Valtteri Bottas led Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes one-two ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the opening practice of the French Grand Prix.
Bottas led Hamilton by 0.335 seconds while Verstappen was just 0.007 seconds behind his title rival, leading by four points after six races.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez finished fourth ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Sebastian Vettel crashed his Aston Martin and there were several spins.
Vettel fell back into the barriers after losing control in the Beausset double right turn, but managed to return to the pits.
Bottas and Mick Schumacher damaged their cars in off-track moments as well, and the Finn’s moment at turn two prompted Mercedes to complain to race director Michael Masi about the damage caused by the yellow curbs he had run over. .
Sporting director Ron Meadows complained that the curbs were causing “thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds” [worth] damage for going three feet wide ”.
The Vettel incident demonstrated another characteristic of the Paul Ricard track, as its tires were shredded when it slipped over the abrasive painted section in the clearance area, designed to slow cars down.
The same thing happened to the tires of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari when he got off the track.
Behind Ocon and Ricciardo, the top 10 was completed by the second Alpine from Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly from Alpha Tauri, Lando Norris from McLaren and the second Alpha Tauri from Yuki Tsunoda.
Ferrari was in trouble, with Charles Leclerc in 11th place complaining about the behavior of his car and Sainz in 15th position.
The race takes place against the backdrop of two important rule changes.
There are tighter checks on tire pressure and rear wing resistance after two controversies this year – the tire failures suffered by Aston Martin’s Verstappen and Lance Stroll in the last race in Azerbaijan, and the accusations that Red Bull and other teams used rear fins that fold up on the straights in a way that violates the intent of the rules.