Lewis Hamilton seems determined to get back to winning ways this weekend, with the Mercedes star making it two out of two on Friday by topping the timesheet in FP2, finishing a comfortable 0.704s ahead of his nearest rival, Daniel Ricciardo, in the Red Bull.
Hamilton put in a mighty lap of 1m 32.539s on a cooler track than in FP1 to lead the second practice session in a row, this time by a whopping margin of 0.704s. The two drivers who got closest to the Briton were Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, whose times around the blustery Circuit Paul Ricard were closely matched.
Valtteri Bottas might have been able to match Mercedes team mate Hamilton, but an issue with a water leak that meant the floor had to come off his car put paid to the Finn’s session before the end of the first hour, with Bottas watching the rest of the running in the garage.
Ferrari looked to be their usual cards-close-to-their-chest-on-Friday selves, with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel going fourth and fifth fastest, with Vettel over a second behind Hamilton. Expect to see some more competitive times from the Scuderia during Saturday’s running…
It was yet another strong session for Haas' Romain Grosjean, who was once again the fastest local driver, finishing sixth for the second session running. The American squad will also be buoyed by the performance of Kevin Magnussen, who wound up P9 behind the stricken Bottas and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. It seems as though Haas are the leading contenders for that prized ‘best of the rest’ mantle in France this weekend.
Another solid French performer was tenth-placed Pierre Gasly, whose Toro Rosso seemed to be well hooked up around the Le Castellet track. He was happier than team mate Brendon Hartley, who had lapped over a second slower than Gasly when he was forced to stop out on track with suspected engine problems 10 minutes from the session end. He’d finish second practice classified P15.
Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz’s Renaults were 11th and 12th respectively, probably slightly lower than the home team would have liked, with Hulkenberg some half a second down on Gasly.
Stoffel Vandoorne in the second McLaren was 13th, ahead of the sole Sauber of Charles Leclerc, with team mate Marcus Ericsson’s FP1 shunt meaning the Swede missed the session as the team worked on repairing his car in preparation for Saturday.
It was an FP2 to forget for the Force India squad. Esteban Ocon was their fastest driver in P16, while Sergio Perez suffered a potentially nasty incident when the left-rear wheel of his car undid itself as the Mexican was going through the fast Turn 7 that leads onto the back straight during an out-lap. Fortunately, the wheel failed to hit anyone as it rolled down the track, although it did bring out the second red flag in as many sessions.
That meant Perez finished down in P19, ahead of the time-less Ericcson but behind the two Williams of Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin, the latter getting a touch confused at one point and stopping off at the Force India pit.
With conditions in FP2 potentially the most similar to how they’ll be in qualifying on Saturday, it looks like Lewis Hamilton is sitting very pretty at Paul Ricard.