Lewis Hamilton set the pace in an incident-filled opening practice session of the French Formula 1 Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard, which was brought to an early close by a fiery crash for Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson.

The Mercedes driver led teammate Valtteri Bottas on the stopwatch by just over one-tenth of a second to claim a 1-2 finish at the end of the session, with Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo third-fastest at the end of the session.

Windy conditions caught out a succession of drivers during opening practice, with Turn 6 proving a particular hot spot for the likes of Brendon Hartley, Kimi Räikkönen and Stoffel Vandoorne who all suffered early spins.

The lack of grip also affected the two Sauber drivers. Charles Leclerc spun twice during the session, once at Turn 1 and then again at Turn 8, but worse was to befall teammate Marcus Ericsson. The Swede, who already had a spin at the penultimate corner, spun again while downshifting at Turn 11, the Double Droite de Beausset, looping his car into the run-off and slamming the right side of the car into the barriers.

His car caught fire on its right-hand side, but he was able to get out of the car before marshals arrived to extinguish the flames. He was taken by the FIA Medical Car to the circuit’s medical centre for precautionary checks but it would appear unlikely his car will be repaired in time for the afternoon’s second practice session.

Hamilton had a relatively clean session – save for a near-miss with a “dangerously slow” Vandoorne as he approached the McLaren driver at the Mistral Chicane which forced the Englishman to take evasive action up the escape road.

This was one of a number of near-collisions during the session caused by drivers backing off to try and find clear space on the track. Force India’s Sergio Pérez nearly collected Kevin Magnussen’s Haas when he came across the Danish driver dawdling on the racing line, while Räikkönen had his own near-miss and almost tripped over one of the Williams drivers during the session.

Up front, Hamilton cemented his position at the top of the timesheets ahead of Bottas, who had earlier displaced Ricciardo’s provisionally quickest time. Ricciardo finished comfortably ahead of the two Ferraris of Räikkönen and championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who were some margin off the pace.

Romain Grosjean led the field’s trio of French drivers with a fine sixth-fastest in his Haas Ferrari, finishing ahead of the second Red Bull of Max Verstappen which spent much of the first hour of the session confined to the pit garages.

Pérez took his Force India eighth-fastest ahead of Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, who is being investigated by the FIA Stewards for using one set of tyres beyond the rules’ forty-minute limit. Magnussen completed the top ten in the second Haas.

Driver Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09 1:32.231 25
2. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09 1:32.371 + 0.140 29
3. Daniel Ricciardo Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14 1:32.527 + 0.296 25
4. Kimi Räikkönen Scuderia Ferrari SF71H 1:33.033 + 0.772 23
5. Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari SF71H 1:33.172 + 0.941 19
6. Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18 1:33.318 + 1.087 22
7. Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14 1:33.331 + 1.100 15
8. Pierre Gasly Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13 1:33.685 + 1.454 23
9. Sergio Pérez Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11 1:33.719 + 1.488 26
10. Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18 1:34.108 + 1.877 23
11. Carlos Sainz Jr Renault Sport F1 Team RS18 1:34.258 + 2.027 25
12. Esteban Ocon Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11 1:34.484 + 2.253 14
13. Charles Leclerc Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37 1:34.513 + 2.282 21
14. Marcus Ericsson Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37 1:34.592 + 2.361 21
15. Brendon Hartley Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13 1:34.664 + 2.433 25
16. Fernando Alonso McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33 1:34.862 + 2.631 20
17. Lance Stroll Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41 1:34.881 + 2.650 28
18. Nico Hülkenberg Renault Sport F1 Team RS18 1:34.993 + 2.762 24
19. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33 1:35.021 + 2.790 24
20. Sergey Sirotkin Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41 1:35.105 + 2.874 25

Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

The following two tabs change content below.

Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.