Leclerc narrowly leads Verstappen as practice begins at Paul Ricard

2022 French Grand Prix first practice

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Charles Leclerc set the early pace around a hot Paul Ricard circuit in the opening practice session for the French Grand Prix weekend.

The Ferrari driver’s best time of a 1’33.930 was just under a tenth faster than championship leader Max Verstappen, with Carlos Sainz Jnr third fastest.

George Russell was fourth in the Mercedes. Nyck de Vries, who took over Lewis Hamilton’s car for today’s opening session, was ninth quickest.

The skies over Le Castellet were as blue as the abrasive runoff strips on the perimeter of the Paul Ricard circuit as drivers headed out for the first time in the weekend. Air temperatures were only just under 30C, while the track was a toasty 56C.

De Vries was among the first drivers out onto the circuit as many teams opted for soft tyres for their first runs. Lando Norris reported having a “spongy” feeling in his McLaren’s throttle, but told his team he was happy to continue as long as they were satisfied with his data. His team mate Daniel Ricciardo ran off at the exit of turn 12 before rejoining, his tyres somewhat worse for wear.

Red Bull set the early pace in the session, with Verstappen’s 1’34.991 fastest of all, half a second quicker than team mate Sergio Perez. While looking to improve on his best personal time, Perez lost control of his car at the apex of turn three, looping his car around and over the blue run off strips outside of turn four. Fortunately for Perez, he managed to continue back into the pits.

Hamilton wasn’t the only driver sitting out this session. Robert Kubica took over Valtteri Bottas’s Alfa Romeo and discovered a throttle problem where his Ferrari power unit did not appear to be delivering maximum power when depressing the pedal.

Carlos Sainz Jnr then put Ferrari on top of the times by setting the best lap of the session with a 1’34.268 on the soft compound tyres. However, Verstappen took back the top spot by improving to a 1’34.021, again on the soft tyres.

Austrian Grand Prix winner Leclerc was the next driver to lower the benchmark, posting a 1’33.930 with just under 15 minutes remaining to go just under a tenth of a second quicker than the championship leader. However, none of the top drivers improved on their best laps in the time that remained, leaving on top at the conclusion of the session.

Verstappen ended the session second quickest, with Sainz just under a quarter of a second behind the Red Bull. Russell was fourth, but almost a second slower than Leclerc’s best time. Pierre Gasly was fifth, despite bottoming out his car by running over the exit kerb on the exit of turn 11 in the final minutes of the session.

Perez was sixth in the second Red Bull, ahead of Norris, who is under investigation by the stewards for failing to follow the race director’s instructions during the session. Alexander Albon was eighth, with De Vries finishing his one-off practice appearance in eights, around six tenths slower than Russell’s best time. Ricciardo completed the top ten positions for McLaren.

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2022 French Grand Prix first practice result

PositionNumberDriverTeamModelTimeGapLaps
116Charles LeclercFerrariF1-751’33.93023
21Max VerstappenRed BullRB181’34.0210.09119
355Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariF1-751’34.2680.33821
463George RussellMercedesW131’34.8810.95125
510Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Red BullAT031’34.9791.04921
611Sergio PerezRed BullRB181’35.1741.24421
74Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL361’35.2321.30221
823Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW441’35.4141.48424
919Nyck de VriesMercedesW131’35.4261.49623
103Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-MercedesMCL361’35.6601.73021
1124Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC421’35.6761.74621
1218Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR221’35.8101.88019
1331Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5221’35.8281.89821
145Sebastian VettelAston Martin-MercedesAMR221’35.8511.92124
1514Fernando AlonsoAlpine-RenaultA5221’35.8751.94522
1647Mick SchumacherHaas-FerrariVF-221’36.0222.09219
1720Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-221’36.1042.17422
1822Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red BullAT031’36.1272.19726
1988Robert KubicaAlfa Romeo-FerrariC421’36.3322.40219
206Nicholas LatifiWilliams-MercedesFW441’37.0433.11323

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2022 French Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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20 comments on “Leclerc narrowly leads Verstappen as practice begins at Paul Ricard”

  1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    22nd July 2022, 14:30

    I really struggle to understand what benefit the team gets by having kubica take over bottas for a session. It isn’t like he’s a young driver looking for a seat in the future.

    1. They are paid by the Polish national Oil company “Orlen” for the privilege.

    2. @thegianthogweed being their test driver, having him in the car once in a while should be beneficial with regards to sim-track correlation.

  2. That Mercedes upgrade is working wonders.

    1. I think Mercedes didn’t chase performance runs during FP1. Let’s see what happens by end of qualifying. I assume their deficit will be in the 0.3s range.

      1. Considering how close De Vries got to Russell in his first drive in a ground effects F1 car, I think Russell has a lot more in the bag.

        1. de Vries’s only goal was to bring Lewis’s car home in one piece.

      2. yes but neither Red Bull or Ferrari would be chasing performance runs in FP1 either…

    2. Yeah… This one is a ”super-diva”. I wish it was McLaren or Alpine the 3rd best car.

  3. I haven’t seen the session but read that Max was on two purple sectors but then went wide at turn 11. Something tells me he has much more at hand, but then of course this is just FP1 so all drivers should have more at hand.

    1. @robbie Yeah he just sort of ran a little wide onto the kerb which then sort of pulled the car out a bit wider as the floor hit the highest part of it. Davidson & Di Resta both felt that his little mistake cost him at least 2-3 tenths, Maybe a little more.

      The kerb they have there is actually the sort of kerb I think should be used in more places. It’s very similar to what they have in a few places at Bahrain & it’s a kerb design I have always felt works well as a deterrent because using too much of it tends to drag the car out further which does cost time.

      1. @stefmeister Ok good stuff, thanks.

      2. @stefmeister
        I think they need a track limit solution and something like these kerbs would be great as you said.
        I never liked sausage kerbs as they can damage a car with an honest mistake from a driver or launch one car into another if there is close racing.

    2. I am assuming that they weren’t monitoring track limits in this session. Verstappen exceeded them at least twice in his fastest lap in Sector1/2 before going off in S3. I saw a couple of other drivers doing it in the first part of the lap but no ones time was deleted.

      1. A lot of track limits violations broadcast, but I didn’t notice any lost times.

        Wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if they sweep the whole issue under the carpet this week.

        1. That would be very on-brand for the FIA.

      2. @asanator

        It doesn’t really matter anyway. It doesn’t provide benefits to ignore limits in free practice, nor does FP1 hold any kind of weight.

  4. I know overtaking wasn’t as easy at Magny-Cours as it is at Paul Ricard but at least Magny-Cours is a good track that has some character, Offers a decent challenge & Is fun to watch the cars lapping with runoff that doesn’t like whatever the Paul Ricard runoff looks like.

    If the French GP is to continue (And honestly I think it should) then lets at least go back to Magny-Cours & see what the current cars race like there because even a bad race there is better than a better race on this dull sea of tarmac imo.

  5. Is it just me or is Paul Ricard the most boring track of the year? It reminds me of the old Las Vegas GP. Those big painted run off areas make me feel dizzy as the TV cameras pan past them (and F1 TV coverage is generally terrible). Perhaps it’s different if you’re there?

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