RACE DEBRIEF

    Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton have swapped chassis for the French Grand Prix weekend, and with Bottas having looked far and away the more comfortable of the two Mercedes drivers on Friday at Paul Ricard, the Finn said the change of chassis had done wonders for his confidence.

    Bottas led the way by a full 0.335s over Hamilton in Free Practice 1, while Free Practice 2 saw him pipped to P1 by a soft run from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen – with Bottas just 0.008s slower on medium tyres, and over two-tenths quicker than Hamilton, who complained on team radio that there was “something wrong” with his car.

    FP2: Verstappen tops second practice at Paul Ricard, just 0.008s quicker than Bottas

    But having finished the previous Azerbaijan Grand Prix in a lowly P12, Bottas appeared buoyed to have apparently had his theory about a chassis issue validated after his Friday performance in France.

    “It’s hard to say if it’s chassis or track conditions but it’s a lot better feeling than two weeks ago, that’s for sure,” he said. “I could feel that we started the weekend on the right foot, everything was feeling quite okay and being comfortable and pretty fast with the car so far.

    “It’s such a different track [to Baku],” he added. “But the balance is good, the tyres are working well. I’m confident with the car, I can trust the car and that’s the biggest difference.”

    Valtteri Bottas felt 'comfortable and pretty fast' at French GP practice

    Bottas’ Team Principal Toto Wolff explained the decision to switch Hamilton and Bottas’ chassis, meanwhile, saying: “We swap parts around all the time, and this is part of the planning as these are carryover chassis, they're running for a second season, so we're not accumulating millions of miles on one and basically, that's part of the plan.

    “But it's good to get the feedback and if it calms the driver’s mind, we have a spare chassis which is a brand new one and we can always [use] that.”

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    Asked, meanwhile, about Hamilton’s complaints about the car on Friday following his switch to the Bottas chassis, Wolff replied: “It's the chassis that was splendid in Monaco that qualified Valtteri right in front. But you never know.

    “You listen to the engineers and [they say] it's all tested and stiff, there shouldn't be any difference, but if the driver feels that it's not, then it's definitely not worth trying to make a point here. You just need to change.”

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    Wolff pointed out that Bottas had used the chassis to qualify P3 in Monaco

    Meanwhile, looking ahead to rest of the weekend, Bottas said that despite a strong day for Mercedes after a pair of tricky races for the team, he was expecting a tough fight with Red Bull, after Verstappen’s leading time in FP2.

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    “I think it’s going to be close,” said Bottas. “We’re expecting them to be strong, but for now it seems like it’s between us and Red Bull. But it is a very different track to Baku and Monaco so we'll see tomorrow – I'm sure they have much more to come and so do we.”