Valtteri Bottas put his new chassis to good use in Free Practice 1 ahead of the French Grand Prix, going fastest ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton in Paul Ricard.
Despite the Finn hitting the kerbs at Turn Two heavily and doing sizeable damage to the underside of his car, Bottas ended FP1 0.3sec clear of anybody after the first session of the weekend.
Red Bull followed in third and fourth with Max Verstappen leading Sergio Perez while Ferrari struggled to get to grips with the circuit and setups for either driver.
Alpine kicked off the weekend in fine form with Esteban Ocon ending the morning fifth-fastest and mixing it with the McLarens and AlphaTauris inside the top 10.
Here is how practice unfolded ahead of the 2021 French Grand Prix
Mick Schumacher was facing backwards almost immediately after leaving the pit lane but he wasn’t the only one to spin early doors. Yuki Tsunoda was the next to get it wrong, spinning out of the final corner after getting too eager on the throttle.
Valtteri Bottas got it wrong at Turn Two, climbing the exit kerbs and damaging the front wing in the process. He was forced into the pits for repairs. It prompted complaints from Mercedes team manager Ron Meadows to FIA race director Michael Masi due to the amount of damage done to the car.
Max Verstappen wasted no time getting down to business, lapping 1.2sec clear of anybody on the hard compound tyres to take the top spot. Lewis Hamilton slotted into second on the same tyres 0.6sec off after the first 10 minutes of the session.
15 minutes in and Sebastian Vettel found the barriers at Turn 11 to bring out the yellow flags. The Aston Martin driver dropped the back end early in the corner and tapped the outside wall. He was briefly stuck in neutral but recovered to the pit lane with rear wing damage and sizeable flat spots on his soft tyres.
Sergio Perez and Bottas slotted into second and third place respectively approaching the halfway point in the session before teams swapped over to soft tyres.
Hamilton set the first benchmark on the red-walled tyres with a 1min 33.783sec. Verstappen was just 0.097sec off that time but Bottas rebounded from his ride over the kerbs to go fastest of all by 0.3sec.
Carlos Sainz had his own moment at Turn Two on a fast lap, spinning on corner exit and ruining his soft tyres with major flat spots. Team-mate Charles Leclerc was down in fifth approaching the final 20 minutes of the first session but was complaining of struggling with his car.
After a stop for a setup change, Verstappen was set to go fastest of all but ran wide over the kerbs between Turns 11 and 12, bouncing over the raised section, ruining his potentially fastest lap. He reported potential floor damage after the excursion.
Daniel Ricciardo had been faster than team-mate Lando Norris until the final 15 minutes of the session. The British driver popped up to P6, behind a surprise Fernando Alonso up the order for Alpine but there was still time for more laps and they were soon relegated down the table.
Team-mate Esteban Ocon had struggled with his setup for much of the session but shot up the order to P5 in the final 10 minutes. Verstappen had a late moment out of Turn One, sliding off the track and understeering wide.
There was also a close call for Tsunoda and Hamilton in the final moments. The AlphaTauri made a practice start but was almost wiped out by a passing Alpine taking the racing line for Turn One as the pit lane fed out into the racing line.
Hamilton arrived on the scene at Turn One and had to take evasive action from the slow-moving AlphaTauri, going through the runoff area.
Mercedes back on form, with Red Bull just behind
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