Max Verstappen has set the third-fastest time in the first free practice for the Grand Prix of France in Formula 1. The Dutch driver, the leader in the world title, had to tolerate the two Mercedes at Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France…
Valtteri Bottas set the best time with 1.33.448. The Finn damaged the front wing and floor of his Mercedes at the start of practice when he drove a little too much over the curbstones along the track. Verstappen also did that later in training. The Dutchman immediately went back to the pit lane to have the underside of his Red Bull car examined.
Briton Lewis Hamilton conceded 0.335 seconds to his teammate Bottas. Verstappen was 0.432 seconds slower than the Finn. His Mexican teammate Sergio Pérez, winner of the Azerbaijan GP two weeks ago, finished fourth in the first practice at 0.745. Both Red Bull drivers have access to a new Honda engine in France.
Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso of the French Alpine team set the fifth and seventh fastest time respectively in the first practice session on the circuit near Le Castellet. The Ferrari and Aston Martin drivers all finished outside the top 10. The second session starts at 3:00 p.m. Saturday is qualifying for Sunday’s race, which also starts at 3 p.m.
Two weeks ago, Verstappen raced unthreatened for victory in Baku until he had a blowout five laps before the end. As a result, the World Cup leader ended up in the wall at high speed. However, his rival Hamilton failed to capitalize. The seven-time world champion braked at the restart and left Azerbaijan without points, just like Verstappen. The Dutchman is four points ahead of Hamilton in the World Cup.