Medland

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