The second practise session for the French Grand Prix was dominated by Ferrari on Friday, with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc posting the fastest speeds, followed by Max Verstappen of Red Bull, who is now leading the world title.
Sainz made light of the possibility of receiving a 10-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race as a result of taking new power-train components as he and his teammate from Ferrari traded best laps during a hotly fought practise in brilliant sunlight.
The Spaniard, who won his first race earlier this month at the British Grand Prix, completed the fastest lap in one minute and 32.527 seconds, which was faster than his Monegasque teammate by 0.101 seconds.
Verstappen finished in a respectable third place, ahead of both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, who were driving recently upgraded Mercedes cars, as well as Lando Norris, who was driving for McLaren and finished sixth.
Kevin Magnussen finished seventh for Haas, ahead of Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri, Daniel Ricciardo in the second McLaren, and Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull.
As the teams adjusted to the heat – the track temperature was 50 degrees and the air temperature was 34 degrees – the practise continued without interruption and was, for the most part, unremarkable in front of a huge holiday audience.
At the Paul Ricard track, where the two Alpine drivers established the first early pace with Fernando Alonso topping Esteban Ocon and before Magnussen and then Russell took control until Charles Leclerc arrived, the organisers said that the circuit is sold out for both Saturday and Sunday.
The revitalised Leclerc, who had won the last race in Austria, had been the fastest in the first session and was eager to follow up where he left off in the earlier action. He had been the winner of the most recent race in Austria.
As was to be anticipated, it was a close race, and four minutes later, Verstappen took the lead by 0.010 seconds. However, four minutes later, Sainz, who would have to serve a grid penalty on Sunday, took the lead by 0.850 seconds with a time of 1:33.322.
Before Leclerc recovered to beat his Ferrari teammate’s record by 0.186, the heat looked to have a soporific effect on everyone for a brief period of time. However, the Spaniard responded and jumped six-tenths ahead of Leclerc.
It was obvious that Ferrari had discovered the optimal configuration for their vehicle, but Verstappen came close to matching them while he was running on soft tyres. The Dutchman moved up to second for a short moment until Leclerc replaced him.