French GP: Ferrari dominate FP sessions but remain wary of Red Bull

(Motorsport) After topping the charts in FP1, Charles Leclerc was outperformed by his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz in FP2 ahead of the French Grand Prix on Sunday. The Spaniard clocked a time of 1:32.527, just 0.1s faster than Leclerc while reigning World Champion Max Verstappen was half second behind and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez finished a disappointing 10th. Ferrari are looking to revive their title bid after a successful Grand Prix last weekend in Austria and the Italian manufacturer will hope that Leclerc can further close the 38 points to Verstappen this weekend. 

It is a bittersweet situation for Carlos Sainz as he will take a 10 place grid penalty for Sunday’s race after a new Control Electronics was installed in his car following an engine failure in Austria. As for Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton sat out Friday’s opening session and couldn’t live upto the expectations in FP2 after a new aerodynamics package was installed in the W13. The seven time World Champion finished fifth behind teammate George Russell who was fourth. McLaren’s Lando Norris was in sixth place while Pierre Gasly and Kevin Magnussen were ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. 

It will be interesting to see if Ferrari have finally overcome their reliability issues to mount a series challenge in the Drivers and Constructors Championship. There is a possibility that Carlos Sainz might incur more grid penalties as Ferrari might make more changes to his car. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said that he believes it will be a tight race between Ferrari and Red Bull and he wasn’t concerned with the speed shown by the F1-75. 

Horner said “I think they're looking quick but I take real comfort from them, if you have a look at that last little run there over a five-six lap period, I think we're closer. It's been so tight between the teams in the first 11 races, I've got no reason to believe it's going to be really that much different here. It's going to be getting it right, tyre degradation, strategy. Qualifying isn't quite the premium that it is at other circuits because you can overtake, but you've got to be on the first couple of rows." 

Speaking after FP2, a disappointed Hamilton said “We're probably a little bit further off the pace today than we would have hoped. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of ground to cover still. The car is not spectacular here, I don't know why, but overnight we usually make a bit of a step so I'm hoping that's the case tomorrow." Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said “(It was) not where we wanted to be. We're trying lots of parts but we're just lacking pace at the moment in the free practice session. We have a few aerodynamic modifications on the floor, on the side edges – little things that should make it better." 

Also read: Hamilton looking for 300th GP win as Mercedes reveal new upgrade


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