Hamilton stays on top but Bottas springs a leak in FP2

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W09
© XPB 

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was fastest again in second practice for the French Grand Prix on Friday at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet.

His best time of the session was 1:32.539s, putting him seven tenths ahead of the Red Bull pairing of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

A water leak cost Valtteri Bottas half a session of track time. Also ending his day early was Sergio Perez, who triggered a red flag midway through when the left rear tyre flew off his Force India and went bouncing down the circuit without him.

French Grand Prix - Free Practice 2 times

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:32.539s27
2Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1:33.243s+ 0.704s31
3Max VerstappenRed Bull1:33.271s+ 0.732s24
4Kimi RäikkönenFerrari1:33.426s+ 0.887s29
5Sebastian VettelFerrari1:33.689s+ 1.150s35
6Romain GrosjeanHaas1:33.699s+ 1.160s30
7Valtteri BottasMercedes1:34.156s+ 1.617s7
8Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1:34.400s+ 1.861s24
9Kevin MagnussenHaas1:34.457s+ 1.918s33
10Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1:34.535s+ 1.996s35
11Nico HülkenbergRenault1:35.067s+ 2.528s30
12Carlos SainzRenault1:35.086s+ 2.547s33
13Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren1:35.172s+ 2.633s28
14Charles LeclercSauber1:35.583s+ 3.044s33
15Brendon HartleyToro Rosso1:35.697s+ 3.158s31
16Esteban OconForce India1:35.705s+ 3.166s25
17Lance StrollWilliams1:35.936s+ 3.397s34
18Sergey SirotkinWilliams1:35.970s+ 3.431s35
19Sergio PérezForce India1:36.080s+ 3.541s13
20Sergey SirotkinWilliams1:35.105s+ 2.874s25

Scorching summer sunshine greeted Haas' Kevin Magnussen when his was the first car to head out on track for the second 90-minute practice session of the weekend. His initial lap on the supersofts was a mere 1:37.570s, which was soon bettered by Stoffel Vandoorne in the McLaren.

Just as had been the case in the morning, drivers were finding Paul Ricard a tricky beast to tame. The strong tailwinds were the subject of much radio chatter over the team communications, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel among those to complain of "gusty and windy" conditions.

Among those struggling were Magnussen's team mate Romain Grosjean, who was soon running well off-track. Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez likewise both ran off in the opening corners early in the session.

Kimi Raikkonen was the first man in FP2 to actually go for a full spin, a relatively harmless affair at turn 2. Happily he soon gathered himself together, and his subsequent lap was good enough to put the Ferrari on top as the times started to fall.

A little over 20 minutes into the session, Valtteri Bottas headed out and posted the top time of 1:34.156s on the yellow soft tyres. His Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton was on the supersoft tyres, and after a slow initial run he went top and was the first man into the 1:33s, some six tenths clear of the field.

Drivers were able to push on and find improved times when attention switched to qualifying runs. Daniel Ricciardo was able to put Red Bull on top with a time of 1:33.243s on ultrasofts just before the halfway point.

Before anyone was able to respond to Ricciardo's time, the session was abruptly red-flagged. The reason was easy to spot: a loose wheel was bouncing down the circuit at turn 6, having detached from the left-rear of Perez' Force India. A flat-bed was dispatched to retrieve the three-wheeler before the session could resume and Perez was able to conduct a shakedown lap at the end of the session.

The interruption came at a bad time for Mercedes, who had been about to send out both cars for qualifying runs. When the track went green, Hamilton was quickly into action, but Bottas remained in the garage as the engineers swarmed over his W09 having apparently detected a water lead at the left rear of the car affecting the cooling. It meant that the flooring had to be removed, putting an end to Bottas' day.

Meanwhile Hamilton's latest flying lap had put Mercedes back on top by seven tenths from Ricciardo. His team mate Max Verstappen - having lost time in the morning with a damaged wheel rim - was only able to go third fastest by a few hundredths from the Australian.

The two Ferraris of Raikkonen and Vettel were biding their time in fourth and fifth respectively ahead of local hero Grosjean, while Bottas was seventh fastest ahead of Alonso, Magnussen and Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly. The Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz ended up just outside the top ten.

Gasly's team mate Brendon Hartley lost the final ten minutes of the session with an apparent loss of power. He was ordered to park his STR13 in a safe place just after the chicane on the back straight, smoke and flames visible through the exhausts. The incident was handled under a Virtual Safety Car.

Sauber's Marcus Ericsson took no part at all in the session. The team was busy building up a new car for him after his big crash and fire at the end of FP1.

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