For 91 thousandths of a second, Charles Leclerc took the advantage over Max Verstappen during the first free practice session of the French Grand Prix. Third, Carlos Sainz Jr is already guaranteed to drop back on the starting grid after using a new driving element.
The duel between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen resumes with a vengeance at Le Castellet. Two weeks after the victory of the Monegasque on the land of Red Bull Racing, the first free practice session did not move the hierarchy seen in Austria. With a slightly revised and aerodynamically corrected F1-75, Charles Leclerc climbed to the top of the timesheet for the first free practice session of the French Grand Prix, contested in a veritable furnace with 31°C in the air and almost 60°C on the track, with a best lap of 1’33”930. However, after leading for a long time, Max Verstappen conceded only 91 thousandths of a second to his runner-up in the standings of the World Drivers’ Championship at mid-season. Frustrated by his retirement linked to a broken engine in his Ferrari, Carlos Sainz Jr started his French weekend with the third best time but 338 thousandths of a second from the reference established by his teammate on the Circuit Paul-Ricard.
If the smiles are there in one half of the Ferrari garage, it is a little less the case in the other. Indeed, during this first session, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) confirmed that Carlos Sainz Jr took to the track with a single-seater equipped with a third electronic control unit, the first outside the quota allocated to drivers for the whole season. As a result, the Spaniard is already certain to drop ten places on the starting grid. But the penalty could increase over the weekend and the changes of elements in the single-seater of the winner of the British Grand Prix. While Lewis Hamilton gave up his seat to Nyck de Vries, Formula E world champion and Mercedes reserve, George Russell set the fourth fastest time at 951 thousandths and ahead of Pierre Gasly. At the wheel of an AlphaTauri finally equipped with evolutions, the Norman fails just above the second but ahead of Sergio Pérez, author of a spin in the middle of the session.
McLaren also used the French Grand Prix to make changes with Lando Norris seventh while Daniel Ricciardo is tenth.. Alexander Albon, for his part, confirmed Williams’ return to form by signing the eighth best performance of this session. The only French team in the paddock, Alpine did not start its home race in the best possible way. As the A521 continues its evolution race after race, Esteban Ocon could not do better than 13th place, almost two seconds behind the best time set by Charles Leclerc. Fernando Alonso, for his part, finished 15th 47 thousandths behind his teammate. Taking the place of Valtteri Bottas for this first free practice session, Robert Kubica finished penultimate at almost two and a half seconds. The Pole was only able to get ahead of Nicholas Latifi, still in difficulty with the Williams. The drivers will now refine their settings for the second session, scheduled for the end of the afternoon at Le Castellet.