Charles Leclerc topped first practice from title leader Max Verstappen at the French Grand Prix.
Leclerc’s Ferrari, equipped with a new floor along with its low-drag rear wing, looked most at home on the sizzling-hot Circuit Paul Ricard, where track temperatures soared to 140 degrees F. His best lap of 1m 33.930s was quick enough to pip Verstappen by 0.091s despite a slow middle sector — which is defined by the long back straight and chicane — losing him a couple of tenths.
Verstappen, however, appeared to have considerably more pace available to him. His fastest lap of soft tires comprised the fastest times through the first two sectors before he made a mistake in the final sector. The Dutchman’s Red Bull RB18, which was struggling with understeer all session, drifted wide at the long Turn 11, which probably cost him in the vicinity of 0.3s.
Carlos Sainz was third in the second Ferrari and 0.338s slower than his teammate, but the Spaniard’s weekend has immediately switched to focusing on the race, with confirmation during the session that he’ll be penalized at least 10 places for a power unit change.
He’s likely to take further new parts on Saturday and start from the back of the grid, Ferrari having taken a similar phased approach to changing power unit parts for Leclerc’s car at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Sainz, whose engine spectacularly combusted at the end of the Austrian Grand Prix, has taken his third control electronics unit, with only two permitted per car each year. He also took a second battery, which comes without punishment as it’s in his allocation for the season.
George Russell was fourth for Mercedes, though the Briton was 0.951s adrift at the head of the midfield.
Pierre Gasly was fifth for AlphaTauri, losing a small amount of track time early to an apparent engine problem that required attention in the garage.
Sergio Perez was sixth in the second Red Bull Racing car and 1.244s off the pace, nosing just ahead of Lando Norris’s McLaren.
Alex Albon was eighth for Williams as he and the team deepen their understanding of their British Grand Prix aero upgrade.
Nyck de Vries, the Mercedes reserve driver and reigning Formula E champion, took Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes to ninth. The Dutchman was satisfying Mercedes’s obligation to devote one FP1 session per car to a rookie driver and was just the fourth such rookie of the season to get an opportunity.
Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10, the Australian assessing a McLaren upgrade package before Norris adopts it later in the weekend, ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu,
Aston Martin and Alpine were closely matched, with Lance Stroll beating Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel heading Fernando Alonso.
Mick Schumacher beat Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen to 16th ahead of Yuki Tsunoda.
Robert Kubica took charge of Valtteri Bottas’s car as part of his test program with the team and finished 19th ahead of Nicholas Latifi, who’s finally got his hands on Williams’s upgrade package three weeks after it first make its appearance on Albon’s car at Silverstone.