F1 2021 French GRAND PRIX: FP1 & 2 REPORT – MERCEDES Strong as alpine impresses
Many fans have dreaded F!’s return to France this season considering the dullness that has seem to almost being the rule at Paul Ricard. After the Friday practices it seems that those fears will materialize. The Mercedes are looking very strong, with Max Verstappen being the only driver on the grid that is able to be in close contention with the Brackley outfit.
The Friday practices kicked of in sunny southern France with Mick Schumacher going close to the wall on his first lap. Apparently the touch caused some distress for Haas, as the German only returned to the track halfway through the session.
The question of overtly punishing kerbs is bound to return at Paul Ricard. In tun two, the yellow kerbs just outside of the track caused a piece of the front wing to break off from Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes. Mercedes voiced their complaints to the FIA about removing these kerbs, but no action was taken prior to FP2.
Little action took place in FP1 that was out of the ordinary. The Mercedes duo finished the session off with a 1-2, closely followed by Red Bulls about hlf a second behind. The Alpines made a strong showing with Fernando Alonso finishing fith and Esteban Ocon seventh. Ferrari has problems getting up to speed in the practice, s neither driver made into top ten as Leclers was 11th and Sainz 16th.
All cars are quick to exit the pits in the beginning of the session. Only Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc stayed in the garage at the five-minute mark. Valtteri Bottas sets a blistering 1.32.880 lap time on his first run.
Yellow flags in last sector as Mazepin had spun in the final corner. This resulted in some traffic for the drivers behind, while Mazepin’s re-entry onto the track seemed to disturb some of those on fast laps behind. Mazepin’s teammate Mick Schumacher also had an exit in the first sector, damaging the tires.
Virtual safety car was called as a piece of Max Verstappen’s front wing broke off and landed on the racing line. This happened in turn 2, with the same kerbs that broke Bottas’ font wing in FP1.
With 30 minutes left in the session, cars started to emerge from the pits to start their qualifying practice attempts. Verstappen laid down a strong performance, beating Bottas’ first run time by eight thousands. The Dutchman quickly returned to the pits, suggesting he was running a very low fuel load.
FP2 finished with no great action, similar to FP1. Max Verstappen ended the session on top with a 1.32.872. Bottas remained 0.008 seconds behind, with Hamilton over losing over two tenths to the top 2. The Alpine’s also looked fast on their first quali runs with Fernando Alonso on P4 losing by only 0.468 to Verstappen, and Ocon following closely in 7th
After two street circuits, order returns
It had seemed that the order on the grid had gone completely mad in Monaco and Azerbaijan. Now with the F1 circus returning to a purpose-built race circuit, it seems that the natural order of things has returned. Mercedes and Red Bull fighting in the top 3, with the rest of the field following somewhat behind. From the way things looked on Friday, it seems were in for another dull French GP.
More to follow.