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Mercedes return to form but express anger at FIA

Mercedes return to form but express anger at FIA

F1 News

Mercedes return to form but express anger at FIA

Mercedes return to form but express anger at FIA

Valtteri Bottas put behind him recent criticism and questions surrounding his F1 future by spearheading a Mercedes one-two in first practice for the French Grand Prix.

Following two dismal races around the streets of Monaco and Azerbaijan which saw Mercedes lose its championship lead to Red Bull after collecting just seven points, on a more 'normal' circuit the team showed a return to form.

Bottas finished quickest at the Paul Ricard circuit with a lap of one minute 33.448secs and was a third-of-a-second clear of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Title leader Max Verstappen was just over four-tenths of a second adrift in his Red Bull, with team-mate Sergio Perez, fresh from his win in Baku, 0.745s down in fourth. The RB16B is sporting a new power unit from Honda this weekend.

Bottas' pace-setting time came despite running over the rumble strips at the apex of turn two, and seemingly damaging the underneath of the car.

That prompted team manager Ron Meadows to jump on the radio and express his anger to FIA race director Michael Masi.

"Those yellow rumble strips on the exit of two have done an awful lot of damage to our car," fumed Meadows. "They're just too aggressive."

In response, Masi said: "They're the 50-millimetre ones that we normally have in a lot of places Ron."

Meadows then retorted: "All I'm telling you is our car is rooted because we went over them and we can't say 'Well, you shouldn't go there' because that's tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage by going three-foot too wide."

Masi concluded by saying: "It's a bit more than three foot but I'll have a look. Thank you!"

After signing a new three-year contract this week, and on home soil, Alpine's Esteban Ocon was fifth quickest, almost nine-tenths of a second behind Bottas. He was the only other driver to finish within a second of the Finn.

The following 11 drivers were then covered by another second, with McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo at the vanguard, followed by the second Alpine of Fernando Alonso.

AlphaTauri duo Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda were eighth and 10th on the timesheet sandwiching Lando Norris in his McLaren.

Tsunoda was one of a number of drivers to endure offs, the Japanese driver doing so at the final corner early in the session.

Mick Schumacher clipped a wall with his front-right wheel after sliding off at turn three on his first lap on track, going on to finish 19th, 3.881s down in his Haas.

Fresh from his runner-up spot in Azerbaijan, Sebastian Vettel's session was truncated as he spun out of the sweeping turn 11 in his Aston Martin after 15 minutes.

The effect saw Vettel lock up through the swathe of run-off, his tyres being shredded by the extreme grip red stripes that adorn Le Castellet before hitting a barrier with the right corner of his rear wing.

That confined him to the garage for almost 30 minutes, with the four-time champion going on to finish 15th, 1.841s off the pace.

Ferrari's Carlo Sainz was another who slid off into the extreme-grip striping, leaving the Spaniard a place behind Vettel, while team-mate Charles Leclerc was only 11th.

After back-to-back pole positions for Leclerc, Ferrari is not expecting to be in contention this weekend.

Williams' reserve driver Roy Nissany, replacing George Russell in the session, was nearly 4.5s down at the rear of the field.

French Grand Prix first practice times

1. Valtteri Bottas [Mercedes] 1:33.448

2. Lewis Hamilton [Mercedes] +0.335

3. Max Verstappen [Red Bull] +0.432

4. Sergio Perez [Red Bull] +0.745

5. Esteban Ocon [Alpine] +0.881

6. Daniel Ricciardo [McLaren] +1.196

7. Fernando Alonso [Alpine] +1.245

8. Pierre Gasly [AlphaTauri] +1.251

9. Lando Norris [McLaren] +1.259

10. Yuki Tsunoda [AlphaTauri] +1.399

11. Charles Leclerc [Ferrari] +1.502

12. Antonio Giovinazzi [Alfa Romeo] +1.668

13. Kimi Raikkonen [Alfa Romeo] +1.687

14. Lance Stroll [Aston Martin] +1.827

15. Sebastian Vettel [Aston Martin] +1.841

16. Carlos Sainz [Ferrari] +1.894

17. Nicholas Latifi [Williams] +2.164

18. Nikita Mazepin [Haas] +3.203

19. Mick Schumacher [Haas] +3.881

20. Roy Nissany [Williams] +4.433

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