Mercedes-AMG continued its domination atop the practice timesheets as Friday’s running at the French Grand Prix drew to a close, with the Silver Arrows extending their advantage over rivals Ferrari in FP2.
After current championship leader Lewis Hamilton shaded teammate Valtteri Bottas in the opening session, this time the order was reversed as the Finn got the upper hand as the five-time World Champion was one of several drivers to have an untidy session.
Bottas was the only driver to lap the Circuit Paul Ricard in under 91 seconds, finishing the session almost a quarter of a second quicker than Hamilton. The Englishman appeared to struggle for balance and grip in the rather gusty conditions, making a number of uncharacteristic errors.
A slide through Turns 3 and 4 saw him knock over a bollard and when he attempted to rejoin the circuit at Turn 5 he forced Max Verstappen into the run-off. The FIA Stewards investigated the incident and opted not to sanction Hamilton.
Charles Leclerc was the Mercedes duo’s closest challenger, with the Monégasque driver once again lapping quicker than teammate Sebastian Vettel who himself had several trips off the circuit. Worryingly for the Scuderia, the gap to the Mercedes’ had stretched to over six-tenths of a second and was even bigger during higher-fuel runs on the Medium compound tyre earlier in the session.
McLaren showed remarkably improved pace and look to be a genuine threat to challenge the grid’s traditional ‘third best’ team, Red Bull Racing. Series rookie Lando Norris finished the session a superb fifth-fastest, nearly two-tenths of a second quicker than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The Englishman’s teammate Carlos Sainz similarly lapped quicker than the sister RB15 of Pierre Gasly, who was running an older-spec version of Honda’s power unit.
It was also a positive session for Alfa Romeo, with Kimi Räikkönen ninth-fastest and teammate Antonio Giovinazzi two spots behind. The pair was separated by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
It was another nightmare session for Magnussen’s teammate Romain Grosjean. The French driver had missed most of FP1 due to a water leak and then further damaged his prospects of making up for the lost track time with a heavy lock-up during his early laps on the Hard compound tyre.
With the badly flat-spotted tyre causing a worrying amount of vibration through the suspension and with only one other set of Hard tyres available to him this weekend, Grosjean was forced back into the pits to wait until later in the session to return to the track.
When he rejoined the circuit, he again struggled with the handling of his VF-19. He ended up a poor 17th-fastest ahead of only Lance Stroll’s Racing Point Mercedes and the two Williams’ of George Russell and Robert Kubica.
|FORMULA 1 PIRELLI GRAND PRIX DE FRANCE 2019 – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 2|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:30.937||34|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:31.361||+ 0.424||25|
|3.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:31.586||+ 0.649||31|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:31.665||+ 0.728||32|
|5.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:31.882||+ 0.945||31|
|6.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:32.049||+ 1.112||29|
|7.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:32.432||+ 1.495||27|
|8.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:32.448||+ 1.511||29|
|9.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:32.677||+ 1.740||34|
|10.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:32.789||+ 1.852||30|
|11.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:32.973||+ 2.036||34|
|12.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:33.020||+ 2.083||34|
|13.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:33.023||+ 2.086||35|
|14.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:33.081||+ 2.144||32|
|15.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:33.254||+ 2.317||37|
|16.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:33.300||+ 2.363||30|
|17.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:33.591||+ 2.654||27|
|18.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:33.884||+ 2.947||32|
|19.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:34.614||+ 3.677||33|
|20.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:35.195||+ 4.258||32|
Image via Michael Potts Photography