Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in first practice for the French Grand Prix as a crash for Marcus Ericsson brought the session to a premature end.
Ericsson was approaching the high-speed Turn 11 when he lost the rear of his Sauber and slid sideways across the expansive run-off area and into the tire barrier. The right-rear corner took the brunt of the impact and caused a fire, causing significant damage to the car.
The incident happened with just four minutes remaining of FP1 and meant the session did not restart while the fire was extinguished and the car cleared from the circuit.
By that point the two Mercedes drivers had already moved to the top of the times, running what is believed to be an updated version of its power unit. All six Mercedes-powered cars took a new internal combustion engine, turbocharger and MGU-H, with Mercedes saying it will explain more about the exact specification being used after FP2.
Hamilton was fastest on a 1m32.231s using the ultrasoft compound tire, with teammate Valtteri Bottas 0.140s adrift. Daniel Ricciardo led much of the session but had to settle for third overall, 0.296s slower than Hamilton while also using the ultrasoft tire, with Kimi Raikkonen fourth for Ferrari but over three quarters of a second off the pace.
Raikkonen was one of many drivers to suffer a spin during the session, with Turn 6 proving particularly tricky with a mix of adverse camber and strong wind causing issues. Raikkonen swapped ends and took to the run-off area but was able to continue, with Brendon Hartley, Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Ocon having similar issues.
Sebastian Vettel was the last driver to get within a second of Hamilton with a 1m33.172s, while Romain Grosjean was sixth for Haas — 0.146s further back — ahead of Max Verstappen in seventh place. While slightly off the pace, Verstappen also only completed 15 laps in the first practice session at Paul Ricard since 1990.
Pierre Gasly made an encouraging start to the weekend for Toro Rosso in eighth place, ahead of Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen.
Although Ericsson’s crash ended the session on a sour note, Sauber showed solid pace with Charles Leclerc in 13th, one position ahead of Ericsson. McLaren and Williams were again both further down the timing screens, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne 16th and 19th respectively, with Sergey Sirotkin slowest overall.