Motor Sports

Formula One: Bottas leads Mercedes one-two in first French GP practice

Filed on June 18, 2021
Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas drives during the first practice session at the Circuit Paul-Ricard in Le Castellet, southern France, on Friday. (AFP)

Bottas topped the timesheets in one minute 33.448 seconds, with Hamilton 0.335 slower

Valtteri Bottas led Formula One world champion team mate Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes one-two in first practice for the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet on Friday.

After two tough street races for the reigning champions, Mercedes are hoping for a return to winning ways at a southern circuit they have dominated since its return to the calendar in 2018.

Seven-times world champion Hamilton won from pole position in 2018 and 2019 and Mercedes have also led every practice session.

Bottas topped the timesheets in one minute 33.448 seconds, with Hamilton 0.335 slower and Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen third with a lap of 1:33.880 and Azerbaijan GP-winning team mate Sergio Perez fourth.

Verstappen is four points clear of Hamilton after six rounds.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was fifth and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo sixth with Alpine’s double world champion Fernando Alonso seventh.

Neither Ferrari made the top 10, with Charles Leclerc 11th and Carlos Sainz 16th.

Several drivers, including Bottas, damaged their cars and tyres on the kerbs and brightly painted abrasive run-off areas.

Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel hit the barriers backwards and nursed his damaged car back to the pits, a set of tyres wrecked.

“Those yellow rumble strips on the exit of turn two have done an awful lot of damage to our car. They are just too aggressive,” complained Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows over the radio to race director Michael Masi.

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