RACE DEBRIEF

    Max Verstappen set the benchmark in second practice for the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard, the Red Bull driver finishing just ahead of FP1 leader Valtteri Bottas and his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton.

    Verstappen began on medium tyres and clattered his front wing on the Turn 2 kerbs, bringing out a Virtual Safety Car after 15 minutes – but shrugged that off to set the quickest time of 1m32.872s on softs – just 0.008s faster than Bottas' best time, which was set on medium tyres.

    FP1: Bottas heads Mercedes 1-2 in opening French GP practice session with Verstappen third

    Reigning champion Hamilton was 0.253s off Verstappen, having complained of car balance issues during his race simulations. Incidentally, the Silver Arrows swapped Hamilton and Bottas' chassis for this weekend – something they said is customary at this point of the season – but insisted that there would be no performance difference due to the swap.

    As for Azerbaijan GP winner Sergio Perez, he was 12th overall in FP2 for Red Bull.

    Formula 1 Emirates Grand Prix De France 2021

    France 2021

    Practice 2 results

    POSITION TIME
    1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing 1:32.872
    2 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes +0.008s
    3 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes +0.253s
    4 Fernando Alonso ALO Alpine +0.468s
    5 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari +0.678s

    In P4 was Fernando Alonso for Alpine, his team mate and home racer Esteban Ocon P6 – with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc splitting them for fifth place.

    Ocon's compatriot Pierre Gasly, his AlphaTauri having received a new Honda engine this weekend – as did the Red Bull pair – finished seventh ahead of Ferrari's Carlos Sainz in P8. Sainz ran medium and soft tyres in this session while Leclerc used hards and softs in a split strategy by the Scuderia.

    READ MORE: Ferrari have stopped development on current car with focus now ‘all on 2022’, reveals Mekies

    Rounding out the top 10 were Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen, ninth, and McLaren's Lando Norris in P10, the Briton 0.95s off Verstappen's leading time. Norris found himself sandwiched between Alfas as Antonio Giovinazzi took P11.

    Behind 12th-place Red Bull racer Perez was AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda, and Daniel Ricciardo in 13th with high mileage on soft tyres in this session for McLaren.

    FP2 Highlights: 2021 French Grand Prix

    Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel hit the barriers in FP1 but finished 15th in FP2 without incident, nearly two-tenths faster than team mate Lance Stroll, 16th. Apart from Bottas, they were the only two drivers to have set their quickest times on mediums rather than softs.

    Behind the Astons was the Williams pair, George Russell (17th) just 0.065s faster than Nicholas Latifi in 18th, while Haas rounded out the standings, 19th-place Mick Schumacher 0.039s ahead of 20th-place Nikita Mazepin.

    WATCH: Schumacher and Vettel first to hit the wall in first practice at Paul Ricard

    Verstappen may have led the session but Bottas looked most comfortable in FP2, as evident in the fact that he set his fastest lap on mediums and finished just a whisker away from the championship leader.

    Qualifying rolls around at 1400 local time on Saturday, with live coverage on F1.com and all the reaction in between.

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    Bottas was a threatening presence on softs and mediums