2021 French Grand Prix FP1 - Bottas tops times, as Schumacher and Vettel find the walls

In the first session of the weekend, it was Valtteri Bottas who would finish on the top of the timings, as he looks to claw back from a tough race last time out in Baku.

Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton was just behind the Finn in second place, with Championship leader Max Verstappen occupying the third-place slot as the cars came across the line.

Preliminary problems 

The first session of the weekend started with all twenty cars taking to the track at Paul Ricard, many drivers donning hard tires and aero rakes to aid data for days ahead. The yellow flags were also out early, for the Haas of Mick Schumacher, as he found the walls on the exit of turns four and five. 

Mick wasn't the only driver to be having issues, however, with the yellow flags also coming out for Bottas, who had an off in the first sector, and Yuki Tsunoda, who spun coming back onto the pit straight. 

The most comfortable car on track looked to be the Red Bull of  Verstappen, as the Dutchman managed to position his car perfectly throughout his early laps, putting his championship-leading car on top of the timings, 1.2 seconds quicker than the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz

The next victim of the weekend was the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel, who lost the back end of the car coming into the high-speed turn 11, causing him to limp back to the pits. The rear wing endplate seemed to have connected with the barriers around the track, along with flat-spotting all four tires.

Turn two causing havoc

Mercedes were very vocal about the yellow rumble strips at the exit of turn two, speaking to the FIA about the issue, following Bottas's off earlier in the session. Ron Meadows stated that the strips could cause "Thousands of pounds of damage" to the cars. 

This is something that Sainz would find out in the same section of the track, shredding the soft tires on the left-hand side of the Ferrari.

Towards the midpoint of the session, the two Mercedes were fighting it out for a top spot, with Bottas clinching it from Hamilton as the clock hit the halfway stage. Verstappen wasn't too far behind the 'Silver Arrows' after having set some of the fastest laps in the initial stages.

Following a trip to the pits to adjust the front wing of the Red Bull, the Dutchman took to the track once again, with what looked like a decent lap forming. This was until he reached turn 12, when he ran wide over the red and white curb, however it should instill some promise in the team for the weekend ahead.

Early promise on home soil

With less than 15 minutes remaining in the session, the large majority of the drivers had transitioned onto the soft tires, in order to push a little harder before the session came to a close. Fernando Alonso managed to secure 5th place in the standings with only a handful of minutes left, which shows promise for Alpine at their home race.

However teammate Esteban Ocon seemed to be struggling, with the man who signed a new three-year contract earlier this week down in 13th place in the late stages. But the Frenchman would see himself hit the top five with little over six minutes left in the session.


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