French GP FP2 Report: Verstappen Reclaims Top Spot from Mercedes F1 Duo of Hamilton-Bottas

Published 06/18/2021, 10:01 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – French Grand Prix – Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France – June 18, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen during practice REUTERS/Eric Gaillard


Max Verstappen topped the timesheet during FP2 at the French Grand Prix, with Valtteri Bottas continuing with his strong showing by securing P2 and his Mercedes F1 teammate, Lewis Hamilton, closing out the Top-3.

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But, the home-runners, Alpine Renault, stole the show this time around, as both their drivers showed blistering pace throughout the session.

On the contrary, Ferrari’s brief dominance may have come to an end, as neither of the drivers showed a competitive enough pace through the afternoon.

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How the Hard/Medium F1 tire runs unfolded

As the lights went green for FP2 at Circuit Paul Ricard, almost every driver managed to join the track within the first couple of minutes; Charles Leclerc remained the only driver who opted against leaving his Ferrari garage until the 7-minute mark.

Valtteri Bottas clocked a mighty lap on Medium tires, as raced to the top over a second faster than Verstappen. What’s more, Hamilton couldn’t deliver a lap time fast enough to beat his teammate, as the Briton settled for P2, lapping 0.4 slower.

Formula One F1 – French Grand Prix – Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France – June 18, 2021 Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas during practice REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Sergio Perez followed the Top-3 in P4, followed by Lando Norris and the two Alpine drivers, who were surprisingly running with the hardest tire compound.

As things started quieting down following the initial runs, Verstappen managed to grab the attention for a brief moment. The Dutchman ended up running over the aggressive kerbs around the exit of Turn 2, damaging his front wing. That was pretty much all that happened until the halfway point of the session.

Red Bull F1 faster than Mercedes at Le Castellet?

Although the timesheet shows Red Bull’s Verstappen holding onto P1, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Dutchman is faster than Bottas.

While Verstappen clocked his lap time on soft tires, the Finn managed to his time on Medium tires. And despite the tire disadvantage, the Mercedes driver was only 0.008 seconds slower.

Formula One F1 – French Grand Prix – Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France – June 18, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton during practice REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

This is hinting at a potential change of fortunes for Bottas, who has been enduring a rather disappointing season so far. But, of course, the biggest concern is whether he could extend his dominance into Saturday and Sunday.

How the Top-10 ultimately looked like

Verstappen led the way with a 1:32:872, and Bottas holding onto P2, with a lap time just 0.008 seconds slower. Then comes the defending champion, Hamilton.

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Fernando Alonso used Alpine’s astonishing pace to rocket up to P4, while his teammate settled for P6, with Leclerc sandwiched between the two Alpines in P5.

Formula One F1 – French Grand Prix – Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France – June 18, 2021 Alpine’s Fernando Alonso during practice REUTERS/Yves Herman

Homeboy, Pierre Gasly, slotted himself into P7 and the other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz managing a rather disappointing P8. Kimi Raikkonen was one of the biggest surprises of the session, as the Finn ended up P9, ahead of Lando Norris.

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This is definitely an interesting Top-10 to look at, but will a similar line-up show up by the end of Saturday’s qualifying session?

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Rohit Kumar

902 articles

Rohit Kumar is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. He has been an ardent follower of the racing series since 2007, with his love for the sport coinciding with his love for Kimi Raikkonen. He is also an ardent follower of Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin Racing.

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