Hamilton leads the field in first practice at Paul Ricard

ยฉ XPB 

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton drew first blood in Friday's first free practice session for the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard.

The British driver put himself at the top of the timesheet with a lap in 1m32.231s achieved on Pirelli's ultrasoft tyre, edging out team mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.140s and Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo by 0.296s.

French Grand Prix - Free Practice 1 times

Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.231s 25
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:32.371s + 0.140s 29
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:32.527s + 0.296s 25
4 Kimi Rรคikkรถnen Ferrari 1:33.003s + 0.772s 23
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:33.172s + 0.941s 19
6 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:33.318s + 1.087s 22
7 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:33.331s + 1.100s 15
8 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:33.685s + 1.454s 23
9 Sergio Pรฉrez Force India 1:33.719s + 1.488s 26
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:34.108s + 1.877s 23
11 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:34.258s + 2.027s 25
12 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:34.484s + 2.253s 14
13 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:34.513s + 2.282s 21
14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:34.592s + 2.361s 21
15 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:34.664s + 2.433s 25
16 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:34.862s + 2.631s 20
17 Lance Stroll Williams 1:34.881s + 2.650s 28
18 Nico Hรผlkenberg Renault 1:34.993s + 2.762s 24
19 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:35.021s + 2.790s 24
20 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1:35.105s + 2.874s 25

When the lights turned green, and marked the official start of the first F1 race at Paul Ricard since 1990, Pierre Gasly became the first Frenchman of his generation to take part in the French Grand Prix.

It was Valtteri Bottas however who put the first time on board, the Finn laying down a reference lap of 1m36.849s.

Mercedes confirmed before the start of FP1 that both works cars, as well as Force India and Williams, have received a new ICE, turbo and MGU-H. However, the German manufacturer cleverly omitted to reveal the specification of the new units!

The first mishap of the session came from Brendon Hartley who looped his Toro Rosso at Turn 6. He wasn't the only driver however to be caught out by the wind at that specific location, with Stoffel Vandoorne spinning his McLaren at the same spot, followed by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

Unfortunately, you can't see wind.

Thirty minutes into the session, a soft-shod Daniel Ricciardo jumped to the front, was briefly topped by Bottas before banging in a 1m32.576 that put him back in charge.

Meanwhile, grinding around fairly unnoticed, Lewis Hamilton pulled himself up to P4 using the ultrasoft tyre as the session reached the half-way mark, albeit 1.465s adrift from Ricciardo.

Both Bottas and Raikkonen improved on their early flyers, the getting within 0.030s of the Aussie's pace setting time.

Force India's Esteban Ocon, sitting in sixth place, became the fourth driver to spin at Paul Ricard's problematic Turn 6, fortunately without touching the barriers.

The relentless Bottas, running on the ultrasoft, succeeded in edging ahead of Ricciardo, by just 0.010s, but was almost immediately knocked off the top spot by Hamilton, who finally got his act together as he pushed on the ultrasoft rubber, clocking in with a 1m32.273s.

Meanwhile, Gasly was reported to the stewards for staying out 2m43s longer on his first set of tyres than is permitted under the rules - drivers having to hand back their first set after a maximum of forty minutes. The breach will likely result in a $10,000 fine for Toro Rosso.

Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Vettel concluded the session in the first five spots, while Haas' Grosjean was sixth. As usual in free practice, Ferrari adopted a relatively low profile in FP1, the Scuderia working diligently while perhaps masking its true pace.

It was a rather laborious morning run for seventh-place man Max Verstappen, the Red Bull driver complaining of a general lack of grip as he ended the morning 1.1s off the overall pace.

Gasly, Force India's Sergio Perez and Haas' Kevin Magnussen rounded off the top ten.

Unfortunately, the final minutes of the session were marked by a big crash for Marcus Ericsson, the Swede suddenly losing the rear-end of his Sauber upon the entry to Turn 11 at Beausset, located right after the fast Signes corner.

The impact was a big one for the driver and Ericsson was fortunate to walk away from the crash, especially as the rear of the car immediately caught fire following the impact, something which in itself will lead to a big rebuild for the Sauber crew before FP2.

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