Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas take one-two finish in first free practice session in France
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News June 22, 2018 Updated: 6:34 AM PT
LE CASTELLET, France — Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton takes the top spot in the first free practice of this weekends Pirelli French Grand Prix as Formula One returns to the south of France and the Paul Richard Circuit.
The Ricard Circuit, which has been referred to by many as a high tech test track, due it’s unique features such as the circuit’s artificial sprinkler system to simulate wet conditions and it’s specialized run-off areas. The brightly blue and red colored areas provide two levels of grips and tire degradation which was designed to slow cars down.
Hamilton, who participated in the Pirelli tire test last year, finished with a time of 1:32.231 as the reigning world champion steps into uncharted territory this weekend. Valtteri Bottas, who raced here in the junior formulas, completed the one-two, finishing 0.140s behind his teammate in second.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas team as well as their customer cars start the weekend with new engines, however it is not confirmed if they are running the updated engine that was postponed ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo finished third and was 0.296s off Hamilton as the Australian set his fastest time on the ultrasoft tire. Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth with teammate Sebastian Vettel finishing 0.941s off of Hamilton in fifth.
Romain Grosjean, one of three Frenchmen racing this Sunday, finished sixth for Haas. Max Verstappen, who finished seventh in the second Red Bull, got off to a slow start after the team needed to address an issue with his car.
Pierre Gasly, who feels most at home here having raced at Paul Richard during his time in the Renault 3.5 series and other junior formulas, ended the morning eighth for Toro Rosso.
Force Indias’ Sergio Perez took ninth followed by Grosjean’s teammate Kevin Magnussen rounding out the top ten.
Renault’s Carlos Sainz took 11th as the French car manufacturer will hope to bring home a positive result on home soil. Heavy winds caught a number of drivers during the session as they tried to compensate for the changing wind directions.
Esteban Ocon was a victim of the heavy winds after he lost the rear of his car at Turn 6 and ended the day in 12th.Sauber driver Charles Leclerc finished 13th but also fell victim to the winds first at Turn 1 and later at Turn 8.
Leclerc’s teammate Marcus Ericsson finished in 14th. Ericsson had a scary moment when he lost his car at Turn 11 sliding into the barriers. His car then began to catch fire as he was seen leaping while flames started consuming the rear of his car before marshals arrived to extinguish the fire.
Brendon Hartley finished 15th after the rear of his car stepped out at Turn 6. Fernando Alonso, fresh off his Le Mans victory, finished 16th. Williams’ driver Lance Stroll took 17th followed by Nico Hulkenberg finishing 18th in the second Renault. Alonso’s teammate Stoffel Vandoorne finished 19th but had a close call with Lewis Hamilton.
The Belgian driver was driving unusually slow, which caught Hamilton off guard and forced him to run on to the run-off before using the escape road to return to the track. Sergey Sirotkin finished out the field in 20th for Williams.