Lewis Hamilton returned to the forefront of Formula 1 racing Friday, as the Briton set the fastest times in both practice sessions in preparation for Sunday’s Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Hamilton posted the fastest lap of the day in Free Practice No. 1 at 141.550 mph, leading a Mercedes 1-2 along with teammate Valtteri Bottas. The success for both of them improved because of a cooler track.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was third quickest, followed by the Ferraris of Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel.
The most serious incident of the day was when Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson lost the rear of his car at turn 11 in the morning. The red and white No. 9 struck the safety barriers, which resulted in a car fire.
? RED FLAG ?
Marcus Ericsson slides off into the wall with a few minutes to go
His car sets ablaze, but the Sauber man appears to be okay#FrenchGP ?? #F1 pic.twitter.com/rEkE1fbptA
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 22, 2018
Despite escaping without injury, Ericsson’s car was heavily damaged. He was forced to sit out Free Practice No. 2.
With a brand new upgraded engine and a track that has not been used in over 26 years for this type of motorsport, Hamilton came through, setting the best time of the second session, posting a lap at 141.491 mph, which was seven tenths faster than runner-up Ricciardo in his Red Bull.
Max Verstappen held the third best time of the day, while the Two Ferrari’s of Räikkönen and Vettel were once again fourth and fifth, respectively. For the American HAAS F1 Team, the results were impressive, as Team Manager Günther Steiner had promised, with sixth going to Romain Grosjean in front of his home crowd, with teammate Kevin Magnussen taking ninth. Bottas was disappointing in the second session, finishing seventh, while Fernando Alonso, coming from a slow start in the morning, took eighth. Pierre Gasly kept the home fans happy as the Frenchman finished in tenth.
The first day was also without incidents as the drivers needed to get used to the new track, along with a tailwind that made many drivers spin off. Sergio Perez lost his rear left wheel at speed in the afternoon session, but managed to return to the pits and could only finish 19th.
Many of the drivers still have enough time to get used to the circuit on Saturday with the third free practice session and qualifying, but it will be questionable whether or not the winds will subside, which could make the drivers perform faster times.
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But given the situation with tires, softs vs ultrasofts, Red Bull may be sitting in the catbird seat for Sunday.