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French GP: Free Practice

An update from free practice at the French Grand Prix as the Bulls get up and running at Circuit Paul Ricard.

It’s been a long time since F1 raced at Ricard – 28 years to be precise. The French Grand Prix has always led a peripatetic existence but it came to Ricard more than anywhere else in the 1970s and 80s – so the memories tend to be about ground effect, barely-controllable turbo cars, flares and lots of hair.

Until the testing ban it was a popular venue for F1 testing, losing out to Barcelona. We’ve been here on Pirelli’s behalf, as have most of the top teams. Meanwhile, most of the drivers in the field this weekend will have raced at Ricard at some point in their career in various junior series.

In Free Practice One the Bulls got off to a solid weekend, with room for improvement. Daniel took P3 with a 1:32.527 from his 25 laps for the session while Max took P7 with a 1:33.331 from his 15 laps. The timesheets were topped by Lewis Hamilton who set a 1:32.231.

In Free Practice Two, Daniel continued with a consistent afternoon taking P2 with a 1:33.243 from his 31 laps. Max improved on his morning session's time and ran 25 laps, with the Dutchman coming home in P3 with a 1:33.271. Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets once again with a 1:32.539. 

In Free Practice Three, running was limited as rain started to fall soon after the session commenced. Daniel and Max made it our for three laps each before returning to the garage as the rain became heavier. 

Summarising his first two practice sessions, Daniel said:
“This track is quite fun, normally when you come to such an open circuit it loses some character but actually the layout here is fun and fast so I’m enjoying it more than I thought. It is always going to feel different coming here from tracks like Monaco and Canada where the walls are so close, but I’ve enjoyed it. Turn 1 and 2 are good, it’s the start of the lap so obviously important to get right but I enjoyed those especially. We were relatively fast today, in the long runs we looked a bit up and down so definitely a bit of work to do tonight, but not a bad Friday. We got a lot of information today, the downforce is a question mark so maybe we can change that and hopefully we can keep improving and be strong all weekend. Between the two cars we went in different directions today which I think is really good to help learn how the car will work and get the best possible setup direction for tomorrow.” 

After an improved afternoon session, Max added:
“The first practice was a bit compromised because after a few laps I sustained some damage to my wheel. As it is a new track you want to be out there as much as possible so missing so much time wasn’t ideal. After a tricky first session we changed a lot on the car and it felt good. We still have a lot to improve setup wise but I would say it has been a good start to the weekend. I enjoyed my first experience of the track, I wouldn’t say it is my favourite track but it’s definitely not my worst. I do not know yet how this circuit will be for overtaking, in practice you obviously try to give yourself as much room as possible, so I haven’t followed anyone yet so we will wait to find that out during the race but there are a lot of long corners which means it will be hard to follow. The tyres are very sensitive to the heat, with it being so warm here it is going to be important to get them switched on before Qualifying to extract the most out of the car. Tonight I’ll go away and look into the lines a bit more and think about the tyres and hopefully comeback with some improvements for tomorrow.”