Drivers hit the track at the Circuit Paul Ricard this afternoon for their first taste of the warm weather in France with a track temperature of 55 degrees Celsius in FP1 – highs of 60 are expected on track later this weekend.
There are 15 turns for the drivers to navigate for the first time in this 2022 machinery, and two DRS zones ahead of Turn One and Turn Eight.
For this session there were a number of changes, Nyck de Vries was at the wheel of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, while Robert Kubica stepped in for Valtteri Bottas in the Alfa Romeo for this session.
It was the world championship leader, Max Verstappen, in the Red Bull and his team-mate Sergio Perez who set the early pace this afternoon, Verstappen in 1:35.723, which was 0.4s than Perez in second.
Pierre Gasly ran into some early issues at the very beginning of his home GP weekend, reporting engine issues over the team radio during FP1. The team quickly acknowledged the issue and hoped for a quick fix.
McLaren’s Lando Norris also came over the team radio reporting a “weird” feeling with his throttle – however, he was happy enough to stay out on track despite this.
They weren’t alone, as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc came told his team minutes later that he as having a technical issue.
“The turbo is a bit inconsistent. I don’t know if it’s normal or not,” he said.
Pundits covering the practice session this afternoon raised the question of whether or not this could be a knock-on effect or even a continuation of the throttle issues Leclerc suffered in the final laps of the Austrian GP before he took the win.
There was a good save from Sergio Perez with 38 minutes to go this afternoon. He went for a 360 spin going off at turn three and just managed to keep it out of the barriers as he maintained second on the timesheets.
Meanwhile, his teammate Max Verstappen was setting major pace early doors improving on his previous top time with a lap in 1:34.991, placing him more than half a second ahead of Perez.
Further afield with 33 minutes left, Charles Leclerc was 0.8s behind Verstappen in third, with George Russell ever so close behind in fourth.
In other news this weekend, Carlos Sainz will be taking a grid penalty for the race following his engine failure last time out in Austria.
The Spanish driver, who is fourth in the championship, will drop a minimum 10 places on the grid at lights out, which will come as a blow to Sainz who was fastest on track +0.078 ahead of Verstappen with 25 minutes to go in FP1.
A short while later Max Verstappen was back at the top of the timesheet with a lap in 1:34.021 to go fastest.
He had his closest rivals, the two Ferraris, directly behind him with Charles Leclerc and Sainz in third just .247s off the pace.
Charles Leclerc quickly became the first man on track to clock a lap under 1:34, leaving him nearly a tenth clear of the Dutchman.
When time ran out this afternoon, it was Charles Leclerc who held onto the top spot with Verstappen in second, the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz in third and Mercedes man George Russell in fourth.
Free Practice Two will kick off at 4:00 pm this afternoon.