Bottas quickest as Hamilton off prompts investigation

Image by Glenn Dunbar/LAT

Bottas quickest as Hamilton off prompts investigation

Formula 1

Bottas quickest as Hamilton off prompts investigation


It was another Mercedes one-two in second practice for the French Grand Prix, but as Valtteri Bottas led the way Lewis Hamilton faces an investigation for the way he rejoined the track.

Ironically in a session taking place immediately after the stewards from the Canadian Grand Prix had heard Ferrari’s request to review Sebastian Vettel’s penalty, a mistake from Hamilton led to the championship leader being investigated for a similar infraction.

Hamilton lost the rear of his car exiting Turn 3 — much like Pierre Gasly did in FP1 — and slid sideways, with his left rear hitting a traffic cone on the inside of Turn 4. The Mercedes driver locked up but managed to collect the car and continued, rejoining just before Turn 5.

As Hamilton came back on the track, Max Verstappen was approaching on a flying lap and ran wide at Turn 5 after turning in with Hamilton on his inside. While it looked like there was enough space for Verstappen to make the apex and oversteer was to blame, Hamilton apologized and the stewards announced the incident will be investigated after the session.

The off-track moment meant Hamilton had to return to the garage for checks, with Mercedes noticing a misfire on his engine that was soon rectified. It left him without a representative soft-tire lap time, however, meaning Bottas was 0.424s clear at the top of the standings.

Charles Leclerc was third for Ferrari once again, albeit 0.6s off the pace, with teammate Sebastian Vettel — who ran wide at Turn 12 and later at Turn 6 — less than 0.1s further back in fourth.

Circuit Paul Ricard ‘s wide-open spaces led to a lot of testing the limits. Image by Andy Hone/LAT

Vettel’s moments were two of many during the session, with Bottas also going off at Turn 12, Nico Hulkenberg spinning at the same corner and both Sergio Perez and George Russell having off-track moments at Turn 2.

Lando Norris was another driver to run wide as he did so at Turn 8 — the chicane in the middle of the Mistral Straight — but he enjoyed another encouraging session for McLaren as he ended up fifth quickest ahead of the two Red Bulls. Norris was the last driver within a second of Bottas, ending up 0.2s ahead of Max Verstappen.

Seventh and eighth were the second McLaren and Red Bull of Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly respectively, while Kimi Raikkonen and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top 10.

The other Haas of Romain Grosjean had a less encouraging session than Magnussen, as Grosjean suffered a big lock-up early on under braking for Turn 8, flat-spotting his tires. The team told him the loads were too high and that he would need to abort his run, to which the Frenchman replied “I don’t really care” before having to follow the order.

Grosjean had already missed much of FP1 due to a water leak, but did at least return to complete solid mileage, even if he ended up down in 17th ahead of Lance Stroll and the two Williams drivers.