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French GP practice as it happened

Follow all the action from the French Grand Prix as it happens with our minute-by-minute coverage.

French GP practice as it happened

By: Tom Howard, James Newbold

Summary

  • Red Bull's Max Verstappen tops FP2 by 0.008s from Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas.
  • Virtual Safety Car deployed 15 minutes in for debris on track from Verstappen's Red Bull. 
  • FP2 underway.
  • Bottas fastest in French GP FP1 as F1 returns to Paul Ricard after a year's absence, leading Hamilton in a Mercedes 1-2.
  • Several drivers test circuit limits at Turn 2, including Bottas who damages the front wing on his Mercedes over the exit kerb, and Sainz who spins and flat-spots a set of softs.
  • Vettel spins at Turn 11 and damages his Aston Martin's rear wing.

Leaderboard
1. Verstappen, Red Bull
2. Bottas, Mercedes
3. Hamilton, Mercedes 
4. Alonso, Alpine
5. Leclerc, Ferrari
6. Ocon, Alpine
7. Gasly, AlphaTauri
8. Sainz, Ferrari
9. Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo
10. Norris, McLaren

Status: Stopped
Can Bottas make the soft tyres work for him tomorrow and keep Hamilton at bay? Will Verstappen be able to get amongst the Black Arrows? Make sure you join us tomorrow for the all-important qualifying session. Thanks for following along with us, see you then.
Looking to catch up on the action? Here's the report from FP2: https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/f1-french-gp-verstappen-tops-fp2-from-bottas-and-hamilton/6581983/.
As Aston's Twitter admin concedes, not a brilliant day at the office for Aston - it is currently vulnerable to being in the Q1 drop zone along with the Haas and Williams cars.
 
After plenty of off-track moments that disrupted proceedings in FP1, this afternoon's session was quite a bit cleaner, with fewer notable incidents - barring the VSC that was required to recover debris from Verstappen's front wing broken off by the Turn 2 sausage kerbs.
Here's the chequered flag - Verstappen bounces back to top FP2 by just 0.008s and set up a fascinating day for qualifying tomorrow.
 
The headline times aren't changing all that much, but Bottas is lapping much quicker at the moment than Hamilton - he was six tenths quicker than the Brit on their last time around, both on mediums.
Hamilton has a little moment through Turn 14 as the front end of his Mercedes washes out and drags him over into the run-off area, compromising his entry into the final corner. A scruffy moment he'll be anxious not to repeat come Sunday.
Just a little over five minutes to go in the session now, will we see any meaningful changes in the order?
A bit of entertaining racing down at Turn 1 between Russell and Mazepin leaves the Haas driver with no choice but to abort and take to the escape road. No inch given from the Williams man.
Down at the bottom end of the order, there are few surprises as the two Williams and Haas cars bring up the rear, but Aston currently has Vettel and Stroll down in P15 and P16 - the green cars some three tenths off the next slowest member of the midfield bunch (currently Ricciardo's McLaren in P14). Encouraging showing for Alfa Romeo, as its cars sit ninth and 11th so far.
Bottas has now ditched the softs and switched over to a set of medium tyres, which we expect he'll run to the end of the session in a little over 10 minutes time.
Any guesses who has the fastest middle sector of all so far? Nope - it's Alonso!
Bottas certainly isn't lighting up the sector times at present, which suggests he has a decent amount of fuel in the Merc - perhaps simulating the tyre deg he'd get in the opening race stint on soft rubber.
Meanwhile Verstappen and Hamilton are out on the mediums, while Alonso is back on hards - remember, he started the session on those.
 
Bottas has come out again on another set of softs as he seeks to dethrone Verstappen and complete a Friday practice sweep.
Perez is circulating on the mediums at the moment - he's been dumped back to P12 in the pecking order at present, behind Giovinazzi, Norris, Raikkonen, Sainz, Gasly, Ocon, Leclerc, Alonso, Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen.
Alonso's personal best so far is a 1m33.340s, three tenths up on his team-mate - a nice little gap for Leclerc to slot his Ferrari into. That's P5 for the Monegasque, as Perez is thwarted in his efforts to improve by a stray Haas.
Gasly now pumps in a lap to take sixth place back from Sainz - but can't trouble the two Alpines ahead. Fourth and fifth for Alonso and Ocon at the moment is a good uptick in form for the Enstone squad.
The Ferraris had been shuffled out of the top 10 by recent improvements elsewhere, but Sainz sets that right by leaping up to sixth on a 1m33.698s - just ahead of the team's last world champion, Raikkonen (back in 2007).
"Not too bad, huh," offers a chuffed Verstappen over the radio.
Norris has recently had an off-track moment of his own at Turn 6, but is another to improve up to P7 in the McLaren, slotting between Raikkonen's high-flying Alfa and Perez. Ricciardo is down in P11 for the time being.
Verstappen winds up a hot lap on the soft and goes to P1 on a 1m32.872s, just sneaking ahead of Bottas by 0.008s.
Leclerc has had an off-track moment at Turn 6 trying to pass Ocon off the ideal line, for which the Alpine man holds his hand up in apology.
Alonso has also improved and jumps up to third on a 1m33.384s, with Raikkonen now fourth on a 1m33.786s - second through to fourth enjoying an exclusive meeting of the French GP winners club.
Most of the field are now on softs, and Hamilton has used them to improve on his earlier medium-shod time - albeit still behind Bottas. It's a 1m33.125s for Hamilton, a full second quicker than Perez in fifth.
It's a 1m33.821s for the Frenchman, who is now behind only Bottas and Hamilton in the times.
Perez doesn't improve on his first lap on softs either - it's a 1m34.237s for the Baku winner, who managed a 1m34.125s on mediums. But Ocon does improve and vaults up to third for Alpine.
 
Perez, Ocon and the two Williams are next to try the softs - let's see if their fortunes differ from Bottas.
From going purple in the first sector, Bottas was over three tenths down at the end of the lap - could that be a sign that the soft may not be the tyre to go with for qualifying tomorrow?
He doesn't improve on his first flyer - it's a 1m33.218s for Bottas, which is still quicker than Hamilton's best time in second position.
Now here goes Bottas on a soft tyre run - how much time will he be able to find?
Leclerc now moves up to eighth on his hard tyres, before coming into the pits. Gasly is another to improve, the AlphaTauri driver at his home GP moving up to sixth position.
Alonso remember is one of only three drivers on the grid to have won the French GP - his 2005 win coming at Magny-Cours, where Kimi Raikkonen also triumphed in 2007. Lewis Hamilton has won each of the last two French GPs held at Paul Ricard since the event's return to the calendar in 2018.
As we say that, Sainz moves up to P7 - but is quickly shuffled back a place as Alonso moves into sixth, right behind his team-mate.
Ferrari has yet to make much of an impression so far - Leclerc is 11th on the hards, with Sainz P16 on mediums, still getting his confidence back after that spin earlier in FP1.
The soft tyres don't seem to have done too much for Aston Martin so far - after his Baku heroics, Vettel is down in 10th, with Stroll only 12th.