Formula 1 returned for its second stint in Europe, with the practice action kicking off at Le Castellet’s Circuit Paul Ricard. The transatlantic journey seemed to have had no ill effects for the Mercedes-AMG team, which set the early pace in preparation for the French Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton narrowly edged teammate Valtteri Bottas to top spot on the timesheets.

The pair was split by just 0.069 seconds in the final reckoning, with their closest challenger coming in the form of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc whose best lap was almost four-tenths of a second slower than Hamilton’s best time of 1:32.738.

Leclerc’s teammate Sebastian Vettel secretly wed long-time childhood friend Hanna Prater ahead of this weekend’s race and perhaps seemed to be suffering some post-nuptial effects given his best lap time was over a second off the pace and only good enough for fifth-fastest. The German complained about his SF90’s front-end handling as the team experimented with front wing updates.

The Ferraris were split by the Red Bull Racing Honda of Max Verstappen, while his teammate Pierre Gasly was sixth-fastest in the sister RB15. Both drivers suffered spins during the session, along with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.

It was a promising session for McLaren, whose drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr placed seventh- and eighth-fastest respectively. The team also announced that it had agreed to terms with engine provider Renault to share the services of Sergey Sirotkin as their reserve driver.

The factory Renault team showed relatively improved pace thanks to a raft of upgrades, with Daniel Ricciardo placing ninth-fastest and Nico Hülkenberg twelfth. Both drivers, however, reported smoke in the cockpit, which it later emerged was caused by the floors of their cars scraping on the track. Hülkenberg’s skidblock was replaced during the session, while Ricciardo had his running disrupted when he called into the pits amidst concerns he had damaged his car after violently clipping a kerb.

It was not a happy start to his home event for Romain Grosjean, who was mired at the bottom of the timesheets with only nine laps to his name after his Haas Ferrari sprung a water leak. The Frenchman finished behind the two Williams of Nicholas Latifi – running in place of George Russell in this session – and Robert Kubica.

Driver Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10 1:32.738 21
2. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10 1:32.807 + 0.069 20
3. Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari SF90 1:33.111 + 0.373 21
4. Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing RB15 1:33.618 + 0.880 20
5. Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari SF90 1:33.790 + 1.052 22
6. Pierre Gasly Red Bull Racing RB15 1:34.091 + 1.353 20
7. Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team MCL34 1:34.110 + 1.372 23
8. Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren F1 Team MCL34 1:34.261 + 1.523 26
9. Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 Team RS19 1:34.540 + 1.802 18
10. Alexander Albon Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14 1:34.804 + 2.066 25
11. Sergio Pérez Racing Point F1 Team RP19 1:34.809 + 2.071 21
12. Nico Hülkenberg Renault F1 Team RS19 1:34.810 + 2.072 25
13. Lance Stroll Racing Point F1 Team RP19 1:35.063 + 2.325 22
14. Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14 1:35.326 + 2.588 24
15. Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team VF-19 1:35.410 + 2.672 19
16. Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing C38 1:35.522 + 2.784 22
17. Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing C38 1:36.102 + 3.364 22
18. Nicholas Latifi ROKiT Williams Racing FW42 1:37.147 + 4.409 25
19. Robert Kubica ROKiT Williams Racing FW42 1:37.172 + 4.434 27
20. Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team VF-19 1:37.620 + 4.882 9

Image via Michael Potts Photography

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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.