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What the teams said - Friday in France

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Becky Hart
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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 18: Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT02

Mercedes

It was a good start to the weekend for Mercedes as they looked to bounce back strongly from two poor race outings. Bottas came out the box the quickest, although he did blot his copybook by running wide over the kerbs and damaging his front wing. The Finn also looked strong in FP2, especially on the medium compound tyre. His team mate wasn’t too much further behind, but Hamilton wasn’t as happy with the set up of his car and might have a late night analysing the data, as he seeks answers as to where those missing tenths are.

READ MORE: ‘I can trust the car’ says Bottas after successful switch to Hamilton chassis in France

Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:33.783, P2; FP2: 1:33.125, P3

"It was quite a struggle out there, probably for everyone. I don't know if it's the track surface, the temperature or these inflated tyres - the pressures are higher than ever before - but we were all sliding around out there. We'll be doing a lot of analysis tonight with the hope that it's better for tomorrow but the times don't look terrible and we're in the battle, so that's positive.

"The hard compound is the better-feeling tyre, it felt heavy-duty which is important with the temperatures here - the softer you go the worse it feels so I imagine the hard tyre will be the one everyone wants to get onto in the race on Sunday."

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:33.448, P1; FP2: 1:32.880, P2

"I have a lot better feeling than a couple of weeks ago, that's for sure. We started the weekend on the front foot, everything felt okay and the car has been pretty fast so far. The balance is good, the tyres are working well, I'm confident with the car and I can trust the car - I think that's the biggest difference from Baku. It's going to be close between us and Red Bull, I'm sure they have lots more to come, but so do we."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"It's been a busy day trying to fit in a programme with low fuel work and decent length long runs but that's always going to be the case with just one hour in each session. In terms of pace we look reasonable and getting a single lap out of the tyres has seemed easier than it was in Baku or Monaco. However, neither driver is totally satisfied with where we have the car, so we've got a bit of investigation to do overnight to try and understand how we can get the balance to be a bit more predictable."

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 18: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 18, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Red Bull

Verstappen has a scrappy opening session, running wide and complaining to the team about the handling of his RB16B. Nonetheless he was there or thereabouts, and seemed much happier in the afternoon as he lit up the timing screens to steal P1 from Bottas by an incredibly narrow margin. He also emulated the Finn by damaging his front wing on the kerbs in Turn 2. As for Perez, he was on his team mate’s tail in FP1 but dropped back in FP2 as he struggled to turn on the red-marked soft tyres.

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:33.880, P3; FP2: 1:32.872, P1

“I think overall it’s been a good end to the day and we improved quite well. I wasn’t entirely happy in FP1 and even at the start of FP2 but on the second set of tyres this afternoon the car felt a lot better and a lot more connected. It’s still really difficult around here as the track is so open and it’s quite windy which means it isn’t always easy to nail the lap. The wind is also quite gusty so one lap it feels alright and the next lap it can increase, which means it’s not always easy to judge your mid-corner speeds, but everyone has to deal with the same thing. It’s difficult to say where we will be tomorrow and you never know what people will find overnight but the long runs also seemed decent so for sure I expect it to be very tight and it definitely won’t be easy.”

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:34.193, P4; FP2: 1:33.921, P12

“I got a pretty bad run of traffic today so it probably looks worse than it actually is on the time sheets. We look to be there or thereabouts and Max had a good day on pace. We tried some changes during the sessions and so tonight we’ll look at them to see what worked and hopefully we can find some pace overnight so we are right in the mix tomorrow. Coming from Baku, obviously this is a very different track but we’re continuing the good momentum, the understanding of the car is getting better and there are plenty of positives to take from today.”

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 18: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda is pushed back into the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 18, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Alpine

Fresh from signing his new three-year deal, Ocon rewarded the team for their faith in him by coming home ‘best of the rest’ in FP1, just ahead of his team mate in what was a promising opening for Alpine. They backed that up superbly in the later session too, this time Alonso pipping his team mate to the ‘best of the rest’ slot. If they can carry this form into qualifying, they could well see both cars in the top 10 for only the second time this season.

READ MORE: Alonso and Ocon relieved Alpine are back to ‘more normal’ pace with top-five showings in France practice

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:34.329, P5; FP2: 1:33.685, P6

“Today’s practice has been solid. We’re back into the top ten for the moment, but we know it’s still early days. Both cars have good pace – that’s promising – and the aim is to keep working hard and consolidate this pace. The car feels good and the team has been working hard on that. There are, of course, areas to improve, and there’s more performance to find. It’s fantastic to be back racing in France, at home, and even better to see fans in the grandstands. Hopefully there will be even more fans tomorrow and Sunday and I look forward to seeing them.”

Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:34.693, P7; FP2: 1:33.340, P4

“We faced quite tricky conditions today with some strong winds and high track temperatures, but I think we can be quite pleased with what we managed to achieve from Friday practice. We tested a few items in FP1 and then we followed our programme for the afternoon in FP2 with some decent mileage clocked. We’ll analyse all of our data now and this evening, but so far I think we look quite competitive here so let’s see how we go tomorrow.”

Davide Brivio, Racing Director

“It’s been a busy but well executed practice programme by the team today. Both drivers did a great job in both sessions and, looking at the timesheets, we’re in and amongst the good positions. This circuit is different to the last two tracks we’ve visited, as it’s a more conventional layout for Formula 1, which perhaps suits our car a little more. It’s a promising start and we will remain focused with the job we have to do this weekend. That begins with Free Practice 3 tomorrow, where we will try to prepare ourselves for qualifying and ensure we follow up on today’s performance.”

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 18: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine A521 Renault on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 18, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Ferrari

It wasn’t the dream start to a weekend for Ferrari, with Sainz spinning and wrecking his soft tyres before he’d even completed a flying lap on them. Leclerc kept his session cleaner, but wasn’t overly happy with his car. Roll on the second session and things went much more smoothly for the Scuderia, with Leclerc coming home fifth and Sainz eighth, roughly the positions they expected to be after acknowledging that big step forward on the street circuits probably wouldn’t last here.

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

Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:34.950, P11; FP2: 1:33.550, P5

"The main focus today was on car balance. The wind was very strong, which made it tricky to drive, but that was the same for everyone so we just had to try and find a good way to manage in these conditions.

"In general, here things are looking more in line with what we expected compared to the last two race weekends, where we had pleasant surprises.

"Our performance today was not bad and although we still have quite a bit of work to do, we made a nice recovery from FP1 and the car felt better this afternoon. It will be important to understand how to get the tyres in the right operating window tomorrow. With the wind, we also have to find the right set-up to make sure that the car is easy to drive in qualifying. If we manage to put these two things together, I’m pretty sure we can have a decent weekend."

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:35.342, P16; FP2: 1:33.698, P8

"Today was quite tricky. We knew that this layout would be challenging for us compared to some of the previous races, so today went more or less as expected. However, we are not that far away and we are reasonably pleased with the car balance.

"The trickiest thing was the strong wind, which was blowing in the worst possible directions, with a head wind on the straights and a tail wind in the corners. It made the circuit challenging and slower.

"The Soft and Hard tyres seem to work well, so we’ll keep working tonight to try and extract the maximum from the car tomorrow."

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 18: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 spins off track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 18, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

AlphaTauri

Tsunoda was one of the first to spin in the morning session, lighting up his rear tyres through the final corner as he set off for a flying lap. Gasly didn’t fare much better, as he ran wide on multiple occasions. Roll on the afternoon and both drivers settled down, with the Frenchman in particular impressing at his home track.

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:34.699, P8; FP2: 1:33.696, P7

“Today was an ok day, however it’s been quite difficult with the wind which has made the car very tricky to drive. In terms of performance, I think it’s good that we’ve ended both sessions within the top 10, but it’s definitely been more difficult than the last two weekends. We’ve been working on the balance of the car today, so we’ll analyse all the data tonight and make some improvements to the set-up of the car to be more confident out on track tomorrow. I’m racing in front of my home fans here and I’m aiming to reach Q3 again in Qualifying. It’s so great seeing this many French flags in the grandstands here, I really want to do well for the people here supporting me this weekend, so they’ve got something to celebrate on Sunday.”

Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:34.847, P10; FP2: 1:33.955, P13

“It’s been a good day. I think the approach here in France compared to the last few races is a bit easier, as I’ve already got experience driving here at Paul Ricard. I had a spin in the morning, but I think we’ve made good progress through the two sessions today. I struggled a bit with the set-up in FP2, but we adapted really well and by the end of the day I was happy with the car behaviour. My confidence in the car is definitely returning and my result in Baku has helped with that. We still have lots of work to do ahead of Qualifying and the field is very tight, so it’s going to be very competitive but the pace is definitely there.”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

“We headed to France following a great result for the team in Baku but have remained realistic with our targets for this weekend, knowing that we return to a more normal circuit. One of the main areas for us to work on during Friday was setting the car up around the higher rear tyre pressures, as well as managing the performance on the very hot track. In addition to this required learning, FP1 was focused on a matrix of set-up work based around some finding of the car performance we observed in Baku to further understand some of the characteristics of the AT02 and how we can apply these to more standard tracks. So, it was a very busy session for both cars and unfortunately, we sustained some damage to the floor of Pierre’s car after running wide in T2. He lost some laps with this, but we still gathered plenty of data to analyse for FP2. We used this learning to further adapt the set-up of both cars for this afternoon’s session and the changes appeared to be a step in the right direction. We didn’t have the cleanest of laps, due to traffic again, but piecing together the laps the performance is looking encouraging and in line with our expectations, particularly given both drivers felt there was still room to work on the balance. We have a lot to look through tonight, but we will aim to put it all together and target Q3 tomorrow.”

