(Motorsport-Total.com) – Max Verstappen set the fastest time in the second free practice session of the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet. After Mercedes dominated the morning practice session at the Paul Rijkaard circuit, Red Bull responded in the afternoon with their best daily time of 1:32,872 for the current world championship leader (four points ahead).
© Motorsport Pictures
Max Verstappen in Friday training at Le Castellet (Paul Ricard) 2021
Verstappen suffered a weakness in the morning, but was 0.008sec ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the afternoon. “It wasn’t that bad, was it?” shouted on the radio. For team boss Christian Horner a sign is “encouraging”: “You can hear that Max is more satisfied with the car.”
But: “It’s very narrow. It looks like the mid-sector is your sector,” says Horner in a “Sky” interview from the command center about the fencing with Mercedes. The deciding factor was changing the setup after the first training session: “A little bit of aerodynamics, a little bit of mechanics. Getting the tires in the right temperature range seems to be very difficult.”
According to Verstappen, Friday was “good”. He says, “We improved really well, even during the session. I wasn’t satisfied at all in FT1, nor at the start of FT2. The car wasn’t very good together and it was hard to get a good lap. We don’t know what they’ll find overnight. But our long distances seem good too”
FT2 is starting with a bit of annoyance for Verstappen. Just like Bottas in FT1, he lost some carbon parts while riding over the yellow “baguette rims”, which Team Principal Jonathan Wheatley promptly retrieved over the radio from FIA Race Director Michael Massey. Horner explains that for the next two races in Austria, each part can be used.
At Mercedes, the whole day was all about switching the chassis between Bottas and Lewis Hamilton (3./+0.253). Hamilton couldn’t make a difference. For Bottas, after the practice session, “It was hard to tell if it was the chassis or the track. But I feel a lot better than I did two weeks ago. That’s for sure.”
This could also be due to increased tire pressures set by Pirelli or higher asphalt temperatures. “We slipped a little bit. I think everyone has that,” Hamilton said. Team boss Toto Wolff adds: “It’s getting tight up front. Some of the laps were good, a little less. But the foundation is good.”
From a German point of view, the afternoon was not satisfactory. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) was a second and a half behind and 15th, after all, he was 0.185secs faster than Lance Stroll. Mick Schumacher (Haas) was very slow 0.181sec for Nicholas Latifi (Williams), but was penultimate with 0.039sec over Nikita Maspin.
Fernando Alonso, for example, who finished fourth in his team’s home game, was much better, less than half a second ahead. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Esteban Ocon (Albin), Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri) and Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) took the other positions. The latter was 0.826 seconds behind on the P8.
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