Ferrari teammates Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc topped Friday’s free practice for the French Grand Prix at the Paul Richard Circuit, with Sainz clocking a fast lap of 1:32:527 and edging out Leclerc by 0.1 seconds during the second session.
“The sessions went quite well today. Our qualifying pace was pretty good, so our focus now will be on our race pace,” Leclerc said. “I am confident that we will be all set by the time Sunday comes as we know where we need to improve.”
Leclerc and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen took first and second position in the morning practice with fast laps of 1:33:930 and 1:34:021, but Sainz soared to the front in the afternoon.
However, despite the strong showing, Sainz will have to work with a 10-place grid penalty that came as a result of Ferrari inserting new control electronics into his F1-75.
Verstappen settled behind Leclerc once again in the afternoon session for an optimistic third place with a 1:33:07 lap time.
“I think FP2 was a little bit more difficult for us than FP1 as we didn’t get the balance that we had hoped for,” Verstappen said. “We were also trying different things with the car. We’ll have a look at it all overnight and of course try to be quicker tomorrow.”
The track has a history of being tough on tires, and according to Verstappen, his were running “really hot.” His team’s current concern is the long run sustainability and completing enough laps to accurately judge the needs of the car.
Meanwhile, Mercedes teammates George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished respectively in the top five — both less than a second off of Sainz’s fast lap time.
“We still have a lot of work to do, we’re not spectacular here and I don’t know why, so hopefully overnight, we can make a little bit of a step forward as we’re further behind than what we anticipated for this weekend,” Hamilton said.
Both Hamilton and Russell are looking forward to Saturday’s final free practice to optimize their pace prior to qualifying.