Valtteri Bottas led Mercedes team-mate and Formula 1 championship leader Lewis Hamilton at the top of the timesheet in the second practice session for the French Grand Prix.
Hamilton ended the session under investigation for an incident in which he re-joined the circuit after an excursion and blocked Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the process.
First practice pacesetter Hamilton lost control of his Mercedes over the Turn 3 kerb during his first qualifying simulation run.
A snap of oversteer forced him to wipe out the Turn 5 apex bollard and hop onto the run-off area. He rejoined in front of Verstappen, who had just started his first soft tyre effort.
With the Mercedes parked on the apex at of the tight Turn 5, Verstappen himself suffered a snap of oversteer after taking the corner off-line. He slid onto the run-off area.
Hamilton ended up 0.424s adrift of his team-mate Bottas – who posted a session topping 1m30.937s benchmark – with the Briton’s previous run on the medium tyre yielding his fastest time of the session.
The Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel ended up third and fourth – Vettel having had an early-session soft tyre run compromised after being blocked by a Williams.
McLaren’s opening practice pace continued into the afternoon, with Lando Norris ending the day in fifth place. The rookie was as high as third on the timesheet, after a lap on the white marked hard compound early on.
His long-run evaluation was compromised by battery deployment issues.
His team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr was seventh, sandwiched between the Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Pierre Gasly.
Verstappen’s session best time was delivered on his second timed lap on the soft tyre following his incident with Hamilton. Gasly was 0.4s adrift of his team-mate in eighth.
Kimi Raikkonen and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top 10 for Alfa Romeo and Haas respectively.
After finishing opening practice at the bottom of the timesheet due to a water leak, Magnussen’s Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean struggled throughout the session.
The Frenchman locked up at the heavy braking zone of Turn 8 on his first lap of the session, ruining a set of hard compound tyres.
Grosjean then suffered several excursions during the session, complaining of a lack of balance in the second half of the lap. He finished the session in 17th.
He was one place behind the Racing Point of Sergio Perez, who damaged his front wing running wide and over the sausage kerbs at Turn 2 during his race pace evaluation.