Mercedes lay early marker in France as Ferrari struggle

All the action from FP1

Mercedes set the early pace in first practice for the French Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas was 0.335 seconds ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Max Verstappen was the fastest Red Bull as he and Sergio Perez finished third and fourth.

The dazzling Circuit Paul Ricard was catching out rookies and experienced heads alike; Mick Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda both suffered early spins before Sebastian Vettel hit the barriers, but was able to drive away relatively unscathed.

Aggressive sleeping policeman kerbs on the outside of turn two caught out Pierre Gasly and Valtteri Bottas, with the latter damaging his front wing.

Carlos Sainz became a victim of the abrasive red run-off areas at the track, pirouetting at turn two and shredding his tyres.

Esteban Ocon, who signed a new contract with Alpine earlier this week was fifth, two places ahead of teammate Fernando Alonso – with Daniel Ricciardo an impressive sixth for McLaren.

Gasly, Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top 10.

Ferrari appeared to struggle, Sainz couldn’t recover after his spin and ended the session 16th. Teammate Charles Leclerc wasn’t much better in 11th, although his best time was set on the medium tyres.

At the front, Mercedes look likely to be the team to beat this weekend.

The Silver Arrows will be hoping that a return to a permanent race circuit will benefit them after their recent struggles on the streets of Monaco and Baku.

The team currently trails rivals Red Bull by 26 points in the constructors’ standings.

Aston Martin also had a disappointing first session. Lance Stroll was only good enough for 14th, one place ahead of Vettel, who missed some crucial track time after his collision with the barrier.

Roy Nissany, who replaced George Russell for first practice, rounded out the field for Williams, more than four seconds off the pace.



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