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 18: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan driving the (22) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT02 Honda stops in the Pitlane during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 18, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

McLaren

It was a mixed bag for McLaren on Friday. They looked strong in the opening session, with Ricciardo impressing and looking back to his best. But the Aussie dropped back in the second session, with no obvious reason other than they are likely holding their cards close to their chest. McLaren do often jump back towards the front of the midfield when the action hots up in qualifying, so they could be one to watch tomorrow.

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:34.644, P6; FP2: 1:34.079, P14

“First day done, it was quite a warm one! The morning was pretty promising. We had a good start to first practice, but then in second practice, competitively, we didn’t seem as good. I’m not really sure why right now, but we’ll look into it. It didn’t feel too bad and it’s all very close. We’re probably only missing a few tenths right now. That said, I’m not too concerned, we’ll work at it tonight. Generally, the feeling isn’t too bad, so we’ll just chip away and find a bit more pace for tomorrow.”

Lando Norris - FP1: 1:34.707, P9; FP2: 1:33.822, P10

“Tough first day, tricky conditions playing the biggest part. The temperature made it difficult to keep the tyres in a good window. So, driving the car became a bit of a challenge especially with the wind.

“I think we’ve got a few bits we can definitely improve upon, but we still have quite a bit of work to do. It’s very close with the rest of the field so every little bit is going to help – but it’s also going to make qualifying tough going into tomorrow. Hopefully we can find a little bit extra to make our lives a little bit easier.”

Andrea Stella, Racing Director

“After racing on two street circuits, we’re back on a permanent track this week. That removes one set of challenges, but also adds some different ones.

“Today, we focused on tyre work, set-up and testing aerodynamic parts. The sessions went well, and we’ve plenty of data to study overnight. The field looks very tight at Paul Ricard this weekend and we’ll work hard this evening to ensure we maximise our opportunities for qualifying and the race.”

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 18: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 18, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo

It was a decent day for Alfa, despite Raikkonen exploring the track limits on a few occasions in FP1. Once again they were running on the fringes of the top 10 in both sessions, with their drivers evenly matched to boot. Can they find an extra tenth overnight, or will they find themselves just pipped when the rest of the midfield show their full hand tomorrow?

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:35.135, P13; FP2: 1:33.786, P9

“It wasn’t too bad out there, I even feel I could have been a few places higher with a better lap. The hope, of course, is that we can be somewhere around this region, in the top 10, when we get into qualifying: as always, we can try to find something more tonight, with the engineers, and squeeze some more performance out of the car, but it’s not a bad start.”

Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:35.116, P12; FP2: 1:33.831, P11

“It was a good start to our weekend and we’re confident ahead of qualifying. The conditions out there were not easy, with a lot of wind and low grip, but this is what we can expect for tomorrow as well. To be just outside the top 10 when I am still not 100% happy with the car means we can be in the fight for Q3 if we find some improvement tonight. This is our task and if we do a better job at it than our rivals, we can have a good Saturday. Let’s have a good debrief now and see what tomorrow brings.”

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 18: Antonio Giovinazzi of Italy driving the (99) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 Ferrari on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 18, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Aston Martin

Vettel found himself embedded in the barriers in FP1 as he spun off at Turn 11, but was able to get going again under his own steam and later blamed the gusty conditions for contributing to that incident. He kept things cleaner in FP2, but couldn’t extract much pace from his Aston Martin – and neither could Stroll. Q3 and the top 10 looks some way off as it stands for both drivers.

Sebastian Vettel – FP1: 1:35.289, P15; FP2: 1:34.447, P15

“The track conditions were hot and very windy, which caught me out this morning when I had a small off. It cost us some track time, but we recovered well in the afternoon. The long run was clean and we managed to get some consecutive laps together, which was important. My performance run was not the best and I made a mistake, but today is about getting a feel for the car to make sure we perform in qualifying. I think we know where we can find gains and there are some things we can do better, which is where we will focus our energy tonight.”

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:35.275, P14; FP2: 1:34.632, P16

“It was really hot out there today, and very gusty at times, which made for some tricky conditions because it is a low-grip track surface. It was particularly windy early in the day, but we were able to get into a rhythm and work through our programme. We have learned some useful things about the car balance and done some important homework. However, I think we are leaving some pace out there, so we will go away tonight, look over everything and try to come back stronger tomorrow. The midfield is already looking very close this weekend, so small gains can certainly make a difference; that is what we will be aiming to find for qualifying.”

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 18: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 18, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Williams

Nissany took over Russell’s cockpit for FP1, having a quiet but efficient session. The Briton took back control in the afternoon and had a decent outing with plenty of laps under his belt. Latifi too had a solid day but on this showing, they look only to have the beating of the Haas boys. Russell may well struggle to keep his run of Q2 appearances going come qualifying tomorrow.

George Russell – FP2: 1:35.266, P17

"It’s always tricky only doing one session, but I don’t feel like I missed out on too much as the conditions were difficult this morning and there were a few errors on track which showed how gusty it was. In FP2 my high fuel runs looked strong and I got into a good groove putting in those laps, but I think there’s still more to come from me with low fuel. We’ll go away tonight and look to understand how we can extract more out of the car."

Roy Nissany – FP1: 1:37.881, P20

"It was a productive session, although I do think I could have extracted a little more out of the car. It takes time to build up your confidence after some time away, and Paul Ricard is definitely a track where you need a lot of confidence due to the high speeds and long corners. It was still a very informative session and we got lots of data gathered, so we’ve learnt some good lessons and being in the FW43B is always great."

Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:35.612, P17; FP2: 1:35.331, P18

"The track was very green in FP1 and the wind caught a lot of drivers out. Initially the car wasn’t feeling great, but we made some changes going into FP2 and it was much nicer to drive. The car on high fuel was better than expected, so that’s definitely a positive. We’ll go away and do our normal analysis tonight and hopefully find some more performance to take into Saturday."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"Today has been about continuing with the aero testing that we began in Baku and confirming that we understand any implications of the new tyre operating procedures technical directive, which was issued to the teams ahead of this weekend. Between Roy, Nicholas and George we have worked through everything: we have no concerns over the tyres, and we will work through the aerodynamic data tonight before confirming the race specification in time for FP3."

"Roy drove very well and completed the tests that we needed him to do and his feedback on how the FW43B has changed since he last drove it in Spain is very interesting. George was quickly up to speed in FP2 and able to complete his normal race preparation. Nicholas too had a good day, improving his car for the afternoon session. Both race drivers are reasonably comfortable with the car at high fuel, but there is a little more work to do ahead of qualifying."

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 18: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Williams Racing FW43B Mercedes on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 18, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Haas

The opening session was only a minute old when Schumacher found himself in the barriers, having spun early doors. Luckily he managed to get going but then lost running with a brake-by-wire problem. Although he managed to explore the run off areas in FP2, as it was left to his team mate to spin towards the start of the afternoon session. Despite their many moments, both drivers completed a good haul of laps as they propped up the field.

Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:37.329, P19; FP2: 1:35.512, P19

“Obviously, we had some issues in FP1 unfortunately and it just meant that we didn’t get to do all the running that we wanted to. We still got to do all the laps we wanted in FP2 which was a positive and we got to learn the track even better compared to FP1, so now it’s just about finalizing all the things that we have and try to improve in the aspects we need to and hopefully we will be a bit closer to Williams. We feel the temperature in the tyres and we also had some increase in pressures which makes it a bit more difficult to keep the tyres alive, especially in the long runs, so now it’s about trying to set the car up so its ok in qualifying and it’s good in the race, so hopefully we’ll manage.”

Nikita Mazepin – FP1: 1:36.651, P18; FP2: 1:35.551, P20

“Not an easy day for us – the heat and the increased tyre pressures are perhaps not the best things for the car that does not have the most downforce but from my side, it was a very smooth FP1. In FP2, we completed the run plan and I think we know where we stand for Sunday, but there is a lot more to be improved for qualifying. Coming straight from Baku and Monaco, I see it rather easier as there isn’t a wall waiting for you on the exit of every corner, which for a rookie is a positive note. This circuit has its challenges to it – the tarmac is very tricky here but I’m enjoying driving in France.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“Without the time loss from Mick in FP1, it was actually a very good session and I think we did good laps. Mick had a problem with a brake-by-wire system issue but otherwise everything has gone to plan. You never have enough running, but we always try to get the best out of two hours running and with the sets of tyres we have available. Let’s see tomorrow – we’re looking forward to going out again.”

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 18: Mick Schumacher of Germany driving the (47) Haas F1 Team VF-21 Ferrari on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 18, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

"Free practice went more or less as we expected it to. The FP2 time was slower than the equivalent session in 2019, mainly due to the stronger winds today, and partly because of some partial track resurfacing. We've seen that the medium and soft compounds are reasonably closely matched, which should bring them both into play for qualifying tomorrow and have a big effect on race strategy too. The teams were able to gather plenty of good data over the soft and medium compounds in particular with different fuel loads, while the hard was used less extensively and mainly in the morning. So it's going to be interesting to see how all that translates into strategy calculation and different approaches to qualifying tomorrow, which should again be run in warm and dry conditions here".

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