French GP Practice One: Lewis Hamilton leads Mercedes one-two, Sauber catches fire
Sunday's race underway at 3.10pm, start time moved back to avoid World Cup clash;
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 22/06/18 5:15pm
Lewis Hamilton enjoyed the perfect start to his French GP weekend by leading a Mercedes one-two in the first practice session as Formula 1 made its long-awaited return to Paul Ricard.
Hamilton, without a race win since last month's Spanish GP, was a tenth of a second faster than team-mate Valtteri Bottas with his 1:32.231, a lap record on the track's new configuration, with Daniel Ricciardo leading the non-Mercedes charge in third for Red Bull.
The Silver Arrows were back on form in P1, but intrigue still surrounds the specification of their new engines in France.
Sky Sports understands Mercedes are using the spec-two Power Unit they postponed introducing in Canada, though the team would only confirm that they are using fresh components rather than upgraded ones in their six cars.
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While Ricciardo, also on ultrasoft tyres, was under three tenths adrift of Hamilton's benchmark, Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen was over a second back in seventh after his running in the first half of the session was compromised.
Ferrari, meanwhile, were also some way off the pace.
Kimi Raikkonen was 0.772s behind in fourth with championship leader Sebastian Vettel, struggling with his set-up, a further two tenths back.
It was an intriguing session as F1 returned to France for the first time in a decade, and to Paul Ricard after an absence of 28 years, though there was an unusual and worrying conclusion as Marcus Ericsson's Sauber caught on fire.
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Ericsson lost control of his car at Turn 12 with the impact seemingly causing his engine to erupt into flames. Though he appeared shaken after the heavy shunt and was slow to get out of his blazing car, he reported that he was "fine" to Sky F1.
Ericsson wasn't the only man to struggle, with many drivers wobbling at Turn Six in the blustery conditions.
Romain Grosjean appeared to master the conditions at his home race, however, finishing sixth for Sauber and only a second off the pace.
Pierre Gasly, Sergio Perez and Grosjean's Haas team-mate Kevin Magnussen completed the top 10, with the midfield pecking order again tough to predict.
But McLaren, judging by Practice One at least, have plenty of ground to make up.
Fernando Alonso, back in an F1 car after his Le Mans 24 Hours triumph, was the leading McLaren car in 16th, some 2.6s off Hamilton, with Stoffel Vandoorne 19th and only ahead of Sergey Sirotkin in a struggling Williams.
French GP Practice One Timesheet
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+0.296|
|Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+1.100|
|Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||+1,454|
|Sergio Perez||Force India||+1.488|
|Esteban Ocon||Force India||+2.253|
|Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso||+2.433|
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Will it be Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull on top as F1 returns to Paul Ricard for the first leg of an unprecedented triple header? Watch the French GP exclusively live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Get Sky Sports F1